Belk's ESB | Anderson Valley Brewing Company

very good
545 Ratings

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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User Reviews
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Reviews: 356 | Ratings: 545
Photo of jdhilt
1.83/5  rDev -51.6%
look: 2.5 | smell: 2 | taste: 1.5 | feel: 2 | overall: 2

No question this is an ESB, strong, hoppy after taste. Very little aroma its all in the taste. Alcohol not noticable even though it's on the high side. Low carbonation. If you like a bitter this one is for you but it is not my style.

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Photo of TheBeerAlmanac
2.19/5  rDev -42.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2 | taste: 2 | feel: 2 | overall: 2.5

Bottle poured into a pint glass

A: Dark yellow in color and has a surprisingly thick and spongy head.

S: It does smell a little bitter but also metallic, much like a typical adjunct lager, not the greatest comparison.

T/M: Tastes malty like a traditional ESB with a slight hoppy bite and little bit of that bitterness in the finish.

Overall, it’s relatively bland.

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Photo of PDXHops
2.29/5  rDev -39.4%
look: 4 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2

12 oz bottle poured into a snifter.

A hazy dull orange body makes a nice backdrop for the constant cascade of white carbonation bubbles. Off white head doesn't rise vertically much, but has nice retention and lacing.

Very floral with a slightly sweet bready and malty character.

Much more "busy" in the mouth. Crisp grainy flavor up front yields to significant yeasty sweetness and a noticeable alcohol burn (at only 6.8%?). Piny bitterness is significant- would be great in an IPA, but out of place for this style. Some sort of medicinal aftertaste lingers along with the pine down the throat. Not feeling this beer- it just doesn't come together nicely.

Overall impression- Disappointing ESB.

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Photo of littlejon326
2.49/5  rDev -34.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2 | taste: 2 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

Im not sure why this is even classified as an ESB.

Pours a very hazy golden straw orange. Huge head that I appreciate.

Aroma was hoppy and herbal with a slight malt backbone and sublte alchohol bite...6.8% for an esb?

Taste was, in my opinion, too much for this style. Slightly piney but a little apricote/clove notes, malt halfway through with a lingering bitterness. To me, this beer seems more to style as an american pale bordering a *balanced* ipa.

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Photo of harrymel
2.52/5  rDev -33.3%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2 | feel: 3 | overall: 2

Bottle date: nunya!
Pours an amber with a finger of light cream foam. This falls in a couple minutes to a beer with moderate lace. Smells of malts (english tone) with a bit of a hit of bitter, burnt caramel. This is the nose I generally look for in an ESB, but this is a little too subdued. Flavor is of malts and a weird, over powering flavor I place akin to sushi wrap (seaweed). Really this flavor is overpowering anything else I am tasting, unfortunately. The body is a bit thin with high carb and a semi dry finish. I'm a bit disappointed by this and would not likely order again on my own buck.

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Photo of SmashPants
2.52/5  rDev -33.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2.75 | taste: 2.25 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.5

Bottle: 355mL blue can with an antlered bear (assumedly the Anderson mascot).

Appearance: pours a hazy orange amber with a thin white head that drops pretty quickly, leaving some lace.

Aroma: some herbal and grass hops with unrecognisable malts, with wet cardboard and some pine. Not the greatest aroma ever. I checked the best before, and it's still in date. Either it has suffered light strike (unlikely as it is a brown bottle) or this is a real ordinary beer.

Taste: again some malt and grassy hops - certainly nothing special. Also very flat in flavour - if anything, I would call this beer quite boring.

Aftertaste: a bit more hop bitterness comes through on the finish, but this is still one very disappointing brew.

Mouth feel: a light- to-moderate body with mild carbonation. A bit lacking.

Overall: this is the second beer I have had from Anderson Valley (the first being their Amber Ale), and neither are even a decent beer, let alone worth the top-end boutique price. One brewery to scratch off the list.

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Photo of gdogalishus
2.64/5  rDev -30.2%
look: 4 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

Serving from a bottle to tumbler
Serving temperature 47 degrees F
pH: 4.37
Alcohol Measured: 6.9% by Residual Extract Method

This ESB poured into my tumbler with a beautifully hazzy copper core surrounded by a cylinder of gold by the edges of the glass. The head was full and robust.
The aroma was cause for concern. I instantly noted a distinct yeasty/stale aroma that may be suggesting that this bottle has some oxidation issues.
The taste was mildly hoppy with little malt character. Bitterness was the main characteristic of this beer, and for an ESB is not out of character, but the oxidation made it through to the flavor as well.
I think I got an old bottle, and perhaps I should try another one before deciding that this is not a particularly good ESB, but the beer is whats in the bottle and I will review it as such. If I try another sometime and see a difference, I will update this review. For now, not a particularly good example of an ESB other than the appearance.

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Photo of Cresant
2.77/5  rDev -26.7%
look: 2.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Poured this undated 12 oz. brown bottle into a nonic. A semi-cloudy body of golden honey color supported a minor head. A ring of white foam remained throughout.

Smell was caramel sweet. Piney and citrus. Floral notes. Rather spicy.

Taste is very APA-like. Caramel sweet taste reflected the aroma. Balanced but not subtle like a British ESB.

Mouthfeel was stylewise appropriate with mild carbonation. Not a standout in any characteristic but drinkable.

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Photo of littlesgtpepper
2.82/5  rDev -25.4%
look: 4 | smell: 2 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Had a 6oz taster glass at AVBC.

A soft off-white head faded fast on this beer but had some nice lacing. A rather pretty deep honey color.

Maybe I had a bad batch? The scent is slightly skunky which was weird for Anderson Valley and kind of overpowered the smells of hops and malt.

Good strong hop flavor (Cascade hops maybe?), but not enough malt flavor. Something slightly floral is here too but I can't place it. A nice ending spicy bite.

ESB's are all about balance between hops and malt and this beer tends to lean more toward and IPA style. Not a bad beer but I won't go out of my way to try it again.

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Photo of SaltofOH
2.83/5  rDev -25.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.75 | overall: 2.5

Last week I was excited to be the second review for this beer; now there are more than 500, and they go back some time. Damn you re-branding! Bottle from a mix and match sixer. No freshness dating.

Appearance: Pours a hazy ornageish-brown with a 1/2" light tan head. Very foamy. Very little visible carbonation. Lacing goes all the way down as I drink. The best lacing I have seen on a beer in a long while.

Aroma: Something is weird here. Yeast fruitiness and sweet malt. Touch of earthy hops.

Taste: Dry arrival, full-flavored, malty bitterness across mid palate then POW big bittering hop finish. Cloying at the end of the glass.

Mouthfeel: Midweight with significant slickness.

Overall: This is not an ESB. This is an IPA without aroma hops. I cannot imagine drinking more than one of these. Out of balance.

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Photo of ThirstyBird
2.94/5  rDev -22.2%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

Poured from a 12 oz. bottle into a challis..I know weird but too lazy to switch from my last beer.
A - Hazy honey colored. 1/2 inch of light tan head falls to a mottled skim.
S - Big caramel malt nose with some fruity hops.
T - Damn hoppy, I get the malt for a moment then quickly the hops bombard. This is the most bitter ESB I've ever had. This baby is definitely not balanced. Lingering spicy and bitter.
M/F - Medium body, more carbonated than I would expect for an ESB.
D - I don't know about this one. I seems like somebody mixed an ESB with a hoppy IPA. Weird, seems like a wild pitch to use a baseball analogy for me.

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Photo of guityler83
2.98/5  rDev -21.2%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 2.75 | feel: 2.75 | overall: 3

A: An overy aggresive pour (oops) into an imperial pint glass produced a four finger head that sustained for a minute and laced the glass with a thick coat of off white foam. The beer itself showed a murkey copper / orange color a few shades darker then the half acre logo on the glass.

S: Sweet with toffee, caramel and a hefty toast vibe. Some fruity esters coming through possibly from the yeast and a spicy, earthy hop character that is almost missed with all the malt smells.

T: The big malt character expected from the nose: toffee, caramel with some gram cracker and bread crust. The bitterness is fairy strong with earthy noble hop flavors and lingers on the pallet long after it's been swallowed. A bit of a papery tasting in the middle (oxidation?) and a fruity almost german tasting yeast flavor

M: The bitterness in this drys out the mouth giving a slighty astringant vibe (or from the carmel malts?) Moderate body with moderate carbonation.

O: I'm not a big fan of many ESB's or english beers in general unless they are firkin (cask, real ale, etc). This one was a bit harsh and I think it had an oxidation problem. If that was fixed I might have scored it higher, but for now... meh

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Photo of jackndan
3.01/5  rDev -20.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

Belk’s ESB: Very nice looking amber beer with an off-white head. Very little aroma. Surprisingly mild taste, not as much hops bite as I’d expected at all. Some alcohol warmth, but this was not a lively or flavorful beer by my book.

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Photo of ccrida
3.05/5  rDev -19.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 2 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Poured from a 22oz. bomber into a shaker glass, the Boont ESB is hazy burnt orange with a tall, rocky light khaki head, that took a while to subside to a thick skim leaving decent lace. Very nice!
The aroma is pretty grainy, like bread dough, moderately strong and really not that appealing. Maybe I didn't make the best choice of glassware, as this shaker is pretty wide-mouthed, but I really doubt thats it.
After the smell, the taste is a welcome suprise, with better flavor and more depth then I expected. While it's certainly heavy on the grains, nice and bready, there is also a nice balance of fruity esters, some piney flavoring hops and a firm bitter finish, hiding any trace of the ABV. Is this beer awesome? No, not even one of my favorite West Coast big ESBs...but it's certainly not bad, and is well crafted.
The mouthfeel is a bit oily, with moderate carbonation and body.
The is not the most drinkable ESB in my book. It's a bit heavy on the alcohol, even if it is totally hidden, and not so tasty that I just couldn't get enough. Although it's a smooth and easy drinker, the bittering hops build on the tongue, and could have used more aroma to balance them out. All and all, not bad, but not one I'll be buying again most likely.

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Photo of KBomb
3.06/5  rDev -19%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Nice bottle, makes me miss the great American west. Decent color, dark gold with an orange glow. Two fingers of fluffy, lasting head. Smell is subtle: orange peel hops and a kiss of spice. Taste is quite bitter: hop character has notes of citrus and pine. To me this tastes a little more like a Pale Ale than an ESB. Lacking some malt flavor to balance the hops. There's a tinge of metallic taste at the end of the sip. A little oily mouthfeel, heaviness limits drinkability.

Its not a terrible beer, but I couldn't help but walk away from it slightly disappointed. I feel like ESB should be a little more balanced; and this particular beer seems to suffer a couple of miscues.

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Photo of Offa
3.08/5  rDev -18.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

This is a decent beer that starts off well but quickly degrades, with good flavours falling away to leave overly strong, lasting bitterness out of all proportion to flavour.

It looks quite good with a light copper body and fairly big off-white head slowly shrinking to a lasting, thin creamy top and a hint of lace.

The aroma is caramelly and with a leafy hint, bread crust, cirtus (mostly grapefruit), and a little like Lagunitas Censored. Unlike Censored, however, after a little bit, as it warms slightly, it degrades into an overall characteristic of old sweat.

The taste is caramelly, bready, and fruity up front - fairly, tasty, and interesting - with clear sweetness that is a little too thick and unbalanced but then an overly strong bitterness of grapefruit-pulp flavour, takes over. This bitterness loses some of its flavour but becomes more sharp and lasts through the fairly quick finish of cracker and bread to leave a lingering, overly bitter, almost acrid, aftertaste. The worst part is this overly bitter, sharp, grapefruit-pulp end. It also lacks balance in that it is simply sweet up front and bitter in the end, without the two meshing. This is too bad becomes it has some nice flavours and zestiness up front, has a promising start, and has enough bitterness and sweetness to be interesting. They just need to blend and balance these better and tone down the sharpness of the bitterness.

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Photo of Chinon01
3.1/5  rDev -18%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Appearance - Stiff head and spotty lacing

Smell - Roasted malt. Malty fig, maple, chocolaty, cocoa hint of coffee.

Taste - Deep coffee roasted flavor. More flavors found in smell. Sweet. A very unrestrained esb.

Mouthfeel & Drinkability - Diminished by noticeable sweetness for style.

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Photo of TheTrevor
3.1/5  rDev -18%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

This beer poured a yellowy amber with a two-finger off-white head. The smell is a little malty. The taste is pleasantly hoppy with some floral and piney notes with a not unpleasant bitter hop bite toward the end. The mouthfeel is crisp, and I would consider this to be a fairly drinkable beer.

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Photo of hotstuff
3.12/5  rDev -17.5%
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.

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Photo of Gueuzedude
3.12/5  rDev -17.5%
look: 4 | smell: 2 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

A nice deep copper color, pours with a cream colored head. There is a slight amount of chill haze present. Smells malty with a bit of sourness to it, maybe some sort of musty character as well. There is lots of caramel malt character in this beer. It ends with nice amount of bitterness, and there is a sharp bitterness at the beginning to. There is not too much hop flavor or aroma in this beer. Though as it warms up a definite hop flavor starts to assert itself. This is a nice solid beer, but it could use a few more dimension to it. I expected a bit more hop flavor from this brewery. There is a bit of grassy - hoppy notes to it though. Some biscuity flavors to this beer as well.

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Photo of jaluria
3.15/5  rDev -16.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2

Poured a light copper color with a soft, white colored head. Moderate level of carbonation was present. A bit of lacing could be seen in my pint glass. Aromas of roasted malt, dried fruit (apricot), and mead/honey seemed to come out nicely. The taste was that of malt with a subtle hop presence that grows over time. Quite dry and a bit over carbonated in my mouth, but still good. The smoked/burnt flavors also gained strength as I continued to drink this beer. Overall, an good beer, but one that I would not have several of.

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Photo of feloniousmonk
3.15/5  rDev -16.7%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Fine ambery color, white head. Aroma? not much, really... a touch of citrus, and not much more. Taste is good, however, nice and smooth, and sweet and highly drinkable. We get some hoppy notes on the palate, some touches of grapefruit and drinks well. Sorry, ESB is far from my favorite style, does very little for me, but for those who do like them, here it is...

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Photo of Rizalini
3.18/5  rDev -15.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A - Golden yellow in color, with a foamy, bubbly white head that disipates quickly.

S - Sweet malt aromas, almost butterscotch-like.

T - Sweet maltiness transfers from the aroma overpowers the hop flavor. Kinda has a sweet tea taste on the front.

M - Light-medium mouthfeel. Slighty coats the tongue.

D - Drinks crisp and buttery. A refreshing beer that would be great on a warm day.

**This is the 1st ESB I've ever had, and it wasn't as bitter as i expected... a little too sweet for my liking.

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Photo of Floydster
3.18/5  rDev -15.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

22 ounce bottle/bomber purchased from Cooke's Family Market in El Segundo

Poured into a pint glass with a medium brown color and a thick white head, almost an inch

Smell was very piney and had a very small amount of citrus

Taste was overcome by bitterness, wow this is a strong ESB

Could not drink too many of these, maybe another bottle max

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Photo of kpoole25
3.2/5  rDev -15.3%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

12 oz brown bottle to glass. Light honey color. Smells like sweet American hops. Taste has a lot of sweet malty body with an American hop pine/citrus taste and somewhat bitter finish. Pretty much like an American Pale Ale or IPA, not sure why they are calling this an ESB.

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Belk's ESB from Anderson Valley Brewing Company
3.78 out of 5 based on 545 ratings.
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