Belk's ESB
Anderson Valley Brewing Company

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Bitter - English Extra Special / Strong Bitter (ESB)
Ranked #54
Ranked #28,138
3.8 | pDev: 11.84%
Anderson Valley Brewing Company
California, United States
Very Good
Notes: Inspired by the classic “Bitters” from Great Britain, our Belk’s ESB is an innovative take on the style. With a deep, golden hue and big malty foundation, the spicy, herbal hop aromas and crisp, bitter bite give a West Coast flair to this classic recipe.

Formerly Boont ESB.
Reviews: 356 | Ratings: 545 | Log in to view all ratings and sort
Reviews by TheLongBeachBum:
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TheLongBeachBum from California

4.47/5  rDev +17.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Met tonight...
...we will be engaged next week.....
......and the Marriage will be booked once we have set a date with the local Vicar of Long Beach. I LOVE this beer. Pours with a milky haze, which would normally detract from the mark, but in this (weird) instance, it sort of begs respect from me. Lovely white head. Aroma is hops, hops, hops. Perfectly balanced full mouthfeel, this beer goes down well (ooerrr...). Multi-faceted hop tastes dominate this beer, but it is definitely not one-dimensional like some other ESB's I have had. Wonderful superb highly quaffable hoppy ESB, the best I have had so far.
Sex before Marriage - You Bet Ya.
It will take a good beer for me to commit Adultery.

Oct 03, 2002
More User Reviews:
Photo of ElGordo
ElGordo from Oregon

4.05/5  rDev +6.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Pours a bright golden-amber color topped by a creamy stark white head that recedes to a thin ring in a minute's time. Nice, balanced aroma of sweet, fruity hops and sweet caramel malt. Palate is again well-balanced, with tangy, fruity hops blending with the mellow caramel malt to create a smooth, enjoyable flavor. A bit of biscuity character is evident on the smooth finish. Medium body is creamy and velvety, great for an ESB. I'm a big fan of this one - a great session beer, albeit just a tad strong to drink a lot of in a night.

Aug 12, 2006
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wrightst from Maryland

3.75/5  rDev -1.3%

Jun 02, 2014
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hotstuff from Indiana

3.12/5  rDev -17.9%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 2 | overall: 3.5

Dayton, OH AleFest:This beer consisted of a small sized tan head with fine-small sized bubbles that quickly diminished.The body of this beer was clear and its hue was orange.The nose was very hoppy and malty.It had a very heavy bitter flavor to it that lingered for quite some time.The palate was tingly on my tongue and medium bodied.This beer was just too bitter for my taste.

Aug 27, 2003
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Beerandraiderfan from Nevada

3.57/5  rDev -6.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.5

Well damn, if Anderson Valley ain't a cool brewery, and the what is it Buckhorn Saloon (not sure on the name) sure does act as the de facto brewpub in town for these guys. Very hospitable.

Appearance, looks like a decent English ESB. Nothing coming across aroma wise, taste, sweet and tasty, a little thin, doesn't last, but doesn't disappoint and devolve to something lesser. Drinkable, if not for the other (and better) Anderson Valley brews, like the IPA, Oatmeal Stout. . .

Dec 24, 2009
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Gavage from Nevada

3.74/5  rDev -1.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Pours a hazy gold color with a 1 inch head. Little lacing developed during the drink. The aroma was sweet and floral. The flavor was a nice balance of malt and hops. Caramel and a fruity sweetness rounded out the flavor.

The mouthfeel was very tingling as the carbonation level seemed high. Bitterness lasts long into the finish. I felt the bitterness got stronger after the swallow than during the initial taste. The is on the lighter side of a medium bodied beer. Nicely drinkable for flavor, but the mouthfeel was not as smooth as others in the ESB category.

Mar 02, 2004
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billshmeinke from California

3.91/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bottle poured into pint.

Hard pour yeilds a fat 2 and a half finger white head. Resides to a significant layer of foam on top with quite impressive lacing left down the glass. Clear golden with a bit of amber in color. Pretty much looks like a pale ale.

Smells of light malts with a bit of floral and resinous hops.

Taste is of light honey and cereal malts accompanied by slightly citrusy, mostly resinous hops. Pretty well balanced with a lingering resiny bitterness.

Light bodied, with medium unassertive bubbles, pretty smooth and creamy as well.

An easy drinker. Good for relaxing and enjoying a sunny Saturday afternoon.

Apr 03, 2010
Photo of xgrigorix
xgrigorix from Michigan

3.2/5  rDev -15.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Twelve ounce brown bottle - no dates.

Medium amber in colour. Topped by a frothy off white head, which leaves some nice lace behind.

Biscuity grain aromas & raw hop notes.

Quite sweet, grainy. Rough & raw hops. Medium-full bodied, moderate carbonation. Alcohol comes right through. A brash American interpretation of an ESB, that leaves me wanting.

Mar 30, 2005
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IronLover from Pennsylvania

3.93/5  rDev +3.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Deep yellow color with a good, but not perfect clarity. Poured with a rocky white head. Good head retention and lots of sticky lacings on the glass. Light toasted malt and herbal hop aromas with hint of citrus orange. Medium bodied with light to medium carbonation and a buttery smoothness. A good balance of toasted malt and hop character in the beginning. Hop flavors are spicey with a bit of tangy citrus. Finishes a bit dry with a lingering herbal hop bitterness.

Oct 19, 2010
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DESTRO from Nevada

3.7/5  rDev -2.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

pours out a hazy deep copper/orange with a nice thick rocky head. lacing is somewhat sticky yet sparse. aromas of grapes (juice), tea, green olives, sweet malt and a light floral hoppiness. in the mouth it is at first dense and heavy but seems to lighten out a bit and goes down rather smooth. flavors of green apple skins and a sweet malt backbone dominate with a tart bitter hoppiness jabbing in and out. alcohol is evident and adds a bit of character versus making it hard to drink. overall a good beer, strong and flavorful.

May 03, 2004
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TMoney2591 from Illinois

3.78/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Served in a Lagunitas mason jar.

One of these days, I'm gonna suggest to one of my linguistics contacts that a paper on Boontling is a good idea... Anyway, this stuff pours a clear golden-amber topped by a finger of cream foam. The nose comprises mild orange zest, buttery caramel, and soft grass (think the lush hills of rolling verdance in the general Northumberland area...yeah...). The taste brings in more of the same, though the grass now clearly overshadows the even-milder-than-before citrus character. The body is a light medium, with a light moderate carbonation and a dry finish. Overall, a solid ESB, one of the better ones coming from the States.

May 30, 2013
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Bierguy5 from Ohio

4.01/5  rDev +5.5%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

12 oz. bottle. Pours a cloudy, orange/amber color. Huge thick white fluffy head. The head on this lasted the entire beer, and left a great amount of lace. Slightly grainy nose, with notes of both citrusy hops, and piney hops. Taste has some biscuity maly, but the hops seem to take over quickly. Spicy, and slightly grapefruit like hop flavor, with a good amount of bitterness. Not the ESB I was expecting, but Anderson Valley seems to be all about the hops. Medium body, maybe a bit too carbonated. Overall, a very different ESB than what I was expecting, but it sure was pretty tasty. I didn't think it was as balanced as the label says, but no matter. This is a solid beer.

Jan 17, 2005
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DrDemento456 from Pennsylvania

3.78/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

A - Wow this seriously had the most impressive head I seen in a while. Thick and chewy with good lacing. Color of the beer was a kind of hazy amber brown.

S - Smell is mild yet has a good hop presence (not much herbal ESB notes) with bready bodied malts and touch of caramel.

T - Are you sure this is an ESB cuz this drinks great! Most ESB I have had are bitter and have an underlying herbal tea flavor yet this was clean and bready with a touch of citrus hops and a bit a caramel like sweetness. Tasty!

M - Medium and chewy it almost drinks like a brown ale.

Overall I would consider getting this again. Anderson valley has yet to disappoint me.

Jun 08, 2012
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WesWes from New York

4/5  rDev +5.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

The beer pours a nice golden color with a thick frothy white head that slowly fades to lacing. The aroma is good. It has a very pleasant malty scent that boasts of pale and light crystal or carapils malts. It is sweet with a bit of hops as well. The taste is good. It has a very bitter hop flavor layed over a complex malt arrangement. It seems a bit citrusy, but goes down easy. The mouthfeel is good. It is a medium bodied beer with good carbonation. This is a good ESB. It drinks well although I prefer more malts and less hops for this particular style.

Sep 19, 2004
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ADZA from Australia

4/5  rDev +5.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a hazy orange,copper hue which leaves a two finger head that stays and leaves clingy lacing everywhere,the smell is boiled candy,grapefruit,toffee and citrus,the mouthfeel is light-medium bodied with medium carbonation and has tastes of grapefruit,paw-paw,boiled candy,toffee and finished with spicy,herbal hop bitterness and overall its a very nice ESB and would drink again cheers.

Sep 02, 2011
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ybnorml from Rhode Island

3.7/5  rDev -2.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

An orange /amber beer with just a slight haze. Has a small creamy off white head, with a small amount of lace. The aroma has strong vanilla and fruit notes with a hint of citrusy hops in the background. The flavor starts out with a blast of hoppy bitterness followed by a nice caramel malty sweetness and finishing off with a smooth tea like bitterness.

Apr 26, 2005
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Dsimenson from California

3.99/5  rDev +5%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured from a bottle into a New Belgium goblet. Thin head but nice lacing. Coppery amber color, and hazy. Aroma is citrus and malt. I don't quite get the floral notes in aroma and flavor thAt are advertised on the label. The flavor is delightfully bitter, grapefruit with pine and malt. Mouthfeel is medium, with a fair amount if carbonation. Overall this is a very good to outstanding bitter ale, and one of my favorite styles. This brewery makes several styles that I really like.

Mar 20, 2014
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woemad from Washington

3.23/5  rDev -15%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Bottle purchased at Huckleberry's in Spokane for $1.49.

Poured a cloudy orange color. Medium-sized white head. Lots of lacing.

Smell is of spicy & floral hops. I detected no maltiness in the aroma.

Taste is great...for a hoppy U.S. pale ale. Seriously, if drinking this blind, I'd never imagine this is an ESB, its just way too hoppy. It doesn't taste bad, it just isn't correct for the style at all. What maltiness there is in the taste is strictly a supporting player relegated to the background. This won't be stealing Fuller's ESB's thunder anytime soon.

Mouthfeel is fine, nothing to complain about. Nothing to rave about either.

This tastes just like a pale ale, and if that is what you are in the mood for, this could be a great session beer. I was expecting something closer to a classic Fuller's ESB. I mean, hell, the whole style is based on Fullers. Therefore, I graded down on drinkability. Also, the 6.8%abv is a little high for sustained consumption.

Mar 31, 2004
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gleemonger from California

3/5  rDev -21.1%

Mar 28, 2012
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arizcards from Arizona

4.17/5  rDev +9.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Picked up a bottle at Papago Brewing back in early March for $1.75.

Poured a nice deep orange with a strong head that is leaving a nice lacing behind. Nose is of bread at of floral hops. Taste is a great representation of an American ESB. Starts with an extreme amount of malts and finishes with a generous amount of floral hops with a hint of citrus. Most extreme sampling of this style to date. Nice full mouthfeel. This is a very nice drinkable beer. It gets better the more it warms up. Anderson Valley has yet to dissapoint me!

Apr 11, 2005
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meeekyh from Colorado

4.21/5  rDev +10.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

Poured from a 12oz bottle into a mug.

Pours a full-orange-gold, slightly hazy with a robust, dense, light-tan 4 finger head that has great staying-power and leaves fluffy lacing. Good looking beer.

Nose is full, piny and tangy hops and grainy malt. There is a bit of alcohol in the nose, but not much. I think its missing just a bit of something here.

Taste is bitter and slightly tangy with a subtle sweetness. There is this remarkable, enticing cherry/acerola flavor. Piny hops and some slightly roasty malts. Yummy.

Mouth-feel is full and carbonation is ample. Finish is dry due to the bitterness and lingering due to the sweetness. I would appreciate a cleaner finish.

This is a well-quaffable beer and at the 6.8% ABV mark be well advised.

I like this beer more than I had hoped. The acerola/cherry flavor is a new one on me and I appreciate that. I can enjoy the malt and the hops and the complexity along with the balance. I would highly recommend you acquire this brew and enjoy.

I would like to add that this beer is NOT labeled as an Extra Special Bitter, but as 'Extra Special Beer' and I think it is much more of a homage than an attempt to recreate the style.


Feb 08, 2010
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fattychubs from North Carolina

3.55/5  rDev -6.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Belk’s ESB pours a hazy light copper color with a respectable dense white head. Aroma is subtle mostly hops. Taste starts with a smooth sweet malt, but hops dominate quickly, finishes really hoppy and bitter. Body has some density to it, medium feel with a crisp bite from the hops, alcohol is noticeable but goes good with the hops.

I liked this overall, pretty strong bitter and alcohol tastes, not a standout but very drinkable.

Jul 18, 2003
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BeerPhan86 from New York

3.65/5  rDev -3.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A - Off white head that seems persistent with a dark ruby/brown/golden color that is completely opaque.

S - Malty and sweet with an English pale ale hoppy aroma. A bit fruity and sweet for the most part.

T - Sweet and malty up front, with the taste of a good English ale. Hoppy aftertaste followed by more sweetness. A good balance of sweet malt and hoppiness!

M - Moderate carbonation with a silky smooth medium body.

D - This really doesn't taste like a 7% abv ale. It is very smooth, well balanced, and drinkable. This seems like a very simple beer that lacks complexity, which makes it very sessionable!

Overall a good ESB. Not mind blowing but decent. Glad I picked it up on sale, but for the normal price tag I could find many other better beers.

Aug 20, 2009
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alexgash from Connecticut

3.8/5  rDev 0%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Pours a light copper color with an off-white head (not too big). Smell low key evergreen hops (they kind of reminded me of Scotch Tape--weird), and subtle malts. Delicate, flowery malts up front, quickly eclipsed by huge, spicy Anderson Valley hops. Almost as big (hopwise) as Hop Ottin'. The similarities stop there, however. Doesn't have the sweet malt presence that Hop Ottin' does. Adequately balanced, but not exceptional.

Sep 11, 2003
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rarbring from Sweden

3.8/5  rDev 0%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

The beer is hazy light amber, has a high off-white head that leaves a little lacing.

The smell is mostly in the floral area, straw, hay and fresh grass.

Starting with bread notes, some toffee, lemon peel but also grass.

Medium carbonation, small bubbles, a good body, a dry finish.

A good hop composition, nearly an English character, but more floral notes.

May 08, 2011
Belk's ESB from Anderson Valley Brewing Company
Beer rating: 85 out of 100 with 545 ratings