Belk's ESB | Anderson Valley Brewing Company

very good
355 Reviews

Brewed by:
Anderson Valley Brewing Company
California, United States

Style: Extra Special / Strong Bitter (ESB)

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 6.80%

Availability: Year-round

Notes / Commercial Description:
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.

Added by BeerAdvocate on 04-25-2001

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Reviews: 355 | Ratings: 544
Photo of jonnylieberman
4.75/5  rDev +25.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Poured from a bomber into my snifter. Perfectly orange in color. These slots right in between a pale ale and an Amber. Slightly clingy off-white lacing with tiny bubbles.

Smell: Orange, pine, hops, tangerince, vanilla and lemon. Cascade hops mixed with malt. Yum.

Taste: Excellent blend of malt, hop aroma and bitterness. Balanced! Delicious initial sweetness and hop citris is cancelled out by the deep--but not harsh--hop bitterness.

Mouthfeel is ideal! Thick and full, but not too full. A perfect weight.

I would like to try to drink 10. I think the 6.8% might get in the way.

Notes: A true California great. This beer should be more well known, especially to my BA brethren. Just an excellent all around beer that seems to score a bit too low around here...

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Photo of Ego
4.68/5  rDev +23.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

I am an admitted ESB lover. this is a striking attempt by an american brew at an english favorite (fullers, adnams anyone?). The difference here is the hops and carbonation signature. Where a lot of ESBs may seem "flat" to a lot of people this one certainly is not. It has the classic ESB flavour but more bite on nose and pallate, more american I suppose. Excellent lace of head on the glass, smells like it tastes and yet after leaving it out for awhile smells like a clasic brit ESB. Beautiful color, amber/brown mixed hue, though very clear. This is an american take on an english standard. The english types tend to lack the bite this does.. so imagine your sierra nevada pale crashed a fullers party.. and you have this brew. If you leave it out to breathe (for 15 min at least) it settles more into a traditional ESB all around but still has a better hop signature than most ESBs. Hop lovers will love this out of the 12 oz typical bottle as is and immediate, ESB lovers/traditionalists should let it sit for a while in a snifter before imbibing to enjoy it fully. Recommended. (note this is a 6.8% brew... barely noticeable in the taste)

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Photo of Shiredave
4.62/5  rDev +22.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

I just love this beer and have for years. Hazy, orange amber color, thick light tan, almost gooey head that clings like Arabic letters and covers the beer for the duration. Served cool; @ 60 deg.F so the aromas come thru better, malty vanilla and honey mix with citrus and floral hop. First sip is lush and smooth, toast and butter flavors segway into strong hop bitterness, my only fault with this beer - that the sweet full mouth feel dissapears quickly as the hop flavors sharply beat back the malty body. The balance is there, it just teases you so you take another sip to explore what just happened in your mouth again. I never have quite figured it out but I love trying! Exceptional hop bitterness lingers so you have to stay with hoppy beers that evening because nothing else will satisfy. Most definatly a West Coast version of an ESB. Show me a better one. Im willing to learn.
If I had only 1 beer to drink, this one would be in the running. But what a horrible thought that is!

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Photo of ktrillionaire
4.57/5  rDev +20.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

A - Big-looking brew; it is a very rich caramel hue topped with an ultra-persistent tan head, leaving large lace rings on the glass as the beer drains.

S - Aromas of biscuit malt, toasted barley and buttery sweetness are a bit too prominent to be called subtle, but they are balanced deftly enough to be labeled sublime. The herbal hops impart a slight tea-like impression, and there are also hints of cocoa and hazelnut. Great nose.

T - The taste is even better than the nose. The buttery-biscuity-toastiness is present, but in a supporting role as compared to the olfactory. Leading the way are general notes of hazelnut, pecan, caramel-toffee, milk chocolate and black tea, but again these notes range between subtle and moderate.

M - Rich and expansively creamy.

D - Exceptionally drinkable; a very fine brew.

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Photo of rembrant
4.55/5  rDev +20.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

hazy gold with a lush 2 finger off-white head Really makes a mess of the glass with lace,film,hop oils etc.

Aroma Caramel,grain,and maybe the most pineapple scent I have yet encountered.

Flavor typical of this brewer,her's an elegant beer that's not in any way extreme yet is no copycat,has it's share of depth and complexity with a balance that enhances the flavors while not neutralizing them.
The lead is caramel but it never gets real sweet a sort of English yeast and a dry woody-grassy hop weave with the malt annd grain elements and some spice notes flicker.
There's then a smooth shift to the hop side with that pineapple element there and a bit of pine-spruce at the tail end

Anderson Valley distributes over a wide range and their basic 5 beers have been solid for 20-25 years. While this has been around forever and I probably had my first Barney Flats Stout about 20 yr ago,this is my first taste of the ESB's got something special.

Mouth That haze,that intense lace,hints that this has a lot of stuff in it even if it's not dark. Indeed,I'm impressed a lot by the creamy mouthfeel. It's got wetness and substance. The carbo is spot on. the aftertaste is lingering,tasty,and classic while not being a "been there/done that.

drinkability Major. You could spend time with a few of these. This has a special touch of "beerness",has a nice showcase of distinctive hops,but has a quality sort of like a top lager (Elliot Ness) where the malts ,grain,yeast,add depth and the malt side tempers the bitterness enough to allow loading up hop flavors while the whole keeps some balance.

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Photo of jfindley
4.55/5  rDev +20.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

This is a great beer overall and is a good session beer in my opinion. There is a lot of fresh hop aroma and flavor up front but underneath that there is a nice malt nose. So overall it has nice balance.

Although I enjoy this beer a great deal I think some people might not think it true to style as it is definitely a West Coast style as opposed to a true English style ESB. It is possibly a little lighter in color than might be expected in an ESB. But these 'faults' are extremely minor.

One thing I will credit the brewery with is that there is a slight chill haze in this beer. While many might think that's a fault I commend the brewery for not filtering their beer to death. It's a much more natural looking and tasting beer.

Now I see my glass is about empty so I need to go to the basement and get another pint...


P.S. As others have mentioned, this beer is actually named Belk's ESB and not Boont which is AV's amber. It has been reported.

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Photo of goodbyeohio
4.54/5  rDev +20.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

22oz bomba from half time

hazy pumpkin orange with lots of carbonation and a velvety pillow of hilly froth on top. solid sheet walls of lace. clean, woody aroma is offset by raw, grassy hop notes. mild and fresh nose. some final honey accents make me want to dive right in to a pool filled with belk's esb. bitter malt flavor contains a big spiciness evocative of freshly shaved nutmeg. hops stick to the fruity side, bringing some orange zest and banana into play.

still maintains a nice, clean balance, lighter body, and through the roof drinkability. while this is not the jesus christ of esb's, it's a good find and worth a buy. certainly must be smokin hot on tap.

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Photo of IntriqKen
4.53/5  rDev +19.8%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

It looks like this is going through a name change to Boont ESB...I suppose to fall in line with the rest of Anderson Valley brand names.
Poured a beautiful clear amber orange with a nice cream colored head that melted slowly to a full lace.
Smelled of fruits, malts, and mostly bread...biscuity bread yeast. Hmmm.
Taste faintly of citrus but not strong..very faint, blended nicely with sweet malt and finishing in the mouth with only a slight hop bitterness.
Mouthfeel is full of tiny carbonation with only a faint alcohol warmth to the back of the throat as you swallow.
I served this beer a little warmer than would be expected...probably close to 60 F.
I found it creamy with delicate blending of flavors and very satisfying. I think I could session this or at least go through a picher with no problem

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Photo of TheLongBeachBum
4.47/5  rDev +18.3%
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.

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Photo of tonistruth
4.46/5  rDev +18%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

A- golden straw, 3 finger frothy head with freakin amazing retent, clingy soapy lace

S- honey, spicy, citric hop, fruity, malty, herbal

T- spicy hop character at finish lingers into after, sweet and bready malt up front, soft citrus, butterscotch

M- medium body, smooth, dry & spicy finish/after

D- another great brew from Anderson Valley, great ESB, highly recommended, great drinkability, delicious

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Photo of krberg
4.43/5  rDev +17.2%
look: 2.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

Amber with a nice tight white head. I use Fuller's ESB as a benchmark so I expected something a bit more dark.

The smell is all ESB. Malty as hell. Smells like honey.

That's balance! I notice the hops before the malt; bitter followed by sweet, which is different, but excellent. The finish is quick according to style and quite refreshing. Simple and beautiful!

Thick and rich, but, once again, refreshing. Outstanding!

5. I wish this beer wasn't 6.8, but, if taken slowly Belk's ESB, could be an all night kind of beer.

Overall this is a fantastic ESB. Yet again Anderson Valley has "wow"ed me.

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Photo of OatherS
4.42/5  rDev +16.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Nice label with a Cali valley scene with a bear in a lake.

A: One finger head with a amber color on the light end.

S: Hoppy, bitter, alcoholy.

T: Similar to the smell, strong bitter hoppy aftertaste. Very enjoyable drink.

M: Crisp.

D: Very good ESB, nice and strong.

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Photo of Mark
4.38/5  rDev +15.9%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

A assertive highly hopped ale. Not anything like English ale, but then what is. This is one of my favorite domestic breweries and this ale one of my favorites. I don't sound as enthused as I should because I don't think our micro brewers put out a real smooth ale on par with the British. does anyone else feel this way?

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Photo of ImBOBtheBEERguy
4.38/5  rDev +15.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

At Canal Street:

Was called Belks ESB not Boont ESB The bottle in the picture says Belks ESB and here it is listed as Boont. Which is it?

If you are thinking this is a plain and simple ESB, you are wrong! This beer starts out with a hoppy nose and good copper to amber color. The first taste coats your mouth with a good malt and hop balance. Mmmm Then it finishes out on the hoppy side. Not over hopped, not under hopped, just about perfect!

This is a very drinkable beer. It is a little strong for the style but still tasty and good! Have a few!

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Photo of edchicma
4.37/5  rDev +15.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Mmmm...I must have caught a good batch of this brew. The dark golden yellow color was enhanced by a nice light hoppy and fruity smell. The head was beautiful and the lace stayed around the glass all the way down. Taste was tart initially with a great hop presence with a flowery characteristic. The tartness stayed just the right amount of time with a light malt presence, ending in a very crisp finish. Maybe it's just me, but when a super hopped presence ends with a nice clean finish I will go back for more. Needless to say, I thought the drinkability was good.

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Photo of MadeInOregon
4.36/5  rDev +15.3%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

APPEARANCE: Orange-brown and dark gold color with a huge, thick foamy slightly off-white head.

SMELL: Vanilla, Cotton Candy, mild hops

TASTE: Cherry, Cotton Candy, Orange (a combination reminiscent of a winter warmer). There is a hoppy, pine finish in addition to these. It is less hoppy than I expected and quite a bit sweeter than other ESB's I've had.

FEEL: Smooth, malty and creamy with a dry, sticky finish

OVERALL: Excellent balance and execution. Definitely the best ESB I've had. Anderson Valley continues to impress me...

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Photo of BitterBrian
4.36/5  rDev +15.3%
look: 3 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

It pours a deep cloudy orange with not much of a head. What was there disappeared in seconds.

It smells of bright hops, citrus and some mellow malts.

Wow! Thats a mighty fine beer. It's a nice hearty ESB, a full bodied, tart, lively beer. Some orange and tea tastes are evident. Nice sweetness and bitterness on the finish. The sides of my tongue are awake now!

I would drink this again if it were more available in my area. Are all Anderson Valleys this good?

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Photo of fightingwords
4.35/5  rDev +15.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured from a bottle into a 16oz American pint glass.

A--Deep apricot color some reddish tones as well. Opaque and when held to the light I could hardly get it to shine through. Frothy sticky off white head of about 2 fingers. Hung around for most of the drink and laced the heck out of my glass.

S--Well rounded mix of hops and malts. A strong hop smell of some fruity notes and the usual bitterness. The malts were toasty and had a slight grainy smell. Really "thick" smell over all.

T--Leaned more towards the hop in terms of taste overall. Has a good filling taste that leaves your mouth satisfied. The bitter/fruit hop taste gave way to smooth caramel like malt taste that was buttery on the finish. At the end I got a note of alcohol, but this was pleasing and it kinda kept my palate going for the whole drink. This is a more hopy bitter but, but it still consider it a well balanced beer because the hops dont command or overwhelm the drink.

M--Thin, almost no carbonation in the feel. Finishes nicely (not too fast, not too slow).

D--Oh, so, drinkable. Very good session beer for me (aside from the ABV being higher than most.)

O--Top notch bitter in my book. Gonna be in my rotation right next to the Younger's Special and the Sawtooth. Excellent beer for an excellent price. Well worth a try.

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Photo of rkhaze
4.35/5  rDev +15.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Pours a slightly hazy golden amber with a big, bubbly and creamy white head. Nice lacing.
Smells of sweet malt, light caramel/butterscotch, mild tropical fruit and a citrusy hop presence.
Taste is the same as the smell and has an excellent balance of flavors. Bittersweet, rich and tangy. Definitly a more muscular version of the style. Great beer.
Medium bodied with a full creamy mouthfeel and great carbonation.
Outstanding drinkability. The 6.8% alcohol is hidden real well.
Debatable if it's a true ESB, but an excellent beer nonetheless.

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Photo of
4.35/5  rDev +15.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

I had this out of the bottle, poured into a glass.

The head was massive. I'm drinking it at Lake Tahoe, elevation 6300 ft. Does that effect the head? It was too much. Pouring as carefully as I could, I still created a head that was 50% the volume of the beer. I'm not dinging the beer because of this, because I don't know about the altitude. The color of the beer is a light copper. It is lighter than most copper colored beer. It looks great.

Smell is hops. I imagine this is what it is like to crash your bike into a hop field. Once I stuck hops up my nose. This beer smells more strongly of hops than sticking hops up my nose.

This flavor balance is tipped far in the hops directions. It is very bitter and finishes even more bitter with a great hop freshness. Malt is present, though fairly overwhelmed.

This beer is very drinkable to me. The flavors are so strong that after a few it is still obvious that I'm drinking a delicious, flavorfull beer.

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Photo of beresnaub
4.35/5  rDev +15.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

The Extra Special Beer was purchased from Trader Joes. After an eventful evening on November 27, 2008, ESB was enjoyed.

Kevin drank from a wine glass.
Kevin said "the malt and hops frolicked upon both my taste buds and nostrils. A wondrous way to begin the 'Black Friday.' As this was my nightcap, I will surely wake up with a grin on my fizz-ace."

Brandon drank from a pint glass.
Brandon, having prior knowledge, and enjoyment from, Anderson Valley Brewing Company's delicious beers, once stated that "this beer might be the best ever sold at Trader Joes. I personally enjoy almost every AV Brewing Co release, and this is among my favorites - in fact, a Trader Joes employee once said 'this is the best beer we sell.' Great beer, great evening, happy Tofurkey Day."

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Photo of SixpointJMH
4.33/5  rDev +14.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

This is a nice little "Americanized" ESB from the AVBC folks.

It pours a great looking hazy orange colour wi tha foamy sticky head atop. It leaves a mess of goodness along the sides of the glass.

The aroma is a nice mix of sweet floral hops and a malty earth ruggedness, with the hops standing out just a touch more overall.

The flavour is also more hoppy than malty, although the malt does push in for a nice finish, the hops guide you for most of the way. There's a mice creamy vibe to this once as well.

This is a nice twist on a style that I enjoy. Simple and flavourful. Definitely worth a try.

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Photo of granger10
4.33/5  rDev +14.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

My 4th ESB try of the day. Pours a somewhat cloudy brilliant orange color with a medium white head that rests atop nicely. Not too much lacing.

Aroma is soft but I get some orange peel and a bit of toasted sweet apple bread.

Taste has great balance and manueverability between the malts and hops. Lots of fruity esters varying between sweet and acidic hit the palate. A the top there's more of an earthy, floral feel along with a creamy smoothness which is quite interesting. Finish is bitter and dry.

This is more of a hoppy ESB but the malts do their job perfectly. They provide a nice base of juicy sweetness and still give more of a robust mouthfeel. But the hops give you that fruity bitterness we all love. The creamy mouthfeel works quite well.

This was my favorite ESB of the day. Anderson Valley is a great brewery imo and I will definitely be getting some more of this.

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Photo of beerluvr
4.32/5  rDev +14.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours with a cascading, sticky & lacey white head that settles over cloudy amber liquid. The nose is bready, malty and slightly spicy/sweet. Taste is of malt given a beat down by an ugly stick full of fresh flowery hop bitterness, with the malt becoming subservient to the mightily powerful flower. Finishes wonderfully bittersweet...a top American ESB, if not THE best!

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Photo of Riggo
4.32/5  rDev +14.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Gold medal winner in '94 and '95 at the GABF, this excellent American ale is certainly deserving of such accolades. An ESB that is hoppy and drinkable in the tradition of English bitters but at the same time quite complex and well-rounded. A "big" ESB to be sure, but perhaps the best in this country.

Pours a golden to amber honey color with a light tan head than remains only in a thin cap but leaves wonderful lacing in rings down the glass. The nose is beguiling, fruity (lemon and orange) with fresh cedary hops and at the same time earthy and malty--notes of butterscotch/toffee, must, damp wood, and caramel/burnt sugar (The label's wording, "ambrosial maltiness" is dead-on). The taste is a remarkable balance of the dryness of fresh, cedary hops and the creamy, earthy richness of nutty, toasty malt. The finish is long, cedary, lemony, and dry. Mouthfeel is perhaps a little thin and drinkability is solid, despite the 6.8 abv.

The label claims "Belk's stands as a perfectly balanced ESB" and I definitely concur. I cannot understand the many reviews here that refer to this beer as just too hoppy. This beer should be sampled as a corrective to the brewers of so many hoppy American ales I've tasted that totally lack the malty/earthy/fruity balance that this beer showcases. Having said that, this beer certainly has big hops, just not to the exclusion of all other possible elements in the flavor profile. It puts the American west coast stamp on the English ESB, but with great success. Pardon my Boontling, but "it's aplenty Bahl Steinber Horn."

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Belk's ESB from Anderson Valley Brewing Company
3.78 out of 5 based on 544 ratings.
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