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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User Reviews
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Reviews: 355 | Ratings: 544
Photo of mickeymac
3.68/5  rDev -2.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured from a bomer, it's a good looking golden-orange with a fairly billowy white head. It smells more hoppy than most ESBs from the "home country" and also has nice note of biscuit. The taste is pleasant but not spectacular. The hops tend to dominate, though a nice yeasty flavor makes its presence known. The mouthfeel is creamy and it's quite drinkable.

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Photo of beerguy101
3.94/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

Medium Brown color, medium head. Aroma is malty, citrusy and buttery. A medium bodied ESB. Nice bitterness in this beer. Its not very malty, but its well balanced. Kind of what an ESB should be, kind of hoppy and bitter and juicy, Mouthfeel is full and round, Finish is clean and crisp. Aftertaste is bitter

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Photo of WVbeergeek
4.03/5  rDev +6.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Not as caramelly as most ESBs, this one leads more toward the hop end of the spectrum. Appears a slightly hazed copper amber tone with an off white lucious two fingered head leaving lace as it settles a magnificant looking brew. Aroma consists of floral hops combined with a decent amount of balancing malt. Taste is piney with hop resin yet a contrasting bitterness balances out the brew almost perfectly, not completely characteristic of an ESB, but I love this beer a great counterpart to most any food the hops complement so much. The mouthfeel is medium bodied fluffy with some oily resins sliding on the tongue this beer is seductive. The drinkability for me well if I found it on tap at the right place this could be dangerous for me, but either way this is a great beer.

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

Copper/ orange in color with a off-white head. Leaves an excellent amount of lacing. It has fruity, caramel malt and toasty aromas. The flavor is sweet, caramel malty and toasty, which flows to a fruity hop bitterness. A medium-full bodied beer that is easy drinking despite its size.

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

Dark golden color, slightly cloudy, with a foamy off-white head. The nose on this beer is impressive, very appealing. There is a dominant citrusy aroma from the hops, somewhat lemony, but it's joined by notes of pear and even honey. The malt backbone on Belk's is solid, somewhat nutty with hints of caramel. A slight sourness is passed on the trail mid-palate, but it's replaced in the finish by a hoppy bitterness that sets up camp, and hangs around for quite some time. The mouthfeel on this one is a bit chalky.

Belk's is a very good bitter -- Bahl Steinber!

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

Good beer. Off white head and orangish brown w/ paler colored hues. Aroma is forceful--sweet, floral, and a touch of spices. Flavor is very bitter and very 'flowery' has a nice aftertaste of alcohol and puckering bitters. Drinkable, but just eat something if your going to have more than one or two of these, the sourness might get to ya.

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Photo of BeerResearcher
4.29/5  rDev +13.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours an awesome orangey cloudy amber, but because the head is overly active with large and small sudsy bubbles (couldn't pour it slow enough) I had to mark it down a notch. Nice floral hop aroma with a trace of yeasty clove. Medium malt body with bright and lively citrus hop bitterness. A hint of orange peel mixed with grapefruit seems to increase in potency throughout the glass. Alcohol becomes more pronounced later.

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Photo of BitteBier
3.58/5  rDev -5.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Hazy golden orange color, topped with a finger's worth of nearly white foam that breaks down quickly into a sticky lace. Smell is not as strong as one might expect, though floral hops are predictably present as is an interesting spiciness. Taste is characterized by an immediate rush of floral hops that grow in bitterness before a dry warmth that fades very gradually. Good mouthfeel and drinkability. This is not a great ESB, but it's certainly a good one. Could use more balance and subtlety.

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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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Photo of Brewzzle
3.76/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

After enjoying their IPA I had high hopes for this ESB.

Looks just like any other bitter, aroma was a little musty(slightly stale), perhaps just heavy on the malt and not much hop aroma. To taste it is pretty straight forward, bigger helping of malt than most which dominates the flavour. Hops get a look in at the end with a modest bitterness, I was hoping for a bigger hop profile. There is also a slightly watery mouthfeel and aftertaste which is a bit of a letdown.

Overall good but nothing too special, very drinkeable and a high abv.

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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 RBorsato
3.5/5  rDev -7.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Orange-ish, copper with a full creamy ivory head. Good carbonation and leaves good lace rings. Nice (almost flowery) hop aroma. Decent balanced taste but a bit too bitter for me (malt overpowered a bit). Light-medium bodied; almost too airy with a very bitter finish.

$8.09 / 6-pack (a bit overpriced in my book - I only buy once a year for a Valentine's Day tradition).

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Photo of Thrasher
3.45/5  rDev -8.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2.5

Bright amber with full head that leaves lace. Mellow nose with some pleasant mustiness and good, grainy malts. Flavor is much too hoppy. If this was an IPA I could understand the bitterness, not to mention the alcoholic strength. I guess AV already has their IPA (and what a huge one it is) and this so-called "bitter" is just a step down from it. Doesn't qualify as a bitter, though, even though it is very bitter. A true English bitter is more balanced, with the malt playing perhaps the dominant role. Here, it takes a back seat to sharp spiky hops that are grassily pungent. Small sips as the beer mellows and warms give evidence to a nicely diverse malt profile, but you have to dig down deep to get past the blatant hops. Not being one who loves hops just for the sake of hops, I can't say I'm crazy about this. A true hophead may appreciate it much more.

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

Package: 12 oz. Bottle, No date or ABV listed. A nice description of the beer on the back.

Cost: $6.99 6-Pack

Presentation: Pint glass at ~45º

Appearance: A rich, golden color, paler and less red than the amber. Slightly cloudy. Formed a nice white head, with remnants lasting most of the glass.

Smell: Sharply hoppy, with spirity notes. Bread and malt notes lag behind, but do moderate the initial prickly nose.

Taste: Just too hoppy. In my experience, as bitter progresses from ordinary to best to extra special; the complexity is meant to increase. It does not just get “more bitter.” Unfortunately here, that seems to have been forgotten. The expected malt complexity is not present, nor are the fruitier “ale” elements I was looking for. If you are looking for something more like an IPA, perhaps this is your beer. I guess that is what is meant by the “Western Style.” Too one-dimensional. The finish is very dry and hoppy, without much malty relief.

Mouthfeel: Surprisingly for an Anderson Valley brew, I found this a bit too carbonated. Maybe it was the hoppiness, but all I could think of was how sharp this seemed. Not smooth enough for a special bitter.

Drinkability: The 6.8% ABV is barely apparent and certainly does not affect the drinkability. I just don’t really see where I would drink this in the place of so many other more complete offerings.

Seen as an “extreme” Western-style ESB, I guess one would have to say this is a success. For me however, this is more of a curiosity than a serious ESB. A caricature of a top British bitter if you will. It is as if someone said, let’s see how hoppy we can make this, without boosting the other elements (malt, fruitiness, complexity) to achieve a balance. Perhaps it would have worked better if a better blend of hops had been found.

Backwash: In my opinion, a crude attempt at a true ESB. Sort of like a gangly man-child that isn’t completely filled-out. Doesn’t hold a candle to Fuller’s ESB, much less Young’s Ram Rod or SLA.

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Photo of Gusler
3.8/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Pours nice translucent amber to light copper color with a masterful head, creamy in its consistency and as it evanesces, the resultant lace fine clinging sheets to seal off the glass. A pleasant citrus crisp and clean start to the nose with just a hint of butter, malt sweet and a real treat to the senses. Start is ambrosial and the top middling in its feel to the palate, finish is generous in its hop spicy bite, the carbonation moderate and the aftertaste dry and lingering quite a pleasure to drink.

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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 Dogbrick
3.57/5  rDev -5.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

I don't think this was as good as Fuller's ESB, and it didn't come close to the Crooked River version, but it was still a decent beer. Amber/orange color with a thin head. Big hops aroma with faint citrus as well. Bitter flavor with a dry finish, hops was prevalent throughout which is a must in any ESB if you ask me. Worth getting again some day.

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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 sinistersteve
3.46/5  rDev -8.5%
look: 2 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 2.5

Well, the main reason I gave this beer a low mark on drinkabilty has to relate to the appearance. On the pour, there was an excessive amount of head. WAYYYY too much head. A very thick head, much like visiting inlaws, over stayed it's visit. When you have a good inch or two of thick head in your glass, it makes it near imposible to drink without having to clean your face off. Aside from that, it wasn't that bad. The 10-15 minutes it took when the head finally evapoarated (I'm not kidding) I was impressed with the great hop flavor and it's somewhat cloudy amber color. But the wait was just too unsatisfactory. If you want the 'got beer?' mustache, this is your brew, but other then that....I wouldn't waste much time to search this one out.

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

This beer poured a slightly couldy golden color with very small bits of sediment present. It formed a huge, nice white head that left some nice lace. An aroma of malt, hop and caramel. The flavor was of malt and caramel with a slight hint of hops. A medium body finish that had elements of the caramel. A good beer, it a tad sweet for my ESB tastes.

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Photo of Jordan
4.31/5  rDev +14%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Fresh as a daisy. Handsome orange, amber, copper hues with a sturdy frothy white head. Citrus peels, sappy hops, and a whisper of caramel sweetness in the background. Another fabulously crafted beer from Anderson Valley Brewing.

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Photo of Suds
3.97/5  rDev +5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Cloudy, dark amber/orange color. Big, white, lasting head. Aroma is mildly floral and fruity. This beer is full-force bitter; more than expected. A very, very good, drinkable ESB.

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Photo of marc77
3.85/5  rDev +1.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Slightly hazy orange brew topped by a billowy, dense and attractive head. Big, earthy hop nose is followed by sweet caramel malt and fruity, licorice - like notes. Hop bitterness is very assertive for style but quite enjoyable. Hop flavor is surprisingly mellow, but can b discerned amongst the biscuit & crystal malt flavors. Moderate to full in body for style, but just a touch overcarbonated. Finishes w/ Willamette hop earthiness & hop bitterness of course. This the the most bitter ESB I've had, perhaps even a bit rough, but is one very flavorful brew. A nice American bastardization of the style.

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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 Bierman9
3.93/5  rDev +4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

On tap at Redbones.... Medium-golden in color, and a bit hazy. Had a real fine head, with nice lace. Verry mild hop nose. Above average in both bosy and smoothness.... Dry, crisp, almost sourish-citrus hop flavor... Not bad.

overall: 3.95
appearance: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | mouthfeel: 4.5 | drinkability: 4


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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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