Empire Strikes Bitter
Founders Brewing Company

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Bitter - English Extra Special / Strong Bitter (ESB)
Ranked #21
Ranked #15,406
3.97 | pDev: 10.58%
Founders Brewing Company
Michigan, United States
Retired (no longer brewed)
Very Good
Notes: American version of the English Extra Special Bitter.
Reviews: 13 | Ratings: 52 | Log in to view all ratings and sort
Photo of Tripel_Threat
Tripel_Threat from Michigan

4/5  rDev +0.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Served on tap at the pub. Nice, dark brown color with a finger of soapy foam on top. Great rings of lacing. Aromas or toffee and bread, caramel and grassy hops. Flavors follow: toffee and vanilla caramel, dark bread and grassy/floral finish. Quite nice.

Oct 22, 2019
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VoxRationis from New York

3.96/5  rDev -0.3%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Served on tap at Founders Brewing Company in Grand Rapids, Michigan
A: Pours a crystal clear, amber color with a one finger, off-white head, rim retention, but decent rings of camo shaped lacing.
S: Aromas of caramel, toffee, and honeysuckle.
T: Semisweet. Some flavors follow the nose somewhat with emphasis on caramel/molasses. Leather and cherrywood notes. Bitterness more in the background creating some balance.
M: Medium bodied with moderate carbonation.
O: Nothing like having a wet hopped, AIPA on tap at the brewery in the early Fall. What a great drinking experience. A very crunchable and easily quaffable. I wouldn't say no to another iteratively.

Oct 05, 2019
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beersampler6 from Michigan

3.72/5  rDev -6.3%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

Nice bitter tried on tap at Founders. Pours a honeyed amber color with some white head and spotty lingering lacing. Smells of some toasted nuts, bread, caramel, malt and vanilla. Taste follows the nose, fairly good balance and depth and richness despite the low ABV. Very smooth, mild mouthfeel, good carbonation. An enjoyable beer during lunch at the brewery.

Sep 06, 2019
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Treebs from Illinois

3.83/5  rDev -3.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 3.75

Had on tap at Founders. Served in a nonic pint.

A: Pours a dark amber color with some clear brown highlights to it. A white head forms on the pour and recedes to thin cap. Sticky white lace is left down the glass.

S: Light citrus hops with a caramel malt sweetness. Some sweetened biscuit malt with subtle grassy nature with a touch of dankness.

T: The taste pretty much follows the nose. Very sweet caramel malt backbone with a little cereal grain as well. Nice bursts of citrus hops with with some background dankness to it and minimal grassy notes.

M: Light bodied and very easy drinking. Medium low carbonation with a dry finish.

O: Very solid and drinkable beer. Nice balance of hops and malty sweetness. I'd definitely knock back a few pints of this.

Apr 06, 2013
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kylelenk from Michigan

3.12/5  rDev -21.4%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Modified my post from Bitter Ole' Man, another Founders bitter, which in my opinion was almost identical to Empire Strikes Bitter taste wise. Had on tap at the taproom this summer.

A - Lighter color than what I've found in other bitters. Colors resemble more of a pale ale being yellow instead of a darker bronze/light copper.

S - Mostly hops and citrus notes up front. Smells more like a pale ale or a session IPA.

T - Found this to be overly hoppy for a bitter style. Maybe it's an American take but I'm used to more malty variants like Fullers, Boddingtons, John Smith's, etc. which have more of a prolific malt base.

M - Carbonation seemed to be a little high. Maybe because I'm used to experiencing so many bitters on nitro.

O - Like the other Founder's ESB, a little let down. Maybe because their house yeast doesn't fit in or because they've pumped it full of hops.

Oct 30, 2012
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spark3148857 from Ohio

4.47/5  rDev +12.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

On tap at Founders:

I was lucky enough to have this one on tap at Founders. Typically I prefer an IPA over an ESB but this was perhaps the best ESB I've ever had.

AP: Pours a dark orange verging on light brown or caramel.

AR: Massive pungent overripe tropical fruits. Some floral. This reminds me a lot of another great beer, Ithaca's Flower Power.

TS: Wow, this one blew me away. Great hop bitterness and citrus flavor. Caramel malt flavor was a great backbone to the hops.

OV: I wish Founders would bottle this, what a great selection.

Jul 21, 2012
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BARFLYB from Pennsylvania

4.05/5  rDev +2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

On Tap at South Philadelphia Tap Room in a glass

Empire strikes bitter came to me looking real nice off the tap. The color is a bold gold with light yellow hues towards the sides up to the light. Rising bubbles with a off white dense head that stuck around. Smell is on the malty side with caramel and some faint pale malt. This brings out nice earthy hoppy appeal with some citrus. I've never had this before and the freshness in the nose shows. Taste hits the spot, refreshing with a mix of malt a apparent English yeast strain, some nutty appeal and some earthy hops towards the end. It all melds nicely leaving me sipping more. Feel is less than medium with some bright bubbles felt on the tounge. After all the hubbub, the aftertaste is earthy and fresh and nice. I was pleasantly surprised in this one. A beer style I always thought was sub par actually has class, it all depends on who is making it and freshness. Glad to see some more founders one offs in the area, we used to get a bunch year round, but since the PLCB raids of 09' they only seem to trickle in during beer week.

Jun 10, 2012
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BirdsandHops from Oregon

3.84/5  rDev -3.3%
look: 2.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

A: Pours a hazy copper color with a finger of white head that fades into a thin ring with no lacing.

S: Dry, piny bitterness with some grapefruit notes dominate the nose.

T: Slight caramel malt presence up front followed by a strong, dry, and piny hop bitterness that finishes clean and lightly bitter.

M; Medium-light body with mid-high carbonation that accents the bitterness well and leaves it dry and bitter without being watery.

O: A solid beer, overall. I'm no expert on the style, but it was light, hoppy, and drinkable.

May 30, 2012
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warnerry from Michigan

4.32/5  rDev +8.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Notes from 5/16/11

A - Pours clear amber with one finger of head.

S - Smell is very floral, with citrus and some faint caramel malt. Very nice.

T - Similar to smell. Citrus, florals and some caramel. Nice and solid, but not overwhelming, bitterness. A bit of alcohol in the taste, but it is relatively subdued.

M - Light to medium mouthfeel with a nice drying bitterness.

O - Overall, very well done. Founders has such a nicely balance portfolio.

Mar 31, 2012
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MICAMD from Maryland

3.75/5  rDev -5.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

A- Pours a clear, burnt orange liquid. There is a creamy light brown head that has good retention.

S- Citrus, grass, pine, and caramel. Floral and simple with a distinct Founders hop aroma.

T- A touch earthy with citrus hops with some pine and grass. Not as complex as the aroma. A bit smoky.

M- A decent carbonation bite. Smooth with a slight lasting bitterness.

O- A nice American take on the style. Simple but effective.

Jul 02, 2011
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sidetracked from Illinois

4.03/5  rDev +1.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

On-tap at Founders.

Clear deep amber in color with little white head that doesn't linger much.

Smell is bready malts with a light floral hop bitterness.

Slight bitterness upfront with a good bready malt presence. Nice bitter finish with a little lemon and floral hops. Lingering bitterness.

Medium body with moderate carbonation. Little sticky and syrupy.

Very nice balance of hops and malts. Flavor is exactly what I expected and I feel represents the style well.


May 24, 2011
Photo of Viggo
Viggo from Canada (ON)

4.33/5  rDev +9.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Growler, thanks to grub for sharing!

Pours a lightly hazed reddish amber, some brown highlights, very thick off white head forms, settles down to a thick ring and drops some nice lacing, looks good.

Smell is nice, fruity and floral, some light citrus, caramel, biscuit, some bread/toast, nice herbal British hop character, nicely balanced.

Taste is similar, very malty up front, caramel and biscuits, lightly sweet through the middle, some fruit, floral, nuts, more fruit and nice citrusy and herbal bitterness.

Mouthfeel is light to medium bodied with low to medium carbonation. Way too easy to drink considering the ABV, a real nice ESB. Thanks Russ!

Jan 28, 2010
Photo of grub
grub from Canada (ON)

4.33/5  rDev +9.1%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

growler filled at the brewery jan 23/2010, sampled jan 27/2010.

pours a gorgeous ruby colour, pretty much crystal clear with a big fluffy tan head. the head drops slow and leaves tons of lace. tons of ruby and garnet highlights. really a pretty beer.

aroma is great. just a hint of citrus, but then it gives way to tons of floral and lightly earthy character. bit of raw grain. lightly toasted multi-grain bread. bit of cracker. hint of alcohol. light caramel.

taste is good. touch of alcohol, but it drinks closer to a standard ESB than this bigger 6.2% version. nice floral hop character. touch of earthiness. hints of light citrus. lightly toasted multi-grain bread. light biscuit. touch of cracker. medium-low bitterness level. a bit of grain. it's not super complex, but very tasty and deep malt character. nice hoppy character to compliment and balance. bit of nutty character. as it warms a bit of lightly fruity english character starts to come through.

mouthfeel is great. medium-light body with a fairly drying finish. medium-light carbonation level.

drinkability is great. nice balance. good malt and hop character - nice depth, but not making you think too hard or look too far into it. i think if you weren't told this was an above-average strength ESB you may not even notice, at least not until a few pints in. good stuff!

Jan 28, 2010
Empire Strikes Bitter from Founders Brewing Company
Beer rating: 88 out of 100 with 52 ratings