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 Kemmerlin
4.03/5  rDev +6.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A: Unfiltered (which I am a huge fan of) caramel color with a 1 finger width head that didn't linger for long.

S: Tangy hops and butter cream smells quite unusual for an ESB.

T: Hoppy no doubt and definitely has a sweet taste to it with a fruity and smokey aftertaste.

M/D: Very drinkable and the mouth feel is very good with the sweet touch as well as the bitterness that goes with any ESB.

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Photo of beerthulhu
3.35/5  rDev -11.4%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A: Poured a medium copper-amber with a soft creamy white head that was moderately lasting.

S: sweet malt, that was followed and balanced by a citrusy/lemon hopping.

T: For flavor there was sweet malt some dry pine needles and a dry floral finish as well. There beer was balanced more towards the maltiness while the hopping significantly lagged behind style wise.

M: medium with a somewhat syrupy texture.

D: Decent drinkability, though nothing to exciting and wasn't as bitter as I expected leading to a only moderate enjoyability.

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Photo of SurlyDuff
3.62/5  rDev -4.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Orange and bright. Clear body without a notable head.

Very earthy and almost skunky. No born or drink by date on the bottle. I'm skeptical about this one's freshness.

Leafy, celery, and short bitter taste. Interesting though, and quite a uniquie beer. Afte rletting this one sit out and breathe, the skunkiness went away. Dry with a light harsh bite to it, but nothing outside my comfort zone. Mealy citrus pith, not the greatest mouthfeel.

An okay ESB, and very close to the traditional english version. Good.

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Photo of Slynger
3.87/5  rDev +2.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Hazy burnt golden-orange with a slim yet creamy, light orangish-tan lid that quickly dips to leave some slinky lacing.

The nose has sweet toffee and fresh, sweet, oranges with some earthy hops. Very pleasant.

Nicely medium with creamy smooth carb. Toasted flavor with sweet oranges and caramel malts. Mild toasted and earthy orange peel hop bitterness that lingers for a bit.

I enjoyed this one a lot. Its tasty and easy on the way down, but that 6.8 will catch up with you eventually.

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Photo of pmcadamis
3.37/5  rDev -10.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

A - A monstrously large four finger + head rises out of my pint glass and creates a big pillowy tuft atop the brew, but doesn't spill over! This is how all beers look in German advertisements. The brew is slightly hazy and copper in color. Shit-wads of sticky lace cling to the glass like ice on a northern Wisconsin window pane. I'm really stunned and awed by the beautiful head on this looks like whipped mashed potatoes and forms an ice cream scoop mound in the center as it slowly recedes a little bit. Retention is excellent, and everything about this head has me reeling.

S - At first sniff, I thought...."this smells a helluva lot like SA Boston Lager." Dirty, gritty, sandy, and muddy. Some dank wet-hey hops are there, along with a vague apricot note.

T - Tastes very much like it smells, but with a bigger emphasis on the wet autumn leaf hops. There is a bit of grapefruit acrid bitterness on the back end, and quite a bit of pineapple on the midpalate. Pretty tasty stuff!

M - Smooth, easy going carbonation and a gritty-but-oily mouthfeel creates a really nice velvety sensation as it goes down.

D - This is a killer session brew, despite the 6.8 ABV. In fact, I was pretty surprised to see such a high level of booze in what is usually a lighter sessioning-type beer style, and I didn't detect any alcohol in the flavor or feel either. Well done!

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Photo of dsa7783
4.2/5  rDev +11.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12 oz bottle copped singly from Total Wine and More in West Orange...
Most Anderson Valley beers I've sampled have been top-notch, so I had high hopes for their ESB...
An aggressive, strong pour resulted in a hazy, cloudy, and murky amber appearance with an impressive head that slowly receded and left a fair amount of lacing around the glass...
Rich, red, hop-dominated aroma bursting with appealing smells...
This one had all the attractive flavors of a solid red, amber beer, with noticeable citrus, ripe fruit, fresh florals, grapefruit, and lemon characteristics... Another winner from this brewery which has consistently churned out top-of-the-line brews..
A noticeably bitter taste without being overwhelming or too cloying and very well balanced with a hint of sugar, caramel, and vanilla essences...
Bittersweet would be a good adjective to describe this one, which was extremely flavorful and really satisfying and pleasing...
An amazing depiction of the style, worthy of the highest praise...
Rich, creamy mouthfeel complemented by an excellent level of drinkability...
Great stuff...
Definitely recommended...

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Photo of SpencerT
3.28/5  rDev -13.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

The pour yielded a pale beige head with a Hazy orange colored body. Fresh Apple Cider comes to mind. The scent is of sweet malts with a peach scent dominating the aroma.
The taste is of molasses with a bitter end. The horehound hard candy comes to mind. The bitterness is not overwhelming and adds a good balance to the sweetness. This had good drinkability, not my style but it had no off flavors..

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Photo of gmfessen
3.55/5  rDev -6.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Poured from the bottle into a pint glass; I think this is the first Anderson Valley brew I've ever had, although I've seen them around for quite some time. Beer is a slightly hazy, golden-orange color with small chunks of sediment floating throughout the beer like a snow globe. The head is white and foamy, but not very active. The smell that comes to mind right away is green tea, but there is also toasted notes and a slight unidentifiable hop presence. The taste also reminds me to a lesser degree of green tea, there is also a definite hop bitterness - slightly grassy and floral - that balances pretty nicely with the toasted malty backbone. The mouthfeel is medium bodied with a foamy/creamy carbonation. This is a decently drinkable beer, better than average but not my favorite beer by any means.

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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 Rayek
4.02/5  rDev +6.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

A very nice ESB that I would love to have again.

A: Nice amber colored beer. Fairly thick cream head. The head stays with the beer and leaves a nice lace. Mine suffered from a slight chill haze.

S: Hoppy smelling beer. Lots of citrus aromas. Most notably, grapefruit. A subtle grass scent slips in as well.

T: Dry and tart. Toasted malt flavors greet the tongue. An appropriate amount of bitterness follows. The grapefruit notes from the aroma follow through strong and linger through the finish. There are hints of lemon as well. The malt is dry rather than sweet.

M: Just about perfect. Medium body with just the right amount of carbonation.

D: Tart grapefruit. That's the flavor that dominated the experience for me. Quite enjoyable. I could easily drink another.

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Photo of kimcgolf
3.95/5  rDev +4.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 4.5

A surprisingly good beer that pours from the bottle to a slightly cloudy orange red with good carbonation and a thick off-white head that lingers well and leaves good lacing. Arojma is a complex mix of hoppy citrus fruit with a touch of malty dark fruit. Mouthfeel is a full bodied beer, that starts out tingly and ends up slightly bitter. Flavor follows the nose perfectly and the finish is well rounded, and a little on the dry bitter side, although not much for an ESB. Most surprising was the amount of alcohol that crept in at late glass, as the beer warmed.

A very enjoyable beer

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Photo of JohnGalt1
3.6/5  rDev -4.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

12oz picked up at the Coop for about $1.60... shared with a buddy.. my half from a shaker pint.

nice 1" white head recedes slowly leaving nice lacing atop a slightly hazy.. dark yellow/amber brew.

Aroma is bready malts and spicy hops... nothing over the top.. just balanced by a pronounced yeasty ester profile.

Flavor is more of the same with a slight buttery slickness (not distracting, just there)... biscuity flavors... toasted grains and more English hops. Big boned for sure.. but not overdone. Body is smack dab medium with low/medium carbonation.

For such a large West Coast ESB, I always expect a quite a bit more hoppiness out of this one... If you're using English hops, then let me taste them! That being said, the above negatives are only suggestions... this beer is very drinkable with a great body... I would not suggest making it a session, lest the alcohol smacks you right in the motor skills.

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

Amazing orangey head in my anti-gravity glass. Aroma C-hop, amarillo hop? Blind tasting English style ESB, orangey taste, drying and satisfying sweetish aftertaste. Great, an IPA addict's take on an ESB. Good carbonation and medium smooth mouthfeel.

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

12oz. bottle into pint glass on 11/29/07.

A - Hard pour yielded slightly hazy amber body with one-finger of white, soapy head and tiny, percolating bubbles. Head mostly disappeared halfway through, leaving a small amount of lacing on the glass.

S - Nice mix of sweet caramel malts and floral hops with some citrus hops and slight fruit aroma reminiscent of pear and lemon. Some biscuity and grainy aspects, but mostly a sweet malt aroma and fresh hops.

T - Moderately sweet initial flavor followed by a nice, crisp bitterness for an ESB with a solid, sweet malt backbone. Hops are mostly citrus and floral, with some biscuity malt as well. Pretty long, bitter finish.

M - Light to medium body with some pretty lively carbonation. Mouthfeel is creamy up front and a bit soapy (in a good way). Finish is fairly dry and bitter.

D - Overall, this is quite a tasty ESB that focuses a bit more on the "bitter" than most other ESB offerings I've had. Nice floral/citrus hop aroma and bitterness with sweet malts. Nice mouthfeel with a classic, clean bitter finish. Very enjoyable!

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

What an unusual brewery... Slightly hazy golden color with a very dense head, stacked. Smell is dominated by sweet malt, specifically vanilla. Vanilla is also the cheif trait of the flavor which ends with a firm, zippy Saaz finish. Very creamy and fat throughout, puckers up nice at the end. I would love to know where AV gets this vanilla characteristic from, as it is a recurrent theme in their beers. Strange, but nice.

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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 timtim
4/5  rDev +5.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

dark golden with a white head. dissipates relatively quickly but never dissapears and leaves some nice lace. smell is biscuity malt and some hop in the background. it seems pretty balanced to me. good malt character and not to strong on the hops although there is a nice citrusy, piney, herbal, flowery and just a bit bitter taste in the finish. nice medium body on the light side of medium. a great choice for my session beer at a bbq, although it may be a little strong for most.

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Photo of JayQue
3.83/5  rDev +1.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

12 oz bottle obtained from Half Time Distributer Poughkeepsie NY. A nice,refreshing thirst quencher. Pours a cloudy iced tea color with a big white head. Head retention is excellent and there is a fair amount of scattered lacing on the glass. Aroma is pretty good, mostly malts. Good taste, crisp malty up front with a mild hop bitterness in the finish. Mouthfeel was ok, rich enough with nothing unpleasant in the aftertaste. Drinkability is good, an excellent thirst quencher, but 6.8 abv is pretty high for something I would want in a session beer. If I was served this in a group drinking pitchers, I would probably be wasted before I found out the real octane level. All in all a very nice beer. I would certainly try it again.

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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 jwc215
3.53/5  rDev -6.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

No freshness date:

Pours hazy amber with a thick head that descends to a lasting cover, leaving broken rings of lacing on the glass.

The smell is of sweet grain and slight husk. Bready with slight caramel, there is a subtle, distant pine/citrus undertone.

The taste is malty - sweet grain with caramel/toffee. There is an underlying citric/piney tone that is rather restrained. Metallic tinges interfere. Finishes with a grainy sweetness.

Medium-bodied - unfortunate mettalic tinges cling to palate.

Interesting interpretation here - an American twist to a classic English style. Malty with a touch of Pacific NW hops. The metallic tinges do not help it. Overall - it's okay but doesn't stand up to others of the style, or other offerings I've had from this brewery.

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Photo of LeftyBWS
3.41/5  rDev -9.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

Poured from a 12 oz. brown bottle into a pint glass. No indication of freshness on the label, but it does include the ideal temperature (45-52 degrees F) and possible pairings (fine cheese, a well seasoned meal). A nice move by the brewers, I’d say, to put this right on the label.
A: A glowing deep orange color, with a thick layer of creamy light tan head. Some carbonation visible clinging to the sides and rising slowly along the sides, too. The head leaves a ring of bubbly lacing down the glass.
S: The prevailing scent is some kind of spiciness that I can’t quite identify. There’s a sweet scent underneath, as well. Definitely hoppy, mostly a piney and floral mix.
T: A very smooth, clean blend of mildly spicy hops. Somewhat malty in the finish, giving it a little sugary flavor.
M: Crisp at first and a little drier in the finish. Fills the mouth, but leaves it a little dry.
D: Alright. I would enjoy this with a zesty cheese, but not as much by itself.
Overall, an interesting zesty-flavored hoppy beer that would certainly fit nicely with some spicy food or hors d’oeuvres. By itself, though, the aftertaste is too dry and cottony to have more than one.

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Photo of OWSLEY069
3.45/5  rDev -8.7%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Pours a clean orange-ish copper color with a white head. Aroma of a mild grapefruit hop. Taste of bitterness, dry end, and a small hint of fruit. Clean and a dry end, but not overly bitter. A very nice bitter, easy drinking, with a nice hop presence. I think it might be good for newbies that what to try hops.

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Photo of mjc410
3.3/5  rDev -12.7%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

The pour into my Murphy's glass raises a thin cap of off-white lace that doesn't do much. There's some thick but very slick lacing, too. Below, the beer is a very hazy golden-brown.

The nose is a touch tart, with citrusy hops and a mild malt character. Pretty sweet smelling, too. Lemony, perhaps.

Tastewise: a good balance between citrusy hop bitterness and bready malt. This hits hard with hops to start, but very quickly becomes slightly sweet and malty. There's a nice caramel quality, too.

The mouth is just right, with fine carbonation and a medium body.

Not an ESB I'll be revisiting, but an alright beer.

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Photo of cswhitehorse
3.41/5  rDev -9.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A clear orange hue was the first to make its appearance. Clear with a sudsy head. The smell was not all that great. The taste was okay but a little flat which seems to be a characteristic for esb's at least for me. Mouthfeel was good and it lasted quite a while. I will try again to compare.

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