McNeill's Extra Special Bitter | McNeill's Brewery

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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

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Reviews: 93 | Ratings: 118
Photo of changeup45
3.76/5  rDev -1.1%
look: 2.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Pours a hazy amber-copper color with a moderate head and some lacing. While pouring it, it seemed a little flat. Tasted fine though. Hoppy, sweet fruit aroma. Tasted quite hoppy, sweet, with sugary notes that made it seem maybe a little sweet. Slightly bitter and spicy as well. Good overall tasting beer but a touch too sweet for me. Hops do dominate the flavor so be sure you like hoppy beers when you drink this one.

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Photo of plaid75
3.91/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured a deep hazy copper hue with a huge three to four finger foamy off white head. There was very good retention and good lacing.

The smell featured a spicy hop and a husky grain and some caramel.

The taste was upfront herbal hops with a good spiciness. There was a moderate malt and a biscuity element toward the finish.

The mouthfeel was of average fullness for the style.

Overall a tasty and relatively authentic ESB. Unfiltered and bottle conditioned.

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Photo of Sammy
3.6/5  rDev -5.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Pours a nice peachy golden with some head. Significant English hop aroma.It was a nice bitter, grapefruity modified by carmel, with a bit of a background edge. More bitter than balanced. FIne drinking but not the best bitter I have tried.
Picked it up in August, but did not notice it expired in September, but I do not think that would make a significant impact.

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Photo of BeerTruth
2.88/5  rDev -24.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

22 oz. bottle poured into a nonic.

Pours a clear copper hue with a very nice three finger fluffy white head that takes its time to die down. Stickiness is pretty good, spotty here and there. Smell is very light on the hops and light on the malt. Some woody earth notes blend well with a nutty aroma. Taste is a bit bland. Watered down caramel malt lacking hops. Very plain flavor; not special, not strong, not bitter. Mouthfeel is light bodied with a good amount of carbonation. Drinkability does ok since it's almost like water. Really not much going on with this beer, lacks a lot of flavor.

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Photo of mshallah
4.49/5  rDev +18.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

December notched on the label but no year. Very hazy to cloudy amber with a very soapy looking two and a half finger head which recedes slowly.Fruity and hoppy nose. Smells inviting. Very fruity and hoppy taste. Malt is very sweet. Hops are in the nose. Bittering hops for flavor dry out the sweetness for a pleasant finish. Fruitiness is of fresh baked fruit pie and the malt sweetness is the pie crust. Floral hops with bitter hops and a slight alcohol note round out the complex balance of flavors. Love this brewery. A two hour drive I really need to take soon. Decant this beer carefully to keep the yeast in the bottle.

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Photo of flexabull
3.34/5  rDev -12.1%
look: 2.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Beer pours with a huge head from the bottle. Cloudy amber color, not the prettiest beer to look at.

Aromas are of caramel malts, and some sweet hard candies.

Taste is a bit dull but not offensive at all. Some yeast flavors, sun tea, burnt caramel malts, and a slight mineral hop finish.

Mouthfeel is above average. Smooth and a bit supple.

Nothing special here. I wouldn't turn one down, but I wouldn't seek this out either.

Thanks again for the bottle cburian!

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Photo of Nipitato
3.55/5  rDev -6.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Picked up a bomber at Julio's Liquors in Westborough, MA.

A: Deep copper. Opaque. Looks thick and viscous. Thin off white head. No visible carbonation. Visible yeast sediment.

S: Nice fruity hoppy aroma. Fruity hops smell of apple and citrus. Maybe apple aroma is an ester? Minimal lingering sweet malt aroma.

T: Balance of taste is hops as to be expected. Hop flavor is kind of flat, rough, and not smooth. Hop flavor is almost "woody". Not nearly enough malt to back up the high hop flavor. Finish is not dry.

MF: Aggressively carbonated. Medium filling mouthfeel.

D: Too hoppy for a traditional ESB and not balanced enough. Definitely drinkable though.

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Photo of UncleJimbo
4.15/5  rDev +9.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

22 oz bomber, purchased at the brewpub.

This ESB poured a hazy, amber color with creamy, white foam that settled to a thin coat which clung and left some lace on the glass. The smell was malty with a hint of yeast. The taste was malty with a dry maltiness. There was a touch of yeast flavor and a very modest hop bitterness blended in. The mouthfeel was dry and malty with medium body and modest carbonation. The malt and hops lingered in the finish. This was a very smooth and easy-drinking ESB.

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Photo of Stimack
3.73/5  rDev -1.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Brew poured to a cloudy amber color, almost the look of apple cider with a nice sized light tan head that looks to have good retention and has left a great deal of lacing down the sides of the glass. . The aroma is very nice, clear hops smell that is floral with a biscuit like malt scent. The taste is a little different than what I was imagining. Nice amount of bitterness that I notice up front that is mixed with a malt flavor of caramel leading to a sweet taste. The beer has a little rough (in my opinion) aftertaste that I am having a hard time putting to words, but think it is the haps coming out even more than when I first noticed them? Over all I would say that this is a very good brew, one of my favorites? No, but I would get it again.

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Photo of GratefulBeerGuy
3.7/5  rDev -2.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

20 oz bomber

AP: A cloudy and thick bronze color with an all white medium size head that's bubbly and displays lasting retention.

Nose: A very aromatic sweet and leafy hop with some yeast and an olive-like sourness. clover honey, jasmine, minty hops and caramel scotch candies.

Taste: A rather bitter, flowery and leafy hop bite at first then turns to a mildly sweet and sour effect not unlike an olive taste. There is also an earthy and herbal malted flavor with dry caramel malt, the hops flavor is unique and delivers decent balance.

MF: Medium body look and feel, lively but also slick from some left over malt which turns thick and substantial on the palate.

DA: a unique and complex ESB without getting too geeky.

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Photo of fdrich29
3.72/5  rDev -2.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

This is my first review in almost a year. Amazing how little time for reviewing there is when you work three jobs and planning are planning a wedding. Well I'm down to two jobs and the wedding and honeymoon have come and gone, so here we go.

I love this head. Thick and creamy like a rootbeer float. Head doesn't seem to be going anywhere. Golden amber body wrought with floaty yeasty goodness. (stops to take off sweatshirt).

Smell is yeasty-bready with some hoppiness. Tastes much the same, with some hints of pine. After another sip it seems to be more than just a hint of the pine.

A relatively smooth beer. Goes down easy and is quite tasty. Not one of my prefered styles, but I'd love to get my hands on this from a tap. I could see myself enjoying several at a nice, small, dark pub. Definitely worth a try.

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Photo of lpayette
3.82/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Appearance- The color is a rusty amber with a slightly unfiltered haze evenly spread throughout. The head is perhaps a bit on the small side and is bright white.

Smell- The aroma is very similar to McNeill's Firehouse Amber. An inviting strawberry smell mingles with suggestions of grapefruit.

Taste- Something similar to strawberry, a bit of malty substance, and a healthy amount of hops.

Mouthfeel- A nice bittering effect at the finish.

Overall a very good ESB. Not my favorite McNeill's thus far, but certainly not too bad.

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Photo of kennyo
3.57/5  rDev -6.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Now this is a good McNeills beer, as compared to my previous trashing of Pay Day

Amber color with the right amount of carbonation, pours with a nice white frothy head that dissapates fairly quickly. Aroma is hops, stickiness. Flavor has malt, light hop bitterness, kind of dry finish on the back of the tounge. Very drinkable, would like to try this on tap at the brewery.

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Photo of carln26
3.83/5  rDev +0.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

This beer looks quite a bit like the English IPA I recently brewed, It poured from the bottle a pale copper, very hazy with a decent sized white head. The head receded quickly and left a very light lace on the side of the glass. The aroma smells very similar to my IPA too. A bit of citrus/grapefruit and just a fig sweetness in the finish. The flavor ha some great citrus and a wonderful bitterness, with more malt sweetness than my IPA. Nice fig/date backing with this malt. Very pleasant beer with a nice slick mouth feel. This seems like it would be a nice session beer.

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Photo of ybnorml
3.29/5  rDev -13.4%
look: 2.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

A hazey amber ale. Next to no head at all (what little there was, was off white). The aroma was lightly malty with a nice fruity hop character. No carbonation detractes from the taste. The flavor has both a sweet and a toasted malt character followed by a smooth hop finish.

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Photo of Kookiekwan
3.7/5  rDev -2.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

This beer pours amber/copper has a thick frothy two finger head with good retention and sheets of lacing left behind. the aroma is of floral hops with hints of caramel and roasted malt. The taste is caramel sweet at first but quickly gives way to a citrus-like hop bitterness. This beer is medium bodied and very smooth.

Reflection: This is another good beer from McNeills. If you like this one I suggest you pick up the whole line from McNeills, most are as good as this one or better.

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Photo of rabidawg
4.6/5  rDev +21.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

What a great ESB. Pours a slightly hazy copper with a small white head. Moderately carbonated. Laces well. Aroma is surprisingly citrus-filled, but in a gentle way. Sweet caramel malt and a toasty, bread crust smell comes through as well. Taste is mind-blowing. Soft in the mouth initially, with prickling carbonation coming through only after a few seconds. Slightly sweet up front; herbal and citrus hops in the middle. Finishes crisp and dry, with lingering English hop flavour and a nice yeasty tone. Excellent.

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Photo of smcolw
4.29/5  rDev +12.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Gorgeous head, nice lace. Orange-amber in color. The negative here is the amount of suspended solid particles in the beer--unusual. Big points for the former; lost points for the latter.

Sweet and bitter in aroma. It's unusual to have this sort of complexity in the nose. The hop is very flowery; the malt is very rich.

This is very highly hopped. The malt is the vehicle to deliver the hop bitterness. Frankly, this is more bitter than the average American IPA--not that I'm complaining.

The flavor is strongly hop--again, very close to an IPA. Looking past the bitterness, the malt is very dry, subtle and easily overlooked. The body is like skim milk and the carbonation is slightly high.

This is a powerful ESB. If you imagine IPA, you'll enjoy this beer. If you prefer ales closer to a mild, this will overwhelm. As a hophead, I enjoy this one very much. There are many interesting qualities that require subtle observance. You may bow your head in prayer now.

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Photo of wyllder
3.95/5  rDev +3.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Drank out of a 22oz bomber.

Pours a cloudy caramel with an ivory head that recedes to leave one heck of a sticky lacing in the glass as you go.

Nose is pleasantly hoppy, mixing grapefruit, apricot and a musky apple backbone.

First hit on the palate is mildly hoppy with hints of grapefruit and is quickly balanced out by the sweet malt before the midsip. The sweetness fades some to leave a nice bitter grapefruit & musky apple aftertaste. There's more of an IPA character here than an ESB, as the malt never develops the smoothness I've come to expect from the style.

Mouthfeel is nice, however, that excessive lacing I described is from some agressive sugaring and this comes through as a bit heavy-handed on the mouthfeel.

Despite the sugariness of this, the drinkability is still solid and I had no problem polishing off the bomber.

Overall, a very nice interpretation of the style. If you can get it on cask, don't miss it, otherwise it's still a pretty good sample to try.


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Photo of waughbrew
2.99/5  rDev -21.3%
look: 4 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.5

Very hazy rust color, off-white head slowly settles to a patchy covering and thick lace. Once the bottom quarter of the bottle is reached, huge yeast chunks come out. Pitchable. Strong grapefruit hop aroma dominates but bready malts are there backing it up. Taste is big dirty fruity hops with biscuity malts trying to balance, but not succeeding. Fruity esters try to meld with the hops, but the hops still poke out too much. Finish is lingering resiny sting, some sugary coating and dirt from the hops. I still can't place it, but McNeill's beer often has that dirty hops character. It is a mix between earthiness and sting I guess, but it comes off to me as dirty (not necessarily a bad thing). Feel is a little thin and very smooth. Made for drinking a good amount of. Decent beer. Definitely reminds me of homebrew with mediocre results.

DRINK WARM! This beer tasted pretty bad when chilled. I strongly suggest letting it get to cellar temp or warmer before drinking.

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Photo of mschofield
4.27/5  rDev +12.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Pours a hazy red-amber with a one finger tan head, leaves thick sticky webs of lacing.
Great floral aroma, a fruit note is introduced when the yeast is swirled and added.
Toasted bread, biscuit, floral and grapefruit notes in the taste.
Strong bitterness for an ESB - very good.
Medium bodied, smooth, great body and feel, good session beer

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Photo of nomad
3.82/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Pours a muddy brown with a ruby hum. A bubbly and thick foam head is atop while soft clumps of stain are here and there. A bit murky colored for my taste and the carbonation/appearance was thinning and spotty at best.

Smells earthy and roasty with touches of toffee. Widens to grapefruit notes and English hop florals. A bit slight on the nose but rough and full enough.

This burly bitter tastes of a roast malt with lots of British hop flavors: minty, earthy, floral, soapy, rotating between them all. Decently juicy and balanced in a sense, though increasingly earthy and almost acrid amongst a roasty finish. Yet, one of my bottles had a tickling pepper sense with a rooty, licorice-like undertone making things more interesting. Thinner mouthfeel for the style.

Glad to have snagged a couple bottles in my last NE excursion; would be more than glad to catch it on draught or cask where ESB's shine their brightest. Love seeing bitters in bomber bottles.

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Photo of UnionMade
4.15/5  rDev +9.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

The beer pours a brassy amber, a thick, generous foam appearing with a gentle pour. Slight chill haze, mostly clear. The antique white head settles into a thick, even coating, about 1/8" thick. Plenty of lace, sheeting the glass all the way down, with thicker rings of belgian lace. A pile of foam outlasts the beer.
The aroma is fairly well balanced, in favor of the hops. Piney and citric, with a mild grapefruity bite. A bit of herbal earthiness. The malt forms a solid foundation, with a pleasing biscuity, toasty sweetness. A pronounced peachy fruitiness. Some sweet, bready yeast. Faint pear and floral esters add a soft touch to the assertive hopping.
The flavor starts with a subdued toasty malt, a sweet, white bread sort of yeastiness immediately apparent. Slight husky grain. Light peach esteriness floats around the middle, gusted over by a prominent, agressive hopping. Very piney, with a milder citric orange tang and some earthiness. A touch of pear esters towards the end, with a slight hint of lime. The hops create a clean, bitter finish, the malt still present, but supressed. A lightish medium body, carried by gentle, natural carbonation. An easy drinking mouthfeel, with a touch of grainy roughness for a bit of oomph.
Quite an assertive ESB. I'd place this more in the IPA category, with such an assertive, bitter finish. Regardless, it's a great beer, and makes for 22oz of enjoyment. The fruitiness is really awesome, I thought the aroma was just like peaches. Highly recommended for anyone seeking out great Vermont ale.

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Photo of gentlebubbles
4.15/5  rDev +9.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5


One of the few cloudy ones. A hazy amber swirls under a nice high rounded head. The sour scent from the citrusy orangey hops rises up from the fruity appley malt base. Lots of orange popping up all over this one. The juicy finish keeps you from getting too dry.

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Photo of edchicma
4.14/5  rDev +8.9%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A bit too much sediment suspended in the pour...but smell made up for it...floral. hoppy...excellent. Taste was cirusy, hoppy and robust...left that great bitter aftertaste. Mouthfeel was dry and sharp....just what I was looking for. Easy on the drinkability side...mmmm I'm still tasting those hops!

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McNeill's Extra Special Bitter from McNeill's Brewery
3.8 out of 5 based on 118 ratings.
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