Extra Special Bitter (ESB)
Propeller Brewery

Extra Special Bitter (ESB)Extra Special Bitter (ESB)
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Bitter - English Extra Special / Strong Bitter (ESB)
Ranked #33
Ranked #19,325
3.87 | pDev: 9.3%
Propeller Brewery
Nova Scotia, Canada
Very Good
Extra Special Bitter (ESB)Extra Special Bitter (ESB)
Notes: Bitter was originally a draught ale served very fresh under no pressure (gravity or hand pump dispensing only) at cellar temperatures. Lucky for you today its available everywhere!

Our ESB is a rich, full-bodied English-style bitter, brewed with carefully selected malts and hops. This copper coloured, English styled ale is our best seller. Smooth, Full bodied and All Natural, like all our beers.

Our most popular brew is not really a bitter beer, it's a better Bitter!

30 IBU
Reviews: 98 | Ratings: 162 | Log in to view all ratings and sort
Photo of taxandbeerguy
taxandbeerguy from Canada

4.03/5  rDev +4.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

473 ml can served at cellar temperature into a pint glass. AN LCBO purchase for $3.15 CDN.

Appearance - Dark amber colored brew, some clarity and just a dark enough shade to make it hard to see through. Three fingers of light tan head rest on top and stay awhile leaving some sparse lacing at the edges of the glass.

Smell - Dark fruits of fall with pears and plums making way for a soft caramel aroma and some floral perfumey bits as well. A very understated leafy citrusy hop combo shines through mid sniff. Robust and diverse array of aromas.

Taste - Nice initial bitterness, subtle hints at fruity flavors and melds into a crackery and biscuit laden goodness afterwards.

Mouthfeel - Medium bodied, carbonation is slight, and a touch more sticky than other ESB's, somehow it pulls off being British better than most North American imposters.

Overall - Yeah this is some pretty darn good stuff, one of my more enjoyed ESB's of the last few years. Will have to pick up some of these. Good job East Coast friends.

Mar 26, 2019
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TheBierdimpfe from Canada

3.44/5  rDev -11.1%
look: 2.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.25

Hazy copper color with low activity. Soft creamy light brown 2 finger head that last 5 minutes. Flavors of toffee, dark grains, molasses, raisins, plums, berries, herbal spices. Some bready sweetness, but densely bitter and hoppy. Slick medium body with light prickly, soft crispy carbonation. Medium to strong strength, straw and roasted malts, leafy hops, and burnt ester sugars. Lacks balance and proper intensity. Not sharp enough, nor delicate. Quite bold and over intensified. Doesn't feel very fresh, with a thick wet straw feel. Decent taste and a nice maillard smell. Overall okay quality craft.

Feb 08, 2017
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Jerseyislandbeer from Jersey

4.03/5  rDev +4.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

A 650ml bottle which was a gift from friends who visited Nova Scotia. It pours a copper colour with a loose cream coloured head. Aroma has lots if bread with sweet grains, biscuit & toffee. Tastes of toffee, hay & straw with sweet grains, mild roast and a touch of biscuit leading to a very well balanced malt medium bitter finish.

Dec 17, 2016
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souvenirs from Canada

3.68/5  rDev -4.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

A: Brown and clear with tan head
S: Nutty malt, just a bit of hops
T: Roasted malt flavours -- mostly coffee -- and grassy hops to finish.
F: Silky. Maybe a bit crisper than the style would suggest.

Dec 17, 2016
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D-HopSupreme from Canada

4.34/5  rDev +12.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Pours a deep Amber body with a finger of soapy white head that dissipates to a milky film. The scent has faint amounts of cocoa and coffee with a malty sweetness. Hops are subdued. The taste starts with a coffee bitterness, with toffee and caramel in the middle finishing with floral hoppiness. Wicked beer, I really like the stuff

Aug 27, 2016
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JayQue from Virginia

3.77/5  rDev -2.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Good ESB. Subtle but a lot going on with it. Another purchase at the Ingonish Nova Scotia NSLC store. Pours a light hazy amber with a lot of reddish light coming through. Medium size off-white head with good retention and lacing. Aroma is toasted malt and aromatic floral hops. Taste is mildly malty with some fruit and a bit of toffee thrown in. A bit of bitterness at the end rounds things off with floral hops. Mouthfeel is light and slightly sweet, Mild bitterness provides some balance. This beer is true to style and makes for a pleasant drink.

Jul 14, 2016
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chinchill from South Carolina

3.79/5  rDev -2.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 3.75

On tap in Annapolis Royal, NS.
Deep copper body topped with a creamy, semi-durable bone colored head.
The aroma and flavor are both lightly spicy and slightly more hoppy than malty. Very mild bitterness.

Overall: very nice although not as bold a I'd like.

May 31, 2016
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VelvetExtract from Massachusetts

3.31/5  rDev -14.5%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.25

Bottle. Poured a clear copper color. Aroma does not really remind me of most ESBs. It just smells less British than you'd expect. Not much Brit hoppiness; maybe that's why. It's mostly caramel malt. The flavor is also a ghost of the style. It sorta tastes like it but not exactly right. It tastes like caramel with hints of red apple. Light bodied. Not an impressive take on this style.

Oct 11, 2015
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PorterPro125 from Canada

3.76/5  rDev -2.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Serving Type: 341 mL Bottle

A- Pours a nice copper colour topped by a 2 1/2 finger white head that lasts throughout the brew.

S- Malty with hints of caramel. Mild hop notes.

T- Initially quite bitter but softens out with sweet malt notes. Slight metallic notes but not off putting. Taste improves as it warms.

M- Low carbonation but quite light!

O- Not as silky as other bitters I've had but I quite like this interpretation of the style.

Jan 25, 2015
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thedannypink from Canada

4.1/5  rDev +5.9%

Purchased in 650ml bottle at local liquor store.
Produces a healthy, long-lasting head when poured. Head very creamy on top with a tan-light brown color. Scents of caramel, and very slightly hoppy. Beer is reddish-brown, more red than brown when held to a light.
Taste: At first bitter, then sweetens. Hints of fruit, and caramel as noted in the smell. Very lightly coats the mouth and leaves a medium bitter taste lingering on the tongue. Flavorful but light-bodied. Refreshing. Carbonation is about average. Very very slightly metallic (but not unpleasant) aftertaste when chilled, but this becomes less apparent as the beer warms. Flavor sweetens after being out of the fridge for 10-15 minutes. Would recommend leaving out before opening as the flavors grow more mellow as it warms.
Pleasant flavors for a 5% ale. Very nice.

Nov 04, 2014
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DaveBar from Canada

4/5  rDev +3.4%

Got on a trade with Curtis. Served at 4deg C in a draught glass

A- 4.25- Opens well and pours a ton of head that lasts forever. DARK brown.

S- 3.75- Caramel and malt.

T- 4.0- Very good. Bit bitter aftertaste. Nice. Caramel and malty

M- 4.0- Very light for a bitter. Nice and refreshing

O- 4.10- This is what I would give this beer. Nice bitter. Good break beer

Food Pairing

This wonderful little bitter went well with...... BBQ steak with blue cheese.


Sep 30, 2014
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CalgaryFMC from Canada

3.81/5  rDev -1.6%

Single bottle poured into a shaker pint glass. A clear but dark mahogany brown with a finger or so of frothy off-white foam. Aroma does deliver a nice ESB or brown ale character: Raisins, hazelnut spread, brown sugar, grape, and a topcoat of earthy, citrus rind evoking hops. Ample malt complexity and fruity esters on the palate, although there are more than enough hops to dry things out and keep this anchored in bitter territory. Some interesting flavors emerging, dusty toasted cinnamon, orange, treacle, bruised brown apples ... Fruit and spice in equal measure. Diacetyl asserting itself. This is a tasty brew ... On the malty side but not cloyingly sweet, fairly thick for the style but finishing rather dry. Would repeat.

Sep 06, 2014
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Nightwing from Canada

4.1/5  rDev +5.9%

Poured from bottle. Aroma is a nice mixture of caramel, chocolate, and coffee. Appearance is a clear amber with slightly off-white head. Taste is a medium bitter. Body is somewhere between medium and full. Creamy texture, with average carbonation, and a bitter finish. A very drinkable ESB with just the right amount of bitterness.

Sep 01, 2014
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johnnnniee from New Hampshire

4/5  rDev +3.4%

Bottle from the Brewery store.
Pours a solid dark brown with a decent sized off white head. Toffee, caramel, and dark fruits with just a hint of earthiness. Medium body moderate carbonation. One of the better ESB's that I've had.

Aug 15, 2014
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1sophrosyne1 from Minnesota

4.14/5  rDev +7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.25

Enjoyed on tap in its hometown with great local fish.

The pour is mahogany and clear, with nice snowy white head that falls away almost completely, but leaves streams and sheets of lacing.
There's clean malt-hop balance in the nose, just a bit dank, fitting with where it's brewed. A little raisin and caramel are wrapped up in the wheaty elements.
In the flavor, there's a good bitter center after a malt-sweet start (fitting with its style), but more thorough hopping and ample, bright carbonation make for a nice variation. Pine, grapefruit...later almond. There's a spiciness with pepper to the ending that lingers, and a fruity hint of Shiraz and smoke as well.
The medium body, washes out of the mouth rather quickly--just a touch more length and heft might be an improvement.
Very nice, overall. Much more flavor and complexity than I'd expect it to carry...especially at just 5% abv.

Oct 25, 2013
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lstokes from Illinois

4.01/5  rDev +3.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Splitting a large bottle with my partner right now. There's a substantial head and hearty lacing with a perfect amber color, hold it up to the light and you can see right through it.

Smell and taste both have a lot of caramel, some raisin, and a little bit of herbal hop. Finishes bitter with a piney hop. Bitter and dry, with a really bright carbonation--we both really liked it, it didn't wear down the palate easily. I don't think it's as creamy as other ESBs, but I kind of like this lighter version of the style.

Jun 30, 2013
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Mora2000 from Texas

4/5  rDev +3.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

The beer pours a murky brown color with an off-white head. The aroma is full of toffee with a hint of grass thrown in. Definitely a malty beer. The flavor is similar. I get some toffee and biscuit malt, with a bit of grass and earth mixed in. Low bitterness. Medium mouthfeel and medium carbonation. A nice ESB.

Nov 25, 2012
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Groulxsome from Canada

4.27/5  rDev +10.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Bottle poured into a tulip glass.

Appearance: A deep-red copper with a low, pale off-white head. The head sticks nicely to the sides of the glass. Really good clarity.

Smell: The first thing I notice is the malt, it's really sweet and grainy at first but then I get some more caramel aspects. It has a lot of English hops smells going on, so its dry and earthy. A little fruity-ness too, faintly like ripe Bananas.

Flavour: Really syrupy sweet at first with a lot of malt flavour. Like in the smell, the sweetness is mostly caramel driven. The hops are here, mostly earthy and slightly metallic, like copper, but the hops are an accent to the rich maltiness. There is a nice, balanced bitter which provides a dry finish.

Mouthfeel: Fairly high carbonation with a fully body.

Overall: A really nicely balanced beer between sweet malt and bitter, coppery hops. I really nice beer to drink. I've been saving this bottle for a while to review because I ended up drinking the rest of the six-pack over a week. It was just the kind of beer I wanted after a day of working. It's got a nice sweetness without being too sweet to drink and a nice bitter without being offensive to people who might mind bitterness in beer. It's really a great example of the ESB style and a really great Canadian beer.

Apr 20, 2012
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DaftCaskBC from Canada

4.35/5  rDev +12.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A: 1/8" tan head over mahagony coloured liquid.

S: Sweet toffee malt and some citrus hops.

T: Sweet toffee malt as well as citrusy and grassy hops.

M: Medium viscosity and medium carbonation.

O: One of the better ESBs from North America. Extremely drinkable, I would have this one again.

Feb 29, 2012
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NForr from Canada

3.72/5  rDev -3.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Had this one a few times as its the only beer available by Propeller that's found in Ontario - sorry not in Quebec at all.

Chocolate brown color, clear, little head. On the nose I get Caramel, floral hops, sweet cereal, lots of roasted aromas.

Slight roasted taste followed by a relatively nice bitterness from the hops. A bit soapy.

Super easy drinkability, good session beer. Not as good as I remember, but it could be because I kept this one too long.

Feb 19, 2012
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4.12/5  rDev +6.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Appearance - dark copper with a thin head that leaves very nice lacing as it recedes.

Smell - Dark fruits, caramel, and light earthy hops.

Taste - a touch of hops upfront followed by rich caramel malt, dark fruit, nut, and biscuit.

Overall, this is a very well-balanced and tasty ESB.

Nov 23, 2011
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Noxious26 from Canada

3.23/5  rDev -16.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

341ml brown bottle poured in a point glass.

Cream coloured head is only 1/4 inch with a fairly aggressive pour. Quickly receds to a thin ring around the edge. Clear, dark red to reddish brown in colour.

Mostly malty aroma. Malt, toffee and light hints of herbal hops.

Pretty well balanced. Malty up front blends smoothly into a balanced middle with malt and herbal/piney hops. Finish is moderately bitter piney/herbal hops with a touch of citrus.

Medium bodied with tiny pin pricks of carbonation. A little syrupy.

A solid offering. Nothing to really write home about, but a nice drink none the less.

Oct 23, 2011
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Stocean1 from Canada

3.8/5  rDev -1.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A - poured a one finger head on an aggresive pour - very nice lacing spackling the side of the glass - mahogany - deep brown in colour - quickly down to a thin off white collar

S - lots of malt, chocolate, floral hops

T - malt up front with floral hops, chocolate note, dark fruit, slightly sweet ( a little like a light stout)

M - medium body with decent carbonation - not overly bitter and dry

O - a decent ESB although I would like it a little hoppier

Oct 01, 2011
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Digimaika2 from Canada

4/5  rDev +3.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A: Deep mahogany copper colour with a creamy greyish foam head. Quite good lacing down the glass and a decent retention.

S: Caramel-like malt, candied dark fruits, toffee, banana, and some floral hop notes. Quite sweet and pleasing to the nose with a slight woody earth presence.

T: Bitter floral hops upfront that lead into a mellow malt backbone that doesn't overtake the taste in this but rather compliments the hops very nicely. Candied dark fruit tastes coming through along with some tropical fruits (pineapple and banana). A slight smoky taste lingers near the end.

M: Light and slightly oily body with a moderate amount of carbonation that gives this a bit of fiz in your mouth. Bitter and dry. Very nice mouthfeel.

D: Will be picking this up again every once in a while as it's a very nice and sessionable ESB. Would like to try this on-tap, but I guess will have to wait until a trip out east.

Sep 14, 2011
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bylerteck from Canada

3.93/5  rDev +1.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Bomber from Halifax from my boss. Bottled Week 1 of July. Had this before but never reviewed. Don't remember liking it.

A - Pours with a full two finger cream coloured head. Creamy head. Bright. Good carbonation. Deep copper or light amber. Great lacing with good rings, one finger of creamy head retention.

S - Big aroma initially. Good fruitiness. Hard to nail down but it's like a boozy fruitcake with bread and earth. Opens up with caramel, bread, citrus, great earth, and some strong dark fruit.

T - A fair amount of hop presence. Dark bread, caramel, earthy and a little floral with less fruit, but the plummy/boozy fruitcake thing is still there. Bready/caramelly/earthy notes mostly grab hold of the taste.

M - Fairly bitter/dry finish. Light to medium body. Good carbonation.

O/D - Not bad. Probably to style, but not close to Fuller's. The fruity notes in the aroma don't carry through to the taste. A good one, but not close to the benchmark. Gets a little heavy the more you drink. Overall, enjoyed it.

Aug 12, 2011
Extra Special Bitter (ESB) from Propeller Brewery
Beer rating: 86 out of 100 with 162 ratings