Redhook ESB | Redhook Ale Brewery

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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: 866 | Ratings: 2,100
Photo of Sammy
3.55/5  rDev +3.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

On tap at the brewpub. Medium yellow bubbly with bubbly head and leaving white lace trail. Aggressively carbonated, yet still a decent mouthfeel, medium bodied. A decent bitterness, serviceable ESB. Served too cold.Aroma was malty, and maybe it was a little too malty.

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Photo of kylehay2004
3.5/5  rDev +2.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A: thin head with nice lacing on a clear amber body.

S: light malt and hops but overall weak.

T: nice full malt profile. subtly bitter in the finish. Grains and breads with floral hop notes.

M: medium body and moderate carbonation.

Fairly good representation of the style. Not bad but not great.

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Photo of UCLABrewN84
3.55/5  rDev +3.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

On tap at Joe Jost's in Long Beach, CA.

Pours a clear copper color with a 1 inch puffy tan head that fades to a film on the top of the beer. Random spots and streaks of lace line the glass on the drink down. Smell is of malt/grain and some fruity aromas. Taste is of malt/grain and a subdued fruit and hop flavor. Slight bitterness on the palate after each sip. This beer has a good level of carbonation with a crisp and clean mouthfeel. Overall, this is a pretty good ESB but the aromas and tastes are a bit subdued overall.

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Photo of Knapp85
3.48/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

This beer poured out as a nice looking amber color, the head was creamy and white. The la in was pretty good on the glass. The smell of the beer is grainy and has a nice sweet malt aroma to it. The taste has a good bitterness to it. The mouthfeel is a bit watered down. Overall I liked the beer and would drink it again.

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Photo of metter98
3.48/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

A: The beer is slightly hazy deep yellow in color with amber highlights and has a light to moderate amount of visible carbonation. It poured with a thin white head that quickly died down and left large patches of bubbles on the surface and a thin ring of bubbles around the edge of the glass.
S: There are light aromas of fruity yeast in the nose.
T: The taste has flavors of biscuit and toasted malts along with some hints of fruity yeast. The finish has some hints of sweetness and a light amount of bitterness.
M: It feels a bit shy of medium-bodied on the palate and has a moderate amount of carbonation.
O: This beer is very easy to drink and rather sessionable. There’s a good amount of malts in the beer, but it doesn’t feel filling.

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Photo of oriolesfan4
3.44/5  rDev +0.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A pretty standard ESB. I think of them as kind of steady, boring type of beer but they always seem to look good in the glass which is a big plus. Taste wise it has some good maltiness to it and finishes crisp and clean. So basically, nothing really spectacular but a pretty good drinker.

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Photo of BEERchitect
3.48/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Second sampling: As a brew there is really nothing to criticize, but as an ESB it reaks of blandness. Just use the proper ingredients and exercise proper brewing techniques for classic ESB's and the beer will turn out fine. It happens in homebrewing, so why do we accept less in commercial brewing. This ESB just lacks the differitiators than would make it a classic example. Show me some richness with breadiness and yeastiness. Show me a caramelly, toffee-ey maltiness. Show me a hop spiciness with English hops. Show me a clean ale finish. I'll be happy then, I promise.

First sampling 7-17-05

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Photo of biboergosum
3.47/5  rDev +1.5%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

12oz bottle, procured at some random grocery store in rural Montana on Independence Day earlier this summer.

This beer pours a somewhat hazy, medium copper amber colour, with one finger of weakly foamy, and mostly just faintly bubbly ecru head, which leaves some low-lying, roiling sea foam lace around the glass as it quick abates.

It smells of mildly biscuity caramel malt, a touch of musty yeast, some sweet, indistinct orchard fruitiness, and plain earthy, leafy hops. The taste is pretty fruity right off the bat, the caramel malt tainted just so, with the earthy, leafy hops holding their own, that yeast from the aroma settling right in, and a small metallic edginess making me wonder if that slightly elevated alcohol is getting uppity, or what.

The carbonation is a bit north of average, in terms of pleasing to the palate frothiness, the body an adequate medium weight, a tad prickly (from whence?) in its blithely quotidian smoothness. It finishes rather off-dry, the fruity malt sparring still with the way-too mild hop offset.

A beer that falls into that particular no-man's land - well above BMC, sure, and definitely drinkable, but lacking in the roundness and fullness that would land it among the ranks of the crafty golden boys of the genre.

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Photo of brentk56
3.7/5  rDev +8.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Appearance: Pours a clear medium amber body with a small head that fades to a collar pretty quickly

Smell: Mostly caramel malts with a hint of hops; clearly a touch of diacetyl

Taste: Bursts onto the tongue with a blast of caramel malt; eventually blends into a bit of bitterness to the finish; a bit sweeter than I would have expected, almost like an Amber Ale

Mouthfeel: A bit slick with moderate carbonation

Drinkability: A pleasant, if sweet swill

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Photo of kojevergas
3.48/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Served from a 12 fl oz brown glass bottle with a standard pressure cap into a generic hefeweissbier glass in low altitude Los Angeles, California. Reviewed live.

A: Pours a four finger head of slight cream lacing, nice thickness, and respectable retention. Colour is a semitransparent textbook copper. It's appealing and to style.

Sm: Light pleasant cream and barley is all me broken nose picks up. It's a light aroma, but a pleasant one. Very mild.

T: Cream rides atop a pleasant full barley foundation. Some toasty malts are present but restrained and full-bodied. All around it's a somewhat simple beer, but what it does it does well. It's refreshing and well-balanced. It just lacks bold flavours.

Mf: Full, smooth, light, refreshing, and wet. It's the opposite of crisp, rolling smooth on the palate to refresh. It's quite fanciful, and complements the simple flavours.

Dr: It's very drinkable, average ABV, and of above average quality. I'd like to try it on draught. It's a very pleasant, if understated brew.

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Photo of zeff80
3.57/5  rDev +4.4%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

A - Pours out a copper/amber color with a small, off-white, foamy head. Not much in the way of lacing.

S - It smelled of roasted malt and some floral notes.

T - It tasted of some sweet malt with a slight bitter kick.

M - It was crisp and sharp. A medium-bodied beer.

D - This is an okay ESB. It served as a "gateway" beer for me in college that led to drinking better beer.

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Photo of LXIXME
3.88/5  rDev +13.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Big off white head slowly falls into a pretty decent lacing above a clear copper honey colored beer.

Light caramel malts blend well with citrus to grassy hops in the aroma of this beer.

Citrus to grassy hops seems to dominate the taste, with a little bit of some sweet caramel malt coming through.

A nice medium body that leaves a light dry to bitter hops dry aftertaste.

A worth afternoon drink for sure.

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Photo of Thorpe429
3.65/5  rDev +6.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Reviewed from notes. On tap at our local movie theatre. Glad they had this and not the IPA, as at least I got to try something different from them. I will say that this beer is not half bad and in the context of a movie theater or a ball park, I won't complain about running into this again.

Pours a light caramel-copper color with a faint off white head. The nose brings through some light caramel and toffee notes as well as some light earthy and herbal hops. The taste adds in a touch of citrus atop a bit of light bread. Some slight but noticeable bitterness resides within the feel. Drinks pretty well; I'd be willing to go for seconds.

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Photo of superspak
3.58/5  rDev +4.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

12 ounce bottle into pint glass, bottled on 6/11/2015. Pours slightly hazy deep golden amber color with a 2 finger dense off white head with good retention, that reduces to a small cap that lingers. Nice spotty soapy lacing cling down the glass, with a moderate amount of streaming carbonation retaining the cap. Aromas of honey, light caramel, toasted biscuit, nuttiness, herbal, grass, light pepper, light pear/apple, and herbal/toasted earthiness. Nice and pleasant aromas with good balance and complexity of dark/bready malt, earthy hops, and light fruity yeast notes; with solid strength. Taste of honey, light caramel, toasted biscuit, nuttiness, herbal, grass, light pepper, light pear/apple, and herbal/toasted earthiness. Light-moderate herbal/spicy bitterness on the finish; with lingering notes of honey, toasted biscuit, nuttiness, herbal, grass, light pepper, and toasted earthiness on the finish for a good bit. Good robustness, complexity, and balance of dark/bready malt, earthy hops, and light fruity yeast flavors; with a good malt/bitterness balance and zero cloying flavors after the finish. Fair amount of dryness after the finish as well. Medium carbonation and body; with a very smooth, lightly creamy/bready, and slightly sticky mouthfeel that is nice. Alcohol is very well hidden with zero warming present after the finish. Overall this is a good ESB style. All around good robustness, complexity, and balance of dark/bready malt, earthy hops, and light fruity yeast flavors; and very smooth, clean, and easy to drink. This was a lot cleaner than I expected from the yeast character; but was still a nicely enjoyable offering, and fit the style well.

 1,675 characters

Photo of oberon
3.18/5  rDev -7%
look: 3 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Pours a deep golden/amber color with a light somewhat fizzy head,aroma is lightly sweet but not much there.Taste is malty and a little nutty with some caramel tones,the best part of this beer is the taste.I have had this beer many times hoping it would be better but it never is.At one time I guess this was top-notch.

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Photo of NeroFiddled
4.22/5  rDev +23.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A really nice English-style ale. Many American brewers take it too far. This beer is right where it should be; offering some really nice characteristics but maintaining a high level of drinkability. The beers pours an orange-tinted amber with a nice, but somewhat short lived, head. The aroma has an extremely nice, soft fruity character. A creamy mouthfeel and well rounded lightly caramel malt flavor is backed by an expansive but restrained bitterness. Again, this is very English in character. The finish is lightly dry; and will probably leave you with a nice hop burp! A very nice, restrained English-style ale.

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Photo of TheManiacalOne
3.32/5  rDev -2.9%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Poured from a 12oz bottle into a US tumbler pint glass.

A: The beer is a deep gold color, with a short off-white head that fades very quickly and leaves a thin lace on the glass.

S: The aroma is of caramel, citrus, hops and lightly roasted malts.

T: The taste starts out sweet with flavors of caramel and citrus. Then there's a strong hops bitterness that comes in and brings some balance. The malt character is a bit on the thin side for the style but provides some substance. The after-taste is slightly sweet and slightly hoppy.

M: Crisp and a little smooth, light-to-medium body, medium carbonation, slightly sticky finish.

D: A little tasty, goes down easily, not too filling, mild kick, not the best representation of style as there's a little too much sweetness for a typical ESB, it's not a bad beer but there are several others in the style that I would pick first.

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Photo of mactrail
3.26/5  rDev -4.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

I wonder how many small brewery beers are still around after 10 years? In this case, I'm not sure why. I'd call it the Fat Tire of the Northwest.

Attractive light amber in the wide glass. It hits that earthy bitter note right off and sticks with it. Well carbonated with a nice beery mouthfeel. Bready flavor with an herbal note, like old dried parsley. Some decent malt in the middle. I am not partial to this hoppy flavor, but it's clean and crisp. A funny gummy aftertaste as the bitterness fades. Slight aroma of malt and crackers.

Only three bucks for the 22 oz bottle.

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Photo of dcmchew
3.81/5  rDev +11.4%
look: 3.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

Love these Red Hook tiny bottles.
Dark orange pour, one finger creamy head that goes away leaving almost no traces.
Smell of biscuits, fresh bread, oranges, faint toffee, hint of raisin and some spicy green hops. Should be good.
Bread crust and caramel biscuits, nice and rich malty backbone. Sweet citrus follows, with tangerines and blood orange, with a faint tropical note too. Bit of dark fruit too. Lots of peel and a pinch of peppercorn, hints of floral honey. Faint pine, some dry leafy hops and a bit of dankness too in the finish. Nice bitterness, with great spicy hops lingering in the aftertaste.
Medium body and carbonation, a bit creamy. Great mouthfeel for an ESB.
Though American notes are obvious, the build of this beer is actually very English, better than many ESBs from the old continent.

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Photo of ChainGangGuy
3.48/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

12 oz. bottle purchased at Total Wine in Kennesaw, Georgia. Bottled: 05 05 08.

Appearance: Pours an amber body with a smallish, white head.

Smell: Malty nose laden with caramel tones and a note of grainy bread. Decent spicy hoppiness in the nose.

Taste: Maltiness tasting of a blend of grains and caramel with the faintest, and I do mean faintest touch of roast. Sip of cool spring water. Lightly fruity. Spicy, lightly floral hops with a restrained bitterness. Bittersweet finish with a minor touch of lingering fruitiness and spice.

Mouthfeel: Just barely medium-bodied. Medium carbonation.

Drinkability: Paired with the film "Karate Kid", though I'll refrain from singing the song that goes "you're the BEST around" to this brew. Certainly not the be all and end all of ESB's, but you can definitely do alot worse.

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Photo of BuckeyeNation
2.91/5  rDev -14.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Brassy orange with polished brass edges, capped by a smallish head of pastel orange that isn't all that remarkable. It starts life at two fingers and is down to one within several minutes, dragging a pathetically short collar of lace in its wake. This is an okay looking beer that strikes me as barely better than average.

The nose, however, struggles to reach average... and fails. It doesn't have much gumption, even when I get my nose within dipping distance. The 'best by' date tells me that the beer is pretty fresh, but it doesn't smell fresh (what I can appreciate, that is). Mildly pale malty, faintly fruity and... uh... I'm thinking.

Things are a little better on the palate, but not much. Redhook ESB is too meekly flavored and reminds me of an ESB as envisioned by BMC: short on both malt and hops, and therefore, on taste. Does 'affilitated with' mean 'inspired by', I wonder? Just when the taste buds ready themselves for even a minor burst of *something*, the flavor fades away without having delivered the payload.

I'm not sure whether malt or hops have less of an impact. Given the 'quinine-like, divorced from any trace of hoppy flavor' bitterness that lingers long after beer has left mouth, I'd say that malt is more deficient. Underneath the bitterness, ESB is mildly sweet and somewhat orange fruity, but has the depth of the shallow end of the kiddie pool.

I keep telling myself that the metallic quality that was evident with my first mouthful will fade (any minute now... ), but so far it hasn't. The mouthfeel isn't that bad. It's well within the bounds of acceptable for the style, but lacks a decent cargo.

I love Winterhook, but the other Redhook brews (that I've tried) have been pedestrian at best. I was in the mood for a good little ESB this evening. Unfortunately, I didn't find one inside this bottle.

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Photo of mikesgroove
3.21/5  rDev -6.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Had this one on tap at the Red Robin tonight. It was the only thing really worth even trying. Served cold and poured into a pint glass, that was of course chilled. This one was consumed on 05/15/2009.

The pour was the best part. Rich amber color, nice dark hints around the sides as well. Inch of foam on top was a light tan color and settled down gently into a side coating, not bad with carbonation visible throughout the session. Aroma was light, hoppy, west coast ESB for sure as a light pine was easily picked up here. As it warmed though it almost totally faded and left me with a confused look. Same with the first taste, smooth, even carbonation left me looking for a bit more here. Light hops and grain with a smooth caramel mid palate, but it was all just a touch light for me to be honest, still though decent and very drinkable.

Overall while not anything to write home about it beats the pants off a macro anyday.

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Photo of smcolw
3.85/5  rDev +12.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Modest head that dies to a single layer of bubbles. It does leave good ring lace. The beer is light amber and very cloudy.

Strong caramel aroma with a definitive light hop spice to the nose. Sweet malt sugar smells.

I like the balance: Strong caramel malt flavors which gives the beer a full body feel. There's also a healthy level hops which provide a good peppery finish. The aftertaste is a combination of the two predominate flavors--long lasting.

What can I say, I think this is better than other reviews have suggested. Not that my taste buds are better than others but it makes me wonder if most tastings should be blind (including my own).

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Photo of Slatetank
3.38/5  rDev -1.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

I picked this up as part of a mix-a-six at Al's, poured chilled into a tumbler.

The color is amber with translucent color, head of ecru retains well. The lace sticks well. The smell is slightly bready and has a hint of diacetyl with some mild caramel and hint of toast. The feel is smooth with more malt as focus than anything gentle yeast and very light sweetness and spice with moderate carbonation and semi-dry finish.

The taste is pretty mild with slight tinges of fruit from the yeast. There is a mild toasted taste with some caramel sweetness but the diacetyl is present. It is present but not out of place, a good taste, but lacks a little in the hops, enough to bitter, but lacks hop flavor. I consider this just a slight notch above most, but has little to really separate it from the pack.

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Photo of Jason
3.52/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

This one ends up in my fridge once in a while, then I remember that it is good to have a “decent” brew around to keep things in perspective. The great clarity comes from the ultra filtering they do to increase the shelf-life, unfortunately it takes a bit of flavor out of the brew. Simple balance of malt and hops with an aleish like quality, clean a refresing. Not a bad brew at all, just not something that I go crazy for.

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Redhook ESB from Redhook Ale Brewery
3.42 out of 5 based on 2,100 ratings.
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