McNeill's Extra Special Bitter | McNeill's Brewery

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McNeill's Extra Special BitterMcNeill's Extra Special Bitter
Very Good
118 Ratings
McNeill's Extra Special BitterMcNeill's Extra Special Bitter

Brewed by:
McNeill's Brewery
Vermont, United States

Style: Extra Special / Strong Bitter (ESB)

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 5.50%

Availability: Year-round

Notes / Commercial Description:
No notes at this time.

Added by Bierman9 on 09-03-2001

Bros Score:
User Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 118 |  Reviews: 94
Photo of merlin48
3.34/5  rDev -11.9%
look: 2.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Bomber pours a dirty looking golden brown body with a small beige head. Lots of suspended particles in the body and sediment in the bottom of the glass. Wispy lacing caps an appearance that is lacking for an ESB.

Aroma has floral and spicy hops, backed by bready notes of toasted caramel.

Medium body and carbonation.

Taste is nicely balanced. Spicy and floral hop bitterness all the way through. Toasty caramel and some toffee offer a solid malty balance. A bit hoppy for the style.

Decent ESB, but not one I would want again. I've tried several McNeill's bombers that have been on the shelves of Knoxville's finer beer stores but just haven't been overly impressed.

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Photo of travduke
4.2/5  rDev +10.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Appearance: Pours a hazy dark orange/red body. Generous white fluffy head and great lacing.

Aroma: Nice citrus and floral hop profile. Sweet grain malt backbone.

Taste: Hoppier than I would of thought, but that's good! Nice smooth bitterness.

Feel/Drink: Medium to full mouthfeel. I really enjoyed this and can drink a couple with pleasure.

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Photo of NJpadreFan
3.88/5  rDev +2.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

McNeill's- ESB

A- Light copper brown/ caramel orange with a good thick billowy white head. Bottle overflowed upon opening. Nice thick sea foamy lacing.
S- Sweet dry cereal grains, Light butter and caramel note with a dry grassy hop finish.
T- Light smooth caramel malts with hints of dry cracked grains. Dry brittle grassy hops have a sweet buttery touch.
M- Smooth light maltiness with a earthy grassy dry feel and finish.

Overall- Easily enjoyable and drank the bomber without hesitation.

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Photo of Gmann
3.5/5  rDev -7.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Pours a hazy honey brown color with a creamy tan head that settles into a solid cap. The aroma is of a floral hop with some honey and light caramel notes. The taste is sweet with honey and light caramel and some fruity flavors, which is followed by a floral and light citrus hop. Substantial bready malt. Quite hoppy for an ESB, almost like a dirty AIPA. Moderate to full body with tingly carbonation, not too strong. Finishes with a grassy bitterness. The ESB is good but I didn't find any particular quality great. There are no bad characteristics and this is well made but it didn't wow me.

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Photo of JayNH
3.78/5  rDev -0.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

A- Pours a deep golden color with a slight haze. A monster rocky white head that leaves behind a superb lacing.

S- A slightly citric, floral hop aroma fills the nose. A hint of malt sweetness and diacetyl.

T- A very citric hoppiness.... Very lemony. One dimensional, any malt flavor is overwhelmed by the hops.

M- Medium bodied and moderately carbonated. A bit dry in the finish.

D- Overall a good brew, I could definitely drink a few of these. But... This is really an "American" ESB though. Overhopped, lacks balance and depth to the brew.

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Photo of puboflyons
3.88/5  rDev +2.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

From the 1 pint 6. fl. oz. bottle marked best before the last day of April. Samapled on December 27, 2009. It pours a good looking amber color with excellent clarity considering it is marketed as unfiltered. A frothy, creamy head tops the glass about three-quarters of an inch thick. There is a good amount of clinging lacing on the glass. The aroma is full of floral hops and rather enticing. It is mainly a bitter brew but it is also enhanced by a nice hoppy background. It was an enjoyable brew.

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Photo of cheapxceptbeer
4.5/5  rDev +18.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Of three Mcneill beers I bought at the single most disgusting liquor store I have ever seen, this was the only one that wasn't skunked. It was really unfortunate because they only cost 3 dollars a piece and I thought I was getting a deal, actually its pretty funny, who buys craft beer at a nasty looking liquor store and goes away thinking they have gotten a deal?

While my opinion of this beer may be inflated because the other 2 were skunked and it was all I had to keep my sanity from cabin fever in the middle of the woods of Vermont, this is a great beer. All I can think about is how much I love golding hops with caramel malts. This is an A, and I am not explaining why.

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Photo of guyforget
4.3/5  rDev +13.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

22oz bottle, poured into weizen glass

appearance - cloudy copper, some sediment. thick, puffy head, takes a while to subside. lacing with each sip.

smell - citrus, pine. plenty of aroma coming from the thick head.

taste - citrus, hops, resiny. slight caramel up front gets cut by the lingering bitterness pretty quickly.

mouthfeel - fizzy, lots of carbonation as evidenced by the abundant head. slightly oily finish.

drinkability - very drinkable, not as bitter as the name would imply, at least not as bitter as i was expecting. would drink again.

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Photo of lordofthewiens
3.95/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

22oz bottle poured in a pint glass. Hazy amber color, thick white head with plenty of lacing. Strong floral aroma, a little bit of caramel. Pretty hoppy taste. The little bit of caramel in the aroma disappeared, leaving just the hops bitterness. Still, not too bad a beer.

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Photo of philipquarles
3.65/5  rDev -3.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

22oz bottle. Pours cloudy dark copper with a rocky, grey-tinged head that leaves nice lacing. Really interesting aroma with plenty of bubblegum and a lot of floral character. Definite hop presence, with a faint soapy notes that I find a lot in west-coast varietals. The same thing shows up in the taste, along with a crisp bitterness. Again, quite floral, and with some light fruit here. The hops are clearly at the center of this one. Kind of disappointed that there isn't much lightly toasty malt, as I expected to find. Light body. A decent beer, but it's not a very good portrayal of a typical ESB...the "bitter" is taken a bit too literally.

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Photo of Jwale73
4.03/5  rDev +6.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

22oz. brown bomber served in a Spiegelau nonic. Best before last day of November notched on the label. Pours a semi-hazy orange-copper with a dense, one inch, frothy, cream-colored head embedded with pinpricks. Head slowly recedes, revealing concentric rings of lacing and a thin, consistent cap. Nose reveals earthy, resinous hops and toasted notes. Taste expresses a medicinal quality, as well as some of the toasted notes detected in the nose, some citric acid and the merest suggestion of light, fruity esters. Mouthfeel is medium/light in consistency with a carbonation level that is very lively without being prickly; finish is somewhat dry. Refreshing and quite drinkable. Definitely one of my favorite examples of the style. That said, the freshness of this brew is a major factor in its enjoyability. I reviewed an undated bottle back in 2009 before McNeill's beers hit major distribution and found this bottle far superior. well worth your time if you have the opportunity to sample a fresh bottle or a tap or cask offering.

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Photo of Reagan1984
2.66/5  rDev -29.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

Replacing a lost review from the data crash...

Sorry it won't be as detailed. Just the highlights.

Visual - Orange/Amber Good Clarity, no visible carbonation. Fairly aggressive, creamy head. Nice Lacing

Aroma - Somewhat floral. Lemon/Citrus Toasted Malts.

Flavor - Much more lemon citrus than I had imagined. Light toasted malts, bread. Slight yeast tone.

MF - Medium/light Body. Mild carbonation.

Drinkability - Hop profile/Lemon nature diminishes drinkability a bit.

Not sure I'd visit this beer again.

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Photo of chinabeergeek
3.68/5  rDev -2.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

22oz bomber. no date. tasted in late may 2009.

classic clear copper amber (but lots of sediment to decant). almost over-active head, an enormous 5-fingers tall, off-white, foamy, and slowly recedes to meringue, then a constant 1-finger layer replenished w each sip. great puffy lacing.

aroma: mildly pine and citrus rind, plus more classic english hops as well, and together the hops are resinous. caramelized, toasted malt underneath, w apple juice esters and faint diacetyl.

taste: hopping more prominent, with american/english combo again, but definitely lots more pine and citrus rind. moderate bitterness, resins lingering along with light, fruity acidity and mild diacetyl. ok, but just a little "weird", almost cloying. toasty caramelized malt and fruit esters are a bit overpowered as a result.

medium body, somewhat smooth, with some resins and acidity, as the resins linger w diacetyl, giving a "weird" character again. moderate carbonation is prickly, but doesn't really seem to wash away any of that "cloying" or "weird" character.

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Photo of u2carew
3.57/5  rDev -5.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

22oz Bomber consumed on 9/23/09.
A) Pours with a crazy active head - a bit out of control - definitely over-carbonated. The lacing creamy and sticky. Hazy. copper in color.
S) Floral. Orange. Light grapefruit.
T) Definitely bitter with a good balance of malty sweetness. Notes of orange and lemon. Earthy hop notes linger in the aftertaste.
M) Body is just shy of medium and feels a little thin. Fizzy.
D) A decent bitter but over carbonated. Waiting for the foam to settle is no fun.

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Photo of mikesgroove
4.5/5  rDev +18.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

I was really, really suprised by this one to say the least. I recieved it as part of a BIF and decided to open it the other night as I was in need of a little hoppy relief. Much to my suprise this turned out to be one of the better of the style I can remember. Served cold and poured into a pint glass.

Brilliant pour, rich amber in color with a good bit of clarity to it. Big head of foamy white lace comes up and over the top nearly perfectly, cratering and sticking to the sides with a wonderful amount of foam. Lively carbonation streaming to the surface all the while. Huge lemon and rich citrus aroma. Pungent and hoppy, really very well put together. Warming brings a subtle balance, but again this was a big, bitter, esb. First sip is medium bodied, clean and crisp with a wonderfully balanced amount of carbonation. Superb balance here. Fresh, crisp notes of lemon and ornage peel undercut a light, but present buttery middle. Smooth, dry and long lasting finish leaves a touch of zest on the tongue and a yearning to go back for more.

Overall, wow. I was not expecting this one to be as good as it was. Simply blown away. I would have no issue with having this one again, in fact I may be on m way to seek it out. Damn fine beer here.

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Photo of OtherShoe2
3.7/5  rDev -2.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Pours a rich hazy orange with a big thick off white head. Some lacing.

Some citric hop aromas and some toasted malt, light caramel.

A bit surprising, but this one has a little watery edge to the flavors. Citric hops, toffee, toasted malt, light fruit, some light mineral and I swear a little butter in the taste. Bitterness is perfect, an a lightly sour finish.

Medium body, decent carbonation.

Overall, the bomber went down, but I was a little disappointed. A little too light in flavor for me. I'd grab other ESB's before this one.

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Photo of LilBeerDoctor
3.06/5  rDev -19.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Bottle. Pours a clear orange with a HUGE foamy white head. Aroma of sweet light malts, floral hops. Flavor is sweet and puckering up front with a fruity (like fruit punch) finish. Slightly astringent with malty cereal graininess. I'm not really a fan of the McNeills house flavor, which seems to be present in all their beers. This isn't too bad, but it isn't too good either.

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Photo of gfreed
4.3/5  rDev +13.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Nice amber color and a towering head, produced with very little effort. Totally unexpected, but then I was quite surprised by this beer all around. It has a pungent, lemony aroma that was surrounded by malt, and the taste was extremely bright and citrusy but not in an overly hopped, grapefruity manner. Relatively low ABV and powerful carbonation make this a good summer beer. This is one of the better American British-style ESBs I've had, and would gleefully buy another bottle. The generous amount of yeasty scud at the bottom of the bottle was a bonus.

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Photo of msubulldog25
3.91/5  rDev +3.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Thanks to Pamola, this 22 oz. bottle came westward to Oregon. Emptied to a regular ol' pint glass.

A: Wow, a gargantuan tower of creamy khaki-colored foam - broad bubbles, rocky fluff, speckled lace. Lots of carbonation, many vigorous streams cutting through a lightly hax]zy copper-orange ale.

S: Has the aroma of a fairly average Pale Ale: sweet caramle, good citrus fruit, herbal hops.

T: A bounty of citrus (orange, grapefruit) and a heavy dose of herbal/green hops. Packed full of flavor, the juicy orange and green hops burst from the glass.

M: Generally smooth. Medium mouthfeel that grows bigger, transcending a mere 5.5% abv. Really seems heavier/weightier than the moderate ABV listing lets on.

D: Likable, easy enough to drink. A good ESB that captures the balance that should be a goal of those attempting the style...certainly worthy of a try.

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Photo of albern
3.5/5  rDev -7.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

This is a good beer, but I have to admit a tad disappointing. The beer pours a coppery amber color with a thick and foamy head, a touch of lacing, and excellent retention. It's a good looking beer for sure. The nose is spicy hops, coriander, maybe some clove, maybe some florals, a bit of caramel, and a background of sweetish malt.

The beer is quite boozy and I would have suspected a much higher ABV. There is also a very prickly mouthfeel that makes it hard to take more than small sips. The taste is a boozy caramel, a liqueur like slightly rum soaked fruitiness, sweet caramelized malts, maybe a touch of brown sugar. The taste isn't overly complex, but I can't get beyond what seems like a rather high ABV beer that just isn't.

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Photo of OatmattStout
3.87/5  rDev +2.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Big fluffy head which was over the top. A bit to much priming sugar in this one or maybe poor storage during its travel.

Color was cloudy yellow burnt orange.

Nose was sweet malts with a nice hint of hop

taste was good very nice malt fruit sweetness and swear there is a slight Cinnamon undertone in this one. good juicy hops that are resinous in the after taste.

Well put together brew with very rustic flavor profile.

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Photo of TheManiacalOne
4.25/5  rDev +12.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Poured from a 22oz bottle into a mug glass.

A: The beer is a light brown color, with a large off-white head that fades slowly and leaves a thick lace on the glass.

S: The aroma is of grassy hops, honey, citrus, and caramelized malts.

T: The taste is very well-balanced with a strong but not overpowering hops bitterness that complimented nicely by mild flavors of citrus and caramel. The malt character is hearty but not too heavy. The after-taste is slightly bitter.

M: Smooth and very crisp, medium body, medium carbonation, finish is clean and dry.

D: Tasty, goes down easily, not too filling, decent kick, nice representation of style, this very good milder beer with a lot of substance and is worth drinking for a long time.

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Photo of mtbbaboon
4.03/5  rDev +6.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Picked up a 22oz bottle of this and a few other McNeill brews. Pours a nice dark copper color into my pint glass. Nice foamy head with good retention and lacing. Smells of citrus fruit (pineapple and grapefruit?) with some hoppy notes as well. Tastes pretty much the same as it smells: Citrus and hops. The taste is nicely balanced. There is a real noticable bitterness that follows in the aftertaste. Kind of a bubbly mouthfeel. It's medium bodied and is easy to drink. I am not real familiar with this style of beer, but I enjoyed drinking this and would definitely drink it again.

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Photo of scottg
4.13/5  rDev +9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Pulled from cask into a pint glass at the brewpub.

A clear medium amber color with a one finger white head with solid retention leaving lacing all the way down the glass. Citrus hoppy aromas of grapefruit and lemon with some caramel. Up front grapefruit taste lead to chocolate malt and biscuit middle with bitter chocolate and lemon rind finish. Medium body, light carbonation there is a chalky, mouth coating feel. This is one of those beers you could drink all night.

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Photo of thekevlarkid
3.69/5  rDev -2.6%
look: 5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Sampled on cask at the brewery. Two fingers of tan head topped my glass of copper colored ale. Displayed wonderful retention and great lacing too. Hoppy aromas with some caramel malt beneath. The flavors were less well defined, bitter hops, biscuity malts and an iced tea like quality. More bitter than anything else and off-balance in my opinion. Medium bodied and, light carbonation and very smooth (which probably has to be chalked up to the casking). Drinkable, yes but not much better than some of the other famous bitters out there (Redhook, for example).

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McNeill's Extra Special Bitter from McNeill's Brewery
Beer rating: 3.79 out of 5 with 118 ratings