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Extra Special Bitter Ale | Climax Brewing Company

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Extra Special Bitter AleExtra Special Bitter Ale
Very Good
88 Ratings
Extra Special Bitter AleExtra Special Bitter Ale

Brewed by:
Climax Brewing Company
New Jersey, 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 BeerAdvocate on 05-08-2002

Bros Score:
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User Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 88 |  Reviews: 52
Reviews by Dantes:
Photo of Dantes
4.35/5  rDev +12.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Package: 64oz. growler

Presentation: Beer mug at ~45º

Cost: $6.99 at Bottle King; $8.25 at Artisan

Appearance: An amber-brown semi-cloudy body similar in color to buckwheat honey. Generated a medium to large-gauge bone-colored head of moderate longevity. Head dissolved into a thin, lacey film.

Smell: An aroma that brings to mind an IPA more than an English Bitter. Nice leafy, floral notes with contrapuntal maltiness. Relatively weak aroma makes me think that the taste will be somewhat watery.

Taste: OK, so the nose wasn’t up to snuff today. No faintness of flavor here! A fairly complex fugue of flavors occurs in the mouth. Again, the hops are dominant, more in the British astringent style than the American citrusy way. A certain degree of “green” flavors leavened by some nuttiness, malt sweetness, and some faint biscuit (I wish there were a bit more). Definitely an ESB that shades to the IPA side. Has a medium finish, with a good bite.

Mouthfeel: Nicely smooth with a fine carbonation that almost mimics a true cask IPA. Light- to medium-bodied.

Drinkability: A very nice session ESB that makes for a great afternoon’s drinking. I would be surprised if this had a high ABV. In fact, I would guess that it was lower than the Fuller’s at 5.9%. Tasted more like ~5% to me.

This beer impressed me. It was more complex and well-balanced than I expected. Does a very creditable job of fulfilling the criteria of an ESB, while incorporating a few new twists. Reminded me a bit of Fuller’s IPA, which is almost more of a hoppy ESB than an IPA. Overall, not as good as Rogue’s Brutal Bitter, but probably better than Redhook ESB, Yards’ ESA, or Belk’s ESB.

Bottom Line: While not the best ESB either from America or Britain, this is definitely something of which New Jersey can be proud. Worth seeking out.

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More User Reviews:
Photo of Billolick
4.02/5  rDev +3.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

From a growler purchased @ Shoreline Bev. Pours a nice light shade of almond, light tan head, leaving well developed sticky lacing. NOse is of doughy malts with some soft hoppy notes. This beer is an easy drinking Brit style ale, balanced, understated and smooth.Velvety and coating. Biscuity malts soft and sweet on the tongue, hops muted and subtle, but well present and in the rear. Nicely crafted, a fine sessioner and a treat for lovers of British style ales.

 464 characters

Photo of Dinkel
3.84/5  rDev -1%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

Photo of narryguy
4.97/5  rDev +28.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

I bought this beer on vacation in Princeton, NJ at Joe Canal's Discount Liquor Store. This beer was the best example of an ESB that I have had since before Red Hook changed its brewing status. This beer had a wonderful smooth finish and strong aroma. I had this from a growler and not from the tap but assume that it was direct from the tap when bottled. I drank this over a 3 day period and the beer kept its consistency, flavor and head during the entire time.

 462 characters

Photo of dacrza1
3.62/5  rDev -6.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

I brought this growler to the PSU Brew Fest 2008 with the hopes of showing Ryan that NJ brewers aren't sleeping in the shadows of their Pennsy counterparts... cloudy orange brown bosy with slow effervescence... thick and chunky head that settles to a thin stable white line... slightly aromatic, softly malty balanced bouquet... bubbly, medium-bodied crunchy body--yet drinkable in this basement bar environment... smooth with suggestions of soft nuts and butter... pleasant and peaceful witht the hints of spruce and honey--reminiscent slightly of the Polish mead we partook in at the Fest... capping off another successful Brew Fest, this cushions the palate and encourages another... tough to critique this interpretation...

 727 characters

Photo of NJpadreFan
4.43/5  rDev +14.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Climax- ESB

A growler picked up from Joe Canal's (Lawrenceville) $12.

A- Light hazy yellow/ orange with a frothy meringue like head. Thick chunky lacing.
S- Light hints of caramel/ toffee malt. Slight mild floral hops.
T- Mildly sweet caramel and toffee malts. Buttery shortbread biscuit and light floral sweet hops. Nice hints of orange and apricot. Nicely blended.
M- Smooth! Buttery smooth malt, crisp sweet hops. All evenly balanced. Envelops the mouth with a creamy malty aftertaste.

Overall- This lived up to its high expectations of being in Michael Jackson's Great Beer Guide. Only sold on tap or in Growlers. 1 of, if not, the best NJ beers out there.

 663 characters

Photo of Varkias41
3.5/5  rDev -9.8%

Photo of BillyB
4.45/5  rDev +14.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

This beer had a nice orange to copper color with a massive thick white head. Pleasant citrusy aroma and a nice balance between light citrusy hops and very mild maltiness. Light body with low carbonation. Very drinkable. The only drawback was the awkwardness of the growler and it was a little sticky from bottling or packaging but I'd certainly buy it and enjoy it again.

 371 characters

Photo of KTCamm
4.12/5  rDev +6.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

12/6...served on tap. Pours dark copper with high fluffy white foam. Bready malt nose. :Light caramel. Rich toffee and bready caramel flavor. Sweet first and then cemented on with a tasty bitter. Chewy. Really darn good.

 220 characters

Photo of beerthulhu
3.95/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

A: Poured a golden-bronze with a thin white head that left a considerably amount of lacing despite its small nature.

S: a big caramel sweetness, some honey and a light floral hopping.

T: The flavor was sweet toasted grains, honey and nuts with a light flowery citrus hopping lingering in the background. The bitterness was light but noticeable and balanced well with a sweet honey finish and sweet toasted malting.

M: nice and smooth with a light bitterness and light carbonation.

D: More sweet then then bitter but easy to drink and enjoy.

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Photo of akorsak
4/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Thanks to Josh for this growler. Jecker joins the select list of good things from New Jersey.

A: The ESB is a caramel brown color. Still transparent, the ale gets darker but never ends up opaque. A white head comes with each pour.

S: The nose is syrupy, plenty of caramel to go around. Toffee follows. Hops are an afterthought, rarely popping up.

T: Maltiness is comforting, toasted and caramelly. The breadiness is sweet and dominant, standing out amongst the rest of the ale. Hops are an afterthought, allowing the caramel, toffee and breads of the ale to shine through.

M: The mouthfeel never shakes its malty base, chewy and sweet glass after glass. Not that bitter but the toffee and malts add to the extra aspect.

 723 characters

Photo of bonbini26
4.23/5  rDev +9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A- pours a medium shade of orange with a thin head

S- Nice aroma of caramel malts and bitter hops together

T- The taste was of caramel, toffee and floral hops. All very fresh and very well-balanced. It was medium-bodied. A touch of alcohol came through. The taste was perfect for the style. Everything was very well-balanced.

M-D- The flavors were well-retained and it was very smooth.
This is a true classic and a wonderful, traditional interpretation of the style, one of the best ESB's ive had to date

 507 characters

Photo of mdillon86
4/5  rDev +3.1%

Photo of Chugs13
3.5/5  rDev -9.8%

Photo of richbrew
4/5  rDev +3.1%

Photo of plaid75
4/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

On draft at Barcade, Brooklyn, New York.

Poured a medium copper hue with a one half finger foamy white cap. There was decent lacing and retention.

The smell featured a toasted biscuity malt and a grassy hop. Touch of diacytl detected.

The taste was upfront toasted malts with a nice light caramel. The hops were grassy and slightly herbal in nature. Nice residual. Toasted malt.

The mouthfeel was typical of the style.

Overall a tasty ESB. One if the better ones available locally.

 491 characters

Photo of claspada
3.92/5  rDev +1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Pours a hazy amber liquid with a white head drops quickly to a ringlet that leaves some splashy lacing behind.

Aromas begin with toasted bread and equal caramel maltiness. Earthy hops are more apparent as it warms but by no means as up front as you would expect for an ESB.

The tastes begin with big caramel maltiness with some toffee complementing the toasted bready base. I don't get much bitterness or flavor hops except for a hint in the aftertaste of earthy Goldings style hops.

The mouthfeel is medium to full body with moderate carbonation. Finish is less than stellar; could really use some more balance of hop bitterness to counteract the malty sweetness.

Overall this is a very tasty, sessionable beer but a bit off in style for me. Sweeter, more malty than any other ESB I can recall in recent memory. More like a Scottish mild/Amber style than an ESB.

 867 characters

Photo of sfsean28
4/5  rDev +3.1%

Photo of CHickman
3.77/5  rDev -2.8%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Pours a hazy yellow gold with a 1 finger white head that faded quickly, leaving pretty lame spotty lacing.

Smells of sweet malt, caramel, syrup, light citrus hops, grains, biscuit, wet bread, sweet fruit like sour apple; a nice sweet malty aroma overall with hints of fruit.

Tastes of sweet malt, caramel, syrup, brown sugar, citrus hops, flowers, floral hops, grains, biscuit, wet bread, light yeast, coriander, sweet fruit like sour apple, grape or pear, and a slight metallic funk; sweetens up like cider as it warms with an overall mellow flavor.

Mouthfeel is creamy and smooth, with very light carbonation, a light to medium body and a slight sour finish. A very easy drinking beer that's sessionable and quite enjoyable; not bitter at all and I was glad to drink some fresh local beer while in NJ.

 809 characters

Photo of drtth
4.4/5  rDev +13.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

Served in a standard shaker glass. Glass of cold water on the side to sip from periodically.

Appearance: As served the beer is a clear almost burnt orange color with ½" off-white head that recedes quickly to leave a ring around the glass. Sipping leaves some nice patchy lacing at first and later on continues to leave small speckles of lacing.

Smell: The aroma is filled with pleasant caramel and/or toffee backed up by some spicy hops that form the counterpoint.

Taste: Up front the caramel malt and light toffee flavors dominate and take center stage, but the spicy hops and their bitterness put in an appearance to keep things in balance and they are clearly in there for the duration. There are definitely hops in this one but they are kept in check by the malts so that full sweet and spicy bitter flavor seem to be what this one is all about.

Mouthfeel: The mouth feel is medium-bodied and smooth with moderate carbonation present for most of the beer. The finish is perfect for an ESB. It is medium long, the sweet component gradually fades and the finish remains softly bitter, spicy and dry to the end, inviting another sip.

Drinkability: This is an excellent example of the style. It is drinkable, balanced and leaves one quite happy to have another and another. I expect to look for this beer again and will drink it when I find it.

 1,353 characters

Photo of jwc215
4.52/5  rDev +16.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured orange with a thin, off-white head.

The smell was inviting. Caramel malt and bitter hops intermingled.

The taste was of caramel, toffee and floral hops. All very fresh and very well-balanced. It was medium-bodied. A touch of alcohol came through. The taste was perfect for the style. Everything was very well-balanced.
The flavors were well-retained and it was very smooth.
This is a true classic and a wonderful, traditional interpretation of the style.

 469 characters

Photo of Sigmund
3.8/5  rDev -2.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Cask at the Great British Beer Festival 2008, gravity dispense. ABV was 5.5%. Golden brown colour, no head. Moderate aroma of fruity hops, notes of blackcurrants. The flavour is first malty with notes of honey and caramel, then a hoppy bitterness takes over and lasts through the aftertaste - fruity hops first, then a "dusty" finish."

 335 characters

Photo of jeffmck09
3.63/5  rDev -6.4%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Photo of rfgetz
4.15/5  rDev +7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Pours a a nice orangy copper color, slightly hazed and creamy off white head from the handpump. Scent brings light carmel, biscuit, roasted nuts, light brown sugar, floral and grassy. Taste brings same components, wonderfully blended... starts off with a taste of toffee, brining floral and earthy hops on the backend with a nice biscuity backbone. Medium bodied, great cask carbonation. A true suprise, have seen around but never jumped on the chance to try, now I will make sure i have it on cask when i see it.

 513 characters

Photo of jdg204
3.7/5  rDev -4.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

My 2nd brew review from Porters Pub earlier this week. Hadn't really heard about this one before going in, but after my Founders Porter nothing else caught my eye on tap, so I gave this a shot.

A: Poured a golden-bronze with a thin white head that left a considerably amount of lacing despite its small nature.

S: BIG caramel sweetness, some honey and a light floral hopping.

T: The flavor was sweet toasted grains and caramel with a decent citrus hopping lingering in the background. The bitterness was light but noticeable and balanced well.

M: Good, smooth consintency with a light bitterness and light carbonation.

D: Pretty solid brew, I was glad I tried it and proud to see it was relatively local. Not one to go out of your way for, but definitely worth a shot if you see it on tap.

 797 characters

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Extra Special Bitter Ale from Climax Brewing Company
Beer rating: 3.88 out of 5 with 88 ratings
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