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Belk's ESB | Anderson Valley Brewing Company

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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

Bros Score:
User Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 545 |  Reviews: 356
Photo of swizzlenuts
3.68/5  rDev -2.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A: Light copper colour with a centimeter head. Pretty good retention.

S: Super malty and toasty. Spicy hops are in the background.

T: The taste is very toasty and bitter. The bitterness is very clean, which makes it really nice. Beer is quite balanced, but lacks a good flavour.

M: Slightly watery with a bit of carbonation. It works though.

D: Yep.

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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 TrevorGW
4.06/5  rDev +7.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Perfect copper color, leaning towards orange. Nice head with decent lacing.

Aroma is filled with cascade hops and clean, bready malt.

Taste is incredibly balanced. The malt and the hops play off each other all the way through to the dry finish. Not much fruitiness from the ale yeast, so the quality of basic ingredients really shines through. Tight carbonation gives off an ideal mouthfeel.

Unlike any other ESB I've ever had. Certainly a California version of the style and it is brilliantly executed by AVBC.

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Photo of RobH
4.28/5  rDev +13.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

12oz. brown bottle.

I am exploring the ESB style category and I've liked other Anderson Valley beers (Boont Amber) so I thought I'd try this one.

Appearance: Beautiful deep golden copper color with an apparent chill haze.

Smell: Still learning to describe these ESBs. A pleasant malt-forward aroma mixed with a bitter-sweetness.

Taste & Mouthfeel: There's something about this style. It's not love at first sip, but something about them keeps me going back for more. This one got better as I got farther down the bottle and it warmed up a little. Excellently crafter beer here.

D: I like this one a lot and can recommend it to both existing ESB lovers as well as those looking to try the style. I believe this is a very fine example of an American ESB.

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Photo of BeenJammin
3.77/5  rDev -0.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A- Copper color with a small head. It had decent retention and some lacing.
S- Sweet malty aroma with almost no hop aroma detectable.
T- Definitely dominated by the malt background. Sweet and bready malt flavors. Some good bitterness to it but again there is minimal hop flavor here.
M- Medium bodied, cleanses the palate.
D- Pretty drinkable but needs a little more balance in order to receive a higher mark.

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Photo of BDTyre
3.94/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A great beer, comparable to Fuller's but not quite at the same level.

Classic ESB appearance, but quite powerful in the nose. Hops almost dominate and the malts almost come off as a little weak.

Taste is a bit more balanced, classic ESB flavours. A bit on the sour side and a times the hops seem a little bit strong.

Good carbonation, a little fizzy. A bit on the strong side to be sessionable, but very enjoyable.

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Photo of Pauly2X
3.82/5  rDev +1.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A- Full finger head, deep hazy gold. Good lacing.

S- Good spicy hop aroma, underlying caramel notes.

T- Spicy hops dominate, balanced only slighty by a no frills caramel backbone. A little more sweetness comes through in the otherwise dry smooth hoppy finish.

M- A little too fizzy.

D- Pretty decent.

Altough on the fizzy side, its a pretty solid ESB. I felt a little special at least.

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Photo of BeerSox
3.5/5  rDev -7.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

12oz bottle into nonic.

Slightly hazy light amber hue with a thin head that slowly settles to a thin cap. Spotty lacing along the glass.

Plenty of sharp and citrusy hops, the malts add a little bready sweetness in the background.

Sharp hops once again, lending citrusy grapefruit, hiding the lightly toasty malts, and a bit of honey. Medium bodied with high carbonation. The finish is the lingering hop bitterness.

Not a bad tasting beer but way outside of what an ESB is. I would put this under the American IPA category.

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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 goethean
3.68/5  rDev -2.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

Light golden with a nicely lasting head.

Subtle earthy hop and slight malty aroma.

Light bodied. Sweet maltiness is rather harshly tempered by serious herbal hop flavor. Bittering hops clearly assert themselves. Aftertaste is a fairly strong lingering hoppy bitterness.

Quite hoppy for the style. In England, this would be considered an IPA or even more, with perhaps too little maltiness. In sum, this beer is too hoppy for my girlie-man taste buds.

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Photo of treyrab
3.53/5  rDev -6.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Poured into a pint glass

A: The appearance is a nice, clear amber copper with a fluffy ivory head

S: The floral hops stick out very much, with a little cereal malts and slight roastiness

T: The taste is very lacking on the hops for a ESB. It is rather light with bready malts, but it does not have much depth or hop character.

Overall, this is a decent brew, but not what I was expecting from this ESB by AV.

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Photo of cvstrickland
3.88/5  rDev +2.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12-ounce bottle poured into my DFH shaped pint glass yields a copper amber body with a huge ivory head that retains great and leaves scattered puffs of 3-D lacing on the glass.

The smell of the drink is smooth and malty, with a touch of caramel and herbal, fruity hops.

The drink tastes grainy and malty sweet with a layer of light caramel lurking in the toasty, earthy depths of the drink. A dry malty backbone makes a thin, sweet syrupy note much more prominent in the profile, and earthy, grassy hops bring a long, dry bitterness to the finish.

Very smooth and medium in body, Anderson Valley's ESB is a fine and refreshing drink.

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Photo of GilGarp
3.96/5  rDev +4.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Purchased mainly because it was on sale. I wouldn't have paid $10.99 for a 6 pack but it was marked down to $7.99 so I went for it.

Pours a slightly hazy copper orange color with great head and nice lacing.

Aroma is mostly malty with a touch of hoppiness. They claim that this has 4 additions of hops but I don't think any of them were "dry-hop"

Taste is a nice surprise. It's well-bittered from all the hops but still pleasantly balanced. Definately a california ESB. I've had these in England and tended to stay away from them. They were usually too sweet and creamy for my tastes. This one has the usual american twist of extra everything especially hops.

Mouthfeel is great, medium body, nicely carbonated, good aftertaste.

Very drinkable and could be a session if it was about 1% less alcohol. A good 4 seasons beer.

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Photo of ckeegan04
4.22/5  rDev +11.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A - Orangish brown with a light khaki colored head about 1/2 inch thick. Good retention to the head and decent lacing.

S - Very strong and sweet aroma. A somewhat bready smell. Also hints of citrusy hops.

T - A sweet and bready taste up front. Light taste of caramel as well. A nice citrusy sweet hop bite comes through in the middle. Finishes very clean and sweet.

M/D - Crisp, medium bodied beer. Very drinkable.

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Photo of thartman
4.23/5  rDev +11.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured to a nice 1.5 finger head, Crystal clear light golden amber in color, good retention, lots of sticky lacings left on the glass. Smell some toasted malts, grains, some hops, and citrus. Hops hit first, then the malts kick in, followed by a citrusy, oily, hoppy-malty finish.

I was suprised by the hoppiness, although the more more you drink, the more it is like an ESB. Delicious and worth a try!

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Photo of fitzy84
3.73/5  rDev -1.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

The drink settled with a murky orange appearance with a thin head but some good lacing. Malty aromas were decently high but nothing else seemed to be on the radar. I was surprised by the taste of this ESB, much more of a IPA almost. Bittersweet hops were prevalent in the taste department. A pretty good carbonation helped make this a nice and crisp beer. Overall, a good beer, but it really deviated from an ESB.

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Photo of ralree
3.68/5  rDev -2.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A: Orange and cloudy, really nice 2-finger white head, great retention and really nice lacing.

S: Banana, alcohol, light fruit, some background hops, toasty malt, barley. The grain smell is really strong.

T: Bitter flowering hop fills the mouth, along with a little banana and a whole lot of grain. Alcohol hits home after swallowing, taking over the flavor too much. The hops are really flowery, and taste really good.

M: Too astringent. Carbonation good, medium-bodied.

D: Not a bad beer at all, but not something I would get all the time. Might be better with a meal.

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Photo of marcpal
4.26/5  rDev +12.7%
look: 3 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12oz bottled poured into tulip glass.

A: Cloudy orange with not much head and even less lacing. The unfiltered aspect makes it look good. Have to note- these AV bottles make it hard to buy these sometimes.

N: Hops and bitter grapefruit as the appearance would indicate. Laden with west coast characteristics and sweetness. Diverse.

T: One of the most bitter ESBs I have had to date- closer to an IPA and very very tasty. Hops are dominant and delicious. Definitely malty as well and the malts lay the ground in the aftertaste.

M: Full bodied. Creamy bittersweet. Could probably guess hop varietals by the oiliness, definitely from the valleys out west.

D: Bitter and sweet makes this one drinkable and a heavy alcohol kick for the style. Absolutely ideal for grilling foods on the 4th.

I may be way off base, but this reminds me more of an arrogant bastard than a traditional ESB. I like it, I like it a lot.

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Photo of Lenny2884
4.2/5  rDev +11.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a hazy light golden amber color with a thick billowy head leaving nice lacing. Smells of toasted grains, spicy hops, caramel, lemon citrus and alcohol. The spicy hops hit the tongue first followed by a deliciously balanced bitterness and malt sweetness. Finishes very dry. At first sip, this seemed overpowered by bitterness, but as I drink more it developes great balance. The malt character intensifies with each sip and I love the complexity of flavors. Two big thumbs up here for this brew and Anderson Valley. It's bahl hornin'!

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Photo of EPICAC
4.23/5  rDev +11.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a clear copper. Topped by a thick, merengue-like, off-white head that retains well, but eventually fades to a thin layer leaving quite a bit of lace. Thea aroma is toasty with a hint of fruit and lightly floral, citric and piney hops.

Sweet initially, sugar and light caramel flavors are carried through by the carbonation. Malts quickly turn toasty. The crisp hoppy finish is citric and resiny with a hint of oiliness that contributes to the medium-bodied feel.

Nicely balanced. Not to sweet and lets the hops do their thing.

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Photo of albern
3.53/5  rDev -6.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Not a bad ESB, quite traditional in many ways. The beer is copper colored with a nice creamy head, lacing, retention, and modest carbonation. The beer has a nice creaminess to it in the mouthfeel, and has some biscuity and bready malt aromas and tastes. The hops are a bit biting, a bit musty, a bit tea like in their harshness. The beer has some floral notes in the aroma, a definite sweetness comes through as well. The taste is fairly well balanced, a little on the musty side, the acerbic hop and the biscuity malt do blend quite well. The beer could benefit by being more crisp, and it does have a taste as though it may have been sitting around a bit too long. There is a slight spiciness to the beer, perhaps it is a peppery flavor that comes through in the finish. The aftertaste maybe lingers a bit longer than wanted, but this isn't a bad beer, just not exceptional.

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Photo of avaulteriam
3.7/5  rDev -2.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

a decent ESB, has a distinct English malt character. Certainly damp kilned malts and a soft carbonation and quite clear copper brew. Nice spicy hop character with a fair amount of bitterness, pretty decent. As far as American ESB's go, really can't complain

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Photo of ibbjamin
3.78/5  rDev 0%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Picked up a 6 pack of this from BevMo in Willow Glen, CA. Poured into a pint glass.

A nice hefty 2 inch off white head that slowly dissipates. Nice carbonation. Somewhat hazy light amber color. Good lacing.

Not an overwhelming smell, but hops can be detected in the nose with hints of sweeter malts.

Hops dominate the palate followed by a sweet malty finish. A mild bitter hoppy aftertaste. Nice balance, quality ingredients.

Watery, light bodied. Nice carbonation.

A good representation for an ESB, with good hop balance. Definitely worth a try!

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Photo of tempest
4/5  rDev +5.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Picked up a single at Abe's

I'd call this a cool American interpretation of the ESB. The appearance is pretty much normal, amber with an off-white head. The aroma is a mix of sweet and dry biscuit malts with peppery and herbal hops. A big spicy hops flavor dominates the palate and develops into the aftertaste. The biscuit notes from the aroma come out under the hops with a bread, multigrain-like taste. All together, this is a pretty nice beer. Worth a try for a different sort of ESB.

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Photo of leif86
3.69/5  rDev -2.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

Clear caramel color appearance with a little under 2 fingers worth of white foamy head. It could be the change in temperatures are messing with my sinuses because I couldn't smell much from this beer aside something a hint of something sugary sweet followed by the aroma of hops. Tastes quite good, you get hit first with a little sweetness followed by a a blast of bitter hops. Not too hoppy, but don't drink with something light because it will just get overpowered.

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Belk's ESB from Anderson Valley Brewing Company
Beer rating: 3.78 out of 5 with 545 ratings
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