Redhook ESB | Redhook Ale Brewery

863 Reviews
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Redhook ESBRedhook ESB

Brewed by:
Redhook Ale Brewery
New Hampshire, United States

Style: Extra Special / Strong Bitter (ESB)

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 5.80%

Availability: Year-round

Notes / Commercial Description:
Brewed in the style of a traditional British ESB (Extra Special Bitter), we’ve been making ESB continuously since 1987, and it’s now the benchmark for the Amber beer category. Despite having “bitter” in its name, Redhook ESB is really not that bitter at all. This brew is all about the balance of caramel malt sweetness completed by spicy, citrusy hops.

28 IBU

Added by BeerAdvocate on 07-30-2001

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Reviews: 863 | Ratings: 2,090
Photo of Reaper16
1.64/5  rDev -52%
look: 3 | smell: 1.5 | taste: 1.5 | feel: 2 | overall: 1.5

12oz. bottle served into a pint glass

Pours a lightly caramel brown color. 3/4 of a finger's worth of offwhite head. I'm struggling to say much of anything about this beer's appearance. It's utterly generic. If you go into Microsoft Word's library of ClipArt and search for "beer" you will find a picture of this beer.

Have you ever smelled bread sitting on the counter, from like two rooms away? That's what this beer smells like. It's dominantly bready in the most boring way possible: subtly and distantly. If you sniff very hard you can make out a flutter of peanut shell and a wink of musty hops. But this is bread central and it is so utterly boring because of it.

Finishing this bottle is going to be a chore because I am rapidly falling asleep while drinking it. Here's a bad sign as to how boring and underdeveloped this flavor profile is: I can taste the water. Redhook ESB has notes of bread, nuts, an insultingly low percentage of bitterness, and yes, mineral water. This is an utterly benign ale that the English would be embarrassed to see labeled as an ESB. Watery flavor begets watery mouthfeel. This beer is Paper Mario-thin.

Overall: this beer's existence caused the London riots.

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Photo of Ecliptica
1.76/5  rDev -48.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 1 | feel: 2 | overall: 1

Poured from a 12 oz. bottle. Little head that dissipated quickly into a light copper color. Actually looked pretty attractive and drinkable, but alas. . .then I tasted it.

Perhaps I didn't take a good enough whiff, but all I could smell was malt with no aroma of hops at all. I had to give it 'average' because the smell wasn't awful, but it wasn't great either.

In my opinion, this is the worst tasting beer I have ever had. I typically like these extra special bitter-type beers, but either I had a bad bottle or it normally tastes this metallic. Slight hoppy taste, but hardly anything. I can see where people would like this type of flavor, but it really did nothing for me. It was a stuggle drinking the entire glass.

Mouthfeel is watery at best; nothing I can really boast about

Again, I appreciate where the brewers are coming from making this type of beer, but once I got about 75% of the way through I honestly didn't even want to finish it. The taste was too much for me and I don't plan on trying this again out of a bottle. I am still willing to get this on tap as I may have just had a bad bottle - as long as someone else is willing to pay :-)

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Photo of 4theluvofbrew
1.8/5  rDev -47.4%
look: 2 | smell: 2 | taste: 2 | feel: 2 | overall: 1

I had had this beer b4, so shame on me 4 getting it again...I was looking for a 12-pack, and this was the only thing that caught my I. it is NOT an ESB! I don't know what it is...maybe a bad honey brew or something...? It has no bitterness whatsoever. RH's IPA is terrible too, so stay clear of their beer! I love true ESBs, so if anyone knows any good ones that I can get in New England, please let me know thanks!

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Photo of heine1
1.89/5  rDev -44.7%
look: 4 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 1.5 | feel: 1.5 | overall: 1.5

This beer has a pleasant, clear coppery-amber color in the glass, but this translates far too literally into a flavor suggestive of a red tea steeped with grubby--here I echo previous reviewers-- pennies. On top of this odd and utterly unrewarding metallic flavor, it is sweet, with an overbearing, unintegrated sweetness like a shot of molasses added at the end of brewing. I think I have liked other beers by these guys, Summer Rye, in particular, but this is one of the worst beers by a major brewer I have had. Bad batch?

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Photo of q33jeff
2.02/5  rDev -40.9%
look: 2.5 | smell: 1.75 | taste: 2 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2


AROMA: malt, vegetable
LOOK: Dark yellow pour. Eerie. No head to speak of.
TASTE: Vegetable, Soy….some lemon.

FEEL: ok carbonation, medium body.

Not really a fan of this one.

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Photo of BeerBelcher
2.06/5  rDev -39.8%
look: 3 | smell: 2 | taste: 2 | feel: 2 | overall: 2

This beer just didn't do anything for was not very flavorful nor appealing, and it had a distinct metallic taste that I thought was a bit off-putting for something you'd find in your beer.

This beer came out of the bottle a very clear tan color with good commercial-looking (small consistent bubbles) head. Aroma was very minimal...some sweet maltiness. Flavor-wise, I could not get over this copper-metallic flavor. This beer tasted like a penny, or like water that had snaked through a bunch of copper piping. Mouthfeel was a bit harsh and unremarkable. I was very not impressed with this beer.

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Photo of ChadQuest
2.06/5  rDev -39.8%
look: 3 | smell: 2 | taste: 2 | feel: 2 | overall: 2

Clear golden with some bubbles rising, cap at first that turns to a collar. some lacing.
Not much aroma to speak of honestly, caramel and corn are about all i get.
After a few sips i cant tell if this is some kind of caramel malts or some off buttered popcorn issues, maybe a bit of both. There has to be an issue there is alot of butter in here and honestly it masks alot of the rest of the beer, the hops come in for a slight pine note, and the malts barely poke over. Low carb and mod mouthfeel, something ill pass on from now on.

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Photo of harrymel
2.15/5  rDev -37.1%
look: 2.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2 | feel: 2 | overall: 2

Bottled 20SEP11

pours a hazed amber ale with a fleeting finger of off white foam. Smells of grain, metal and a hint of a frosted flakes. Tastes sweet and malty with the slightest hint of bitterness. I'm not really impressed with the flavor of this beer. I remember back when I first got into craft, and I thought this was a good beer, nowadays, this thin bodied, hi carbed sweet beer is mediocre for me. IMO an ESB should be only subtly sweet and have a pronounced, complimentary bittering on it that results in a feeling of slaked satisfaction.

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Photo of alysmith4
2.16/5  rDev -36.8%
look: 3 | smell: 2 | taste: 2 | feel: 3 | overall: 2

Not impressed would sum up how I feel about this beer. It was decent, but definitely nothing special. Poured a plain brown color, with little to no head. Smell was of hay/straw and a little bit of pine. Tasted like grass and some toasted sugar, with some "dirty" undertones. I could drink this beer again, but it's not that great.

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Photo of aaronh
2.21/5  rDev -35.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2 | feel: 2 | overall: 2

Pours with a light head. It is a medium orange-amber, with a slight haze. The aroma is very faint, but smells of malt. The head dissipates quickly. The initial taste is ahint of hops with some malt. It feels quite thin on the tongue with noticable carbonation, and leaves a mouthwash aftertaste. With the questionable taste, I wouldn't drink many of these, ever.

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Photo of wilsnphd
2.3/5  rDev -32.7%
look: 2.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 1.5

There was a time when this was my favorite beer. I was willing to stay overnight at the Seattle airport if it meant I could have a few of these. When Budweiser bought them out I was hopeful, Budweiser is my favorite mass produced lager. But the beer we're evaluating today isn't even close to the special brew that was produced by Red Hook before Budweiser bought them. I gave up on Red Hook for many years, but just bought their newest sampler 12 pack. Every beer in the sampling is the same; a watered down version of what might have been a good idea.

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Photo of Premo88
2.31/5  rDev -32.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 1.75 | taste: 2 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 2.5

12 oz. bottle poured into nonic

L: gold-amber ... 1/2-inch head off a hard pour, white foam, little stick or lace; brew is clear with just a bit of haziness to it, still easy to see through

S: corn, medicine, sour grain

T: corn, grain, sour grain; toasted barley, some bitterness that often feels more like medicine than hops

F: solid, very drinkable

O: major dissapointment ... there's nothing English nor ESB about this brew; it tastes like a corn tortilla chip dipped in Nyquil ... as macro-brew tasting as any "craft" beer I've tried.

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Photo of redzone3120
2.36/5  rDev -31%
look: 3 | smell: 2 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 2

A - Pours a medium brown color with a slightly golden tinge to it. The head is a low bubbly brown color and disappears quickly.

S - The smell is mild but has a hoppy note to it. Almost has a smokey scent mixed in with a possible fruit.

T - Tastes like an Indian Pale Ale with a lot of hops. Has a little bit of a caramel taste but its masked with a little too much bitterness. The aftertaste is crisp but the bitterness lingers a little too long.

M - Has a sharp bubbly feel in the first sip which fades to a smooth medium-light body. The carbonation is well balanced and dissolves into the flavor.

D - An enjoyable beer but is a bit too bitter for my liking. Goes down well for the first brew but not quite smooth enough for more than one at a sitting.

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Photo of maddamish
2.36/5  rDev -31%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 2 | feel: 1 | overall: 2.5

I had this at the Winking Lizard in Fairlawn Ohio.

The beer was a light red color when poured. strong notes of strawberry were present in this bitter. I thought that I was in for a good experience as I had been drinking a lot of bitters lately.

This is one failed to live up to expectations.

The bad: Very watery. No body to this at all. It was only slightly bitter and it was not accompanied by any sweetness to balance it out. That would not be so bad but it was just a very bland beer over all. I had the Redhook Blonde and was a fan of that but this one is just a failure for a ESB.


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Photo of CHADMC3
2.39/5  rDev -30.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 2

Pours a deep copper to amber with a frothy off white head packed with dense carbonation bubbles that hangs around for a few minutes before giving way to a thin lacing.

Sweet caramel malt aroma, floral notes, but also something resembling bubble gum.

Slightly fruity and floral, not the traditional esb, possibly berry like, sort of like Blue Moon (?). Not much else happening for me.

Medium to high carbonation, medium body, possesses a certain bite on the back of the throat I cannot identify.

This beer is kind of like seeing Pamela Anderson nude for the first time when she's 42.

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Photo of Carlson8tor
2.4/5  rDev -29.8%
look: 4 | smell: 2.75 | taste: 2 | feel: 1 | overall: 3

Better than a Coors or a bad lager. Malty to the nose and malty up front with a little bitterness at the finish and very dry finish. Seems to be too watery for the beer in my opinion.

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Photo of Blakaeris
2.4/5  rDev -29.8%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 2 | feel: 2 | overall: 2.5

Pours clear light copper with a very modest head that quickly dissappears completely.

Smell is very malty with a bit of a sugary edge. A touch of bready diacetyl, but no real hop aroma.

Taste is similiar to the nose. Mild hops do make an appearance, but is very subdued. There is a bit of nuttiness that wasn't present in the aroma. Finish has minimal hop bitterness, accompanied by a slight metallic property.

Mouthfeel is light and watery.

Overall the flavor and mouthfeel are not robust enough to take this beer seriously... Perhaps this would make a crossover beer for a macro drinker.

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Photo of allergictomacros
2.4/5  rDev -29.8%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 2 | feel: 3 | overall: 2

A - Pours a hazy orange/copper without much of a head.

S - Fruity with some toast, metal. Hints of red fruit and some apple and caramel.

T - Very apple-y. Other fruitiness takes a back seat as does any darker malt or hops. Aftertaste is unimpressive. Really, the whole thing is a bit uninspired.

M - Mouthfeel is fine. Decent body and moderate carbonation.

D - Drinkable, but not something I would try again.

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Photo of nach0king
2.42/5  rDev -29.2%
look: 2.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 2 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.5

I had an ESB for the first time (well, knowingly) quite recently and loved it. To my horror I completely forgot what brand it was. I bought this one hoping this was it. It wasn't it.

A: Meh. Copper, no head, no lacing, looked a bit flat - flat not as in lacking carbonation (I understand it's supposed to be like that) but just a bit... nothing-y. No haze, no settling, no nothing.

S: Liking it - got toffee apple and a bit of lemon butter off it.

T: Not as appealing, sadly. Some sweetness up front balanced with crisp apple, giving way to a bit of a sour - not bitter - finish. Not impressed.

M: A few tiny bubbles, other than that it's actually quite thin.

Won't be getting this one again.

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Photo of KarlHungus
2.43/5  rDev -28.9%
look: 3 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2

This beer pours a clear pale orange-amber color. The head is one inch in height, and recedes quickly into decent lacing. The aroma has some faint caramel malt tones, but they are hard to detect and there isn't anything else going on. The taste is of watery caramel malt. Like the aroma there isn't a much going on. The mouthfeel is watery and thin. Overall, this is a very pour example of an ESB if it can even be called that. I will not drink this beer again.

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Photo of rhinos00
2.43/5  rDev -28.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 2 | feel: 3 | overall: 2

Poured from a 12 oz. bottle into a shakers pint glass.

A- Pours a hazy, orange amber color. Produced a thin half fingers width of white head. Quickly dissipated.

S- Has a malt background with a bready character. Slight sweetness almost gives it an aroma of iced tea.

T- Much like the aroma except I keep picking up an unpleasant, musty flavor in the background. Bit of hops in there as well.

M- Light bodied with some carbonation. Semi-dry feel on the palate.

D- I could see how this could potentially be a drinkable beer, however, the off flavors in this beer almost made me drain pour it.

Overall, after spending some time in Denver and the local brewpub scene, I definitely won't be wasting money on this one when I want an ESB.

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Photo of Truh
2.44/5  rDev -28.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.5

Went Ballard-up with this one on 8/28/2004. 16-oz pint pour at Legends Pool Hall in Portsmouth, NH.

Skein of initial head with lacing, though that disappears quickly, likely due to improper rinsing of the glassware. Amber and lilting gold to hue with some constant action, though difficult to discern in the poor lighting of the joint. Soapy, droopy malt and rancid pork rinds to bouquet – perhaps unclean lines? Challenged malt to taste with only suggestions of bitterness; however, after warming some bitter character did manage to power its way through. In the end, simply cannot recommend this as a result of its dreary all-around profile.

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Photo of maleman
2.45/5  rDev -28.4%
look: 2.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 2

A - Poured from a 12oz bottle into an SA lager glass. I know...I'm breaking etiquette. No dating noted. Amber colored, slightly opaque. Very, very little head. Some light, clingy lacing.

S - Slightly bready, with some hops evident. Not much there.

T - First impression is metallic, then some light alcohol notes. For an ESB it is not especially bitter?

M - Somewhere between light and medium-bodied. Not much aftertaste.

D - Was given to me as a gift...I'm glad I didn't go out and buy it on my own. There just isn't a lot of taste, or character to this quaff. Won't be having another on any set frequency.

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Photo of goochpunch
2.45/5  rDev -28.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2 | feel: 2 | overall: 2

Pours out a tangerine tinted honey color with a 1/4" head that is fed by a good amount of carbonation within the body of the beer. Stringy lacing. Nose is extremely toasty with a kick of citrus and herbs. A little medicinal. Flavor starts off with a metallic twang mixed with toasted malt and sickly sweetness. Hops don't offer so much in the area of flavors aside from a muddy bitterness. Ends medicinal and cloying. Mouthfeel is sticky and prickly all at once. I'll finish this, but I won't be buying it again.

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Photo of Guden
2.47/5  rDev -27.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 1.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 2

A- A peach colored copper with consistent carbonation bubbles and a one finger white head. Minimal lacing and a slight haziness are the only off points.

S- Lots going on with fruit (papaya and berries), hops (citrus) and sweet caramel taking the front with pine and bread also coming in.

T- Blech! Now I remember why I didn't like this beer. Up front is an off putting odd dough mixed with butter like quality mixed with pine and a strong sweetness which doesn't balance, this is met in the middle with stale malty bread and the finish rounds out with aspirin bitterness and a lingering bad dough taste on the tongue.

M- Moderately light in body and carbonation this one goes past the tongue fairly easy but not enough to escape the taste from hitting it. Seems right for the style but doesn't help the taste profile.

D- Not very drinkable, will not have again. There seems to be quite a bit going on here for an ESB but it just does not blend well and leads to a disjointed mess of a drink. There also seems to be some diacetyl that really ruins the flavor throughout.

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Redhook ESB from Redhook Ale Brewery
3.42 out of 5 based on 2,090 ratings.
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