Redhook ESB | Redhook Ale Brewery

865 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: 865 | Ratings: 2,093
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.

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Photo of Urk1127
3.05/5  rDev -10.8%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

-Reddish brown
-toffee, bread, cracker, brown sugar
-grains, toffee, tiny bit of coffee, hops
-Good bitterness, light side

-First ESB. Wont be the last.

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Photo of fscottkey
3.54/5  rDev +3.5%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.5

A: [3.75] Pours out a cloudy apricot color. The beer forms a 1/4 finger of white head. The bottle lists the born on date really clearly (04/13/15). It also clearly shows the ABV (5.8%)

S: [3.50] Graham cracker. Like a sweet cracker scent.

T: [3.50] Follows the nose. It is a sweet crackery taste to the beer. I am not getting many additional flavor notes.

M: [3.75] Decent body and carbonation.

O: [3.75] This is a decent beer. It doesn't vary on the nose or the palate. I get one scent and flavor across the board. Fortunately that one note is pleasant enough to enjoy. I can't say I will seek this out - but I woudn't turn it away either.

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Photo of katybee
3.67/5  rDev +7.3%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.75

Despite the name, it's not that 'bitter' at all...not pungent or citrusy in the sense of Hop Czar, the hopping is balanced by malt without that "smell"...yet not breadiness, just clean crisp carbonated flavor.... Reminiscent of Hop Rod Rye, or an altbairisch dunkel... or an herbal tripel... dry, flavorful, light-medium bodied and refreshing... much better than a Guinness. An "extra special beer".

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Photo of bsonk
3.5/5  rDev +2.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.25

Red Hook ESB- 5.8% abv.

A: darkish Amber

S: not great, the yeast has a weird banana like aspect for me, also it sort of smells like Parmesan unless I am totally going crazy.

T: sweet Amber malt, light hops just enough to make it have a different mouthfeel because they are largely overwhelmed by the malt sweetness. It’s a little biscuity.

M: thin like a session beer, grainy, leaves a lot of sugar on the tongue. Better from the bottle than a glass IMO.

O: not the best. Not the worst. I don’t expect much from Red Hook, Pyramid, Widmer or Portland Brewing Co because they are all established “crafts” that have investment from the big guys and have been around a while and only brew the same stable of boring beers. I would call them and Boston Beer and Sierra Nevada and Ninkasi the “macro craft” breweries. Red Hook is a Seattle brewery but contract brews in Portland so it’s very local. This is a solidly OK cheap brew. Not great but way more interesting than a Budweiser.

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Photo of draheim
3.71/5  rDev +8.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

This is one of the beers I first started drinking regularly when I moved to Seattle in the early '90s. Drank it for years, then basically dropped it when I discovered saisons, imperial stouts etc. Time to revisit this one.

16oz can into a pint glass. Pours a crystal clear amber w/ a nice fluffy off-white head that leaves behind sticky lacing. Good carbonation rises from the bottom.

Aroma is sweet, slightly fruity, toasty, biscuity. Clean caramel malt.

Taste follows nose. Nice and sweet, fruity. Crackery. Toasty clean caramel and crystal malt flavor. A gentle bitter finish.

Mouthfeel is slick, medium bodied.

Overall this is just how I remember it. Nothing amazing here, no notes of vanilla or bourbon; but this is a perfectly fine everyday beer for a session at the pub on a cold October night, or for watching a Sonics game at the Key. Great with a cheeseburger.

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Photo of pat61
3.77/5  rDev +10.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Aroma: nice delicate malt aroma, fruit aroma quickly dissipates, caramel to honey malts, caramel, low hop aromas, Appearance: creamy head hangs around, brilliant gold with a little copper, Flavor: caramel sweet finish, a lot of curious sweet action and a little fruit way in the background, medium hops that do not dominate, moderate to low esters, finish a little sweet. Mouthfeel: medium body, medium carbonation. WSomewhat dull overall.

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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 Beric
3.42/5  rDev 0%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.5

Serving: Sampler, on tap, on the brewpub tour in Woodinville, WA
Served: 4 July 2015

Appearance: Brownish red, but definitely more on the brown side. Dirty, off white head that looks pretty creamy at first but quickly dwindles down to just about nothing.

Smell: Caramel notes and standard 'beer' aroma.

Taste: A slight assertion of toasted bread, caramel, or light brown corn syrup but otherwise pretty nondescript. Tastes a lot like an amber ale.

Mouthfeel: Medium body with high carbonation. Very drinkable, but still feels a bit thin.

Overall: Not a bad beer, but one that's very pedestrian. Would drink if handed to me, but wouldn't buy on my own.

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Photo of Nickholland
3.63/5  rDev +6.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A good, widely available and inexpensive beer. If you want a break from all the super hoppy ales with a sweeter and malty palate then give this a try.

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Photo of HattedClassic
3.74/5  rDev +9.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

The beer pours a short white and foamy head that dissipates quickly. The beer itself is a beautiful copper color (light amber). The overall appearance is nice, nothing earth shattering but still good to look at.

The beer smell is pretty fruity with some light and nice caramel smell with a bit of a toasted malt nose. The fruity is pretty good and works well with the style. There also happens to be a slight buttery note to it.

The taste has similar notes as the smell but is still fairly different. The notes seem to more balanced between the hop and malt notes. The malt has a caramel taste with a slight toastiness to them while the hops are fairly fruity. The taste also has a light buttery flavor to it.

The mouthfeel is fairly creamy and smooth for the style, which isn't good. I wish that is more on the lighter side and refreshing as opposed to being medium bodied. Given the body, I see this more as a meal than anything else as opposed something I can have after work to take the edge off.

Overall, a fairly decent American style ESB and one that probably doesn't get enough credit. I thought that this was a fairly enjoyable beer and wouldn't mind getting it on tap if I can.

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Photo of johnnnniee
3.74/5  rDev +9.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

On tap at Murphy's Taproom
Deep golden bordering on amber with a smallish off white head when it arrived at the table. Rich caramel and toffee maltiness with hints of earthy hop aroma and flavor. Clean and flavorful beer.

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Photo of Darkmagus82
3.49/5  rDev +2%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Poured from bottle into a pint glass

Appearance – The beer pours a deep amber color with a one finger head of white foam. The head has a decent level of retention, fading to leave a lighter level of foamy lace on the sides of the glass.

Smell – The aroma of the beer is quite heavy of a bready smell mixed with some sweeter aromas of a caramel and brown sugar smell. Along with these aromas comes some lighter notes of earth and roast.

Taste – The taste begins with a slightly roasted and bready flavor mixed with a bit of a caramel sweetness. As the taste advances a bit more roast and some flavors of molasses join the flavor profile sweetening it up a bit. A little bit of a grainy and hop flavor of earth and hay come to the tongue at the end, leaving one with a rather smooth, moderately sweet, but easy going flavor to linger on the tongue.

Mouthfeel – The body of the beer is on the average side in terms of thickness and creaminess with a carbonation level that is on the slightly lower side. For the style the feel is rather nice as it keeps it easy drinking, all while accentuating the light hop and malty tastes of the brew rather nicely.

Overall – A very easy drinking esb overall. A little on the sweeter side with a little less hop, almost more amber like, but overall a rather tasty brew. A nice simple drinker.

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Photo of cyguyjg
4.53/5  rDev +32.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

Sorry to buck the trend but I find this to be a special ESB. Great balance among flavor (caramel), alcohol and hops. And available all year long. Not like some brews for which you have to wait several months. This beer leaves those amber lagers in the dust.

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Photo of Roser
3.76/5  rDev +9.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

A- nice big foamy head that lasted a good bit. No lacing. Semi clear/hazy. Honey gold.

S- clean, crisp. Strong malts up front. Moderately hoppy.

T- malty, sweet up front. Pleasant bitterness on the back.

M- light to medium body, creamy, smooth.

O- very nice. Nothing too complex (as it's designed). An easy drinker with good qualities, especially the taste given the reasonable (low) 5.8% ABV. Would have again and definitely recommend.


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Photo of baile208
2.79/5  rDev -18.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

The color and aroma are subtle, not overpowering. The taste is pretty balanced and well-bodied. Good yeasty smell and taste, nice amber color. The aftertaste is a little uncomfortable, kind of chalky.

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Photo of dacrza1
3.79/5  rDev +10.8%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

DATE TASTED: April 23, 2015... GLASSWARE: Brew at the Zoo pint... OCCASION: a tough day on the JV diamond needs a Cavs win tonight... APPEARANCE: rather translucent copper body with slow bubbles; white head is swiftly evaporating and uneven but soapy; lacing is a haphazard occurrence... AROMA: Centennial and Willamette hops present an aromatic, bitter kick; immutable caramel malts provide a formidable one-two punch... PALATE: buttery smooth with a whisper of carbonation; a bitter finish of a medium-bodied, pleasantly drinkable ale ... TASTE: a nicely balanced mixture of bitter, almond-nutty, buttery base and softer aromatic hops--some bubblegum too; a tasty, mild, sessionable beer ... OVERALL: drinkable is the word--a pint worthy of an oaken bar and some pub fare; a good sports companion...

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Photo of CalgaryFMC
3.63/5  rDev +6.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.5

Tasting notes: Unexpectedly light color. Subtle aroma. Nose and palate recall ginger ale, buttered pecans (diacetyl), white pepper, lemon-lime citrus, some Goldings type hop character. Moderate carbonation. Coats the mouth without seeming terribly thick. Not a bad brew but subtly flavored, does not compare with legit English examples of the style in depth of character. Neutered "for the masses".

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Photo of Safa1
3.88/5  rDev +13.5%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Good beer not bitter. Usually 2.49 a 22. Think about that the next time your 10 buck 22 double ipa rolled in shit fermented doubly in the basement bomber lets you down. This ain't even the long hammer.

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Photo of takusan1000
3.17/5  rDev -7.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

It's a nice amber color with a solid head that stays strong along the edges. Good yeasty smell more than anything, and this prevails in the taste as well. While the bitterness is in line with standard ESB, it lacks the malty backbone that makes me love Fuller's and other standout beers of this variety. It is definitely a sessionable beer--nothing offensive here, but a chalky aftertaste persists and can only be alleviated by drinking more. I suppose that's the idea. Light to moderate mouthfeel, with minimal carbonation. Not bad, not excellent, but I wouldn't be turning my nose up at this in a pinch.

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Photo of vikinggary28
3.53/5  rDev +3.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

I love a good looking ale, and this one sure is pretty. But aroma, taste, mouthfeel, etc. are just slightly better than average. Or maybe after all the hype I was expecting more. Anyway, if you can pick it up on sale or have one offered to you, give it a try.

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Photo of Donkster46
2.72/5  rDev -20.5%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.75

Had this with a sampler tray at their brew pub. Definitely have had better representations of this style. Slightly malty with a weird sweet after taste.

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Photo of DoctorEvil
5/5  rDev +46.2%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

A revelation when I first tasted this in college in the 80's. And to think the brewery (then) was a few blocks from my grandmother's house in Ballard area was so cool....especially compared to the other local choices in town (Rainier, Oly, Lucky, Henry's, Killian's) at the time. This has been my standard baseline taste profile by which other IPA/DIPA/ESB's are judged in my experience. Really not too bitter for regular IPA drinkers (maybe for lager-hounds), but I believe it is perfectly balanced... really close in profile to Sierra Nevada and Schubros 680... oh...and Go Cougs!

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Photo of hophugger
3.16/5  rDev -7.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.25

Simple review for a simple beer(no harm intended). Pours a semi-deep clear golden color with light head and decent lacing. Aroma is slightly malty and bready. Taste is light with some malt and hop bitterness coming through. Overall, carbonation is great but this beer seems a little weak. Weaker than I expected !

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Photo of beer-fan-1
4.02/5  rDev +17.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

First craft style beer I had when I moved to Seattle 20 years ago. Goes with everything especially BBQ. Available everywhere by bottle, sometimes on tap. My go to when there is nothing else to try in the place I'm trying.

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Redhook ESB from Redhook Ale Brewery
3.42 out of 5 based on 2,093 ratings.
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