Belk's ESB | Anderson Valley Brewing Company

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
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters | Alström Bros
Ratings: 545 |  Reviews: 356
Photo of MuenchenerKindl
3.7/5  rDev -2.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Poured from a 12 oz bottle to a pint glass. The liquid is a cloudy orange with good carbonation. The head is 2 fingers off white with big rocky bubbles. It fades leaving little lace.

The smell is hopy, bitter and slightly spicy.

The taste follows, but delivers a little less. Spicy and bitter could use a bit more of malt.

The mouthfeel is good, Medium body good carbonation.

The drinkability is ok, a hard beer to brew and keep my attention. MK

 457 characters

Photo of dherling
3.48/5  rDev -7.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured out a cloudy orange golden color topped by a thin white lacey head. Not much in the nose, some slight hop bitterness, a tiny bit of malt. The taste echoes the nose, little bit of malt, some hop bitterness, spicy to some degree, but not much else. A fairly crisp dry mouthfeel. Good pleasent beer, but nothing special.

 324 characters

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

Presentation: 12 oz longneck - the usual antlered beer on the label. ABV clearly marked, but no date information.

Appearance: Pours a bright orange with a bit of haze, medium head fades to leave a fairly substantial lacing.

Smell: A bit of malt sweetness and lots of spicy hop aroma.

Taste: Starts off with just a bit of sweetness, then hop spice takes over. A bit of alcohol is present in the finish.

Overall impression: Definitely bigger than your average ESB - the alcohol is just a bit to prevalent for this to be highly drinkable for me.

 554 characters

Photo of geexploitation
3.56/5  rDev -5.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours dark amber with a decent sized off white head and sticky lacing. Relatively faint aromas for the style, with little in the way of hop aromatics. On the palate, quite grainy first off, with hop bitterness at the mid-palate and slight ale sourness at the finish. Full, dextrine mouthfeel. This is a bit out of character from Anderson Valley's other offerings, as the ESB is perfectly solid but lacks depth, which I see as one of the house characteristics of theirs. Not a bad beer at all. In some ways, it's quite decent. But I see no reason to pick this beer over some of the other AV staples.

 598 characters

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

Anderson Valley ESB
12 oz brown bottle
Served in a 20 oz tulip pint glass

Pours a haze-induced cloudy orange. Fluffy 1" head on top that quickly vanishes to a thin lacing around the top of the glass.

Sweet caramel malt nose with faint whiffs of dry toast and spicy hops.

Syrupy and juicy flavors take over the palate with hints of toasted grains. Black pepper spice, caramel swirls and a freshly peeled orange blend together. Heavy presence on hops of this brew that supply a biting snap finish.

 507 characters

Photo of Dewey0603
4.15/5  rDev +9.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

This beer pours a real beautiful cloudy amber gold with a huge 2 finger white foamy head. The smell is very pungent with high aromas of citrus hops along with a bready "bisquity' aroma. The taste is very much like an IPA with a big hop presence. Citrus hops really dominate this beer with, grapefruit, and a buttery creamy sweet malt. The m/f is light with all the flavors mixing very well. This is a very drinkable beer,one that could be an everyday session beer.

 464 characters

Photo of ElGordo
4.05/5  rDev +7.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Pours a bright golden-amber color topped by a creamy stark white head that recedes to a thin ring in a minute's time. Nice, balanced aroma of sweet, fruity hops and sweet caramel malt. Palate is again well-balanced, with tangy, fruity hops blending with the mellow caramel malt to create a smooth, enjoyable flavor. A bit of biscuity character is evident on the smooth finish. Medium body is creamy and velvety, great for an ESB. I'm a big fan of this one - a great session beer, albeit just a tad strong to drink a lot of in a night.

 534 characters

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

A: Pours a deep golden with a big bubbly head with good sustain. Lots of sticky lace left on the glass.

S: Big malty smell. Nothing special here, just malt.

T: Very well-balanced with fruity malt flavors and a bit of hop bitterness.

M: On the heavier side of medium-bodied with light carbonation.

D: Very tasty and smooth to drink. Recommended.

 356 characters

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

Pours cloudy bronze-orange with a creamy head and slight lacing.

Smell is very bready toasted malt. Hint of hops. Mild fruitiness.

Taste is toasted malt with a strong nutty flavor. Woody and quite dry. Decent spicy citrus hop in the finish, along with a touch of warming alcohol. Flavors are very balanced.

Mouthfeel is medium bodied and slightly buttery.

This is a pretty tasty Americanized version of an ESB. Flavors are bold, but balanced and harmonized. Good job.

 479 characters

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

Poured a nice murky golden amber with a light thin head with very good retention.

Smell has a very nice bready and toasty maltiness to it with a subdued bit of floral hops as well.

Taste has a very solid toasted malt backbone with a bit of a nut and mild butter flavor, a mild bit of alcohol sweetness with a strong, then finishes with a strong juniper hop bite.

Mouthfeel is lightly warming with a very dry finish.

Tasty and easily drinkable, very nicely done.

 474 characters

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

Anderson Valley's ESB is quite unique in their line-up. It lacks the rich caramel maltiness that the pale, amber, and IPA have; it's more bitter; the alcohol shows at just 6.8%; and it's drier than most. There's a harshness to it that I can't quite put my finger on. It's heavy handed with bitterness, but lacks hop flavor and aroma; and it's not nearly as balanced as their other beers. That said, it's still pretty decent, just not up to their normally spectacular level.

 473 characters

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.

 895 characters

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

12 oz single. Nice looking ale here. Dark golden, hazy with a large rocky/creamy off white head. Good hoppy aroma but balanced with maltiness. smooth well balanced flavour to this one its hard to really untangle the spicy hop from the toffeeish/caramel style malts they sort of intertwine each others like two rather slippery snakes. in the end the hops do peek out and leave a nice long lasting bitter afterglow. Nice mouthfeel well done. Quite a nice beer and very drinkable..well balanced indeed

 498 characters

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.

 527 characters

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

Served at just over fridge temperature in a Fuller's nonic. Freshness code is lasered on the bottle: 020D2022.

Appearance- Pours a rich, golden orange with an inch thick head that subsides to a thin coating after a few minutes. Good lacing. Just a tad hazy.

Smell- A rich, caramel maltiness integrates nicely with notes of biscuit, and finishes rather big with some citrusy, lemony hops.

Taste- Toasty, biscuity malts with an overly tannic bite... like a well steeped cup of tea that lingers at the back and sides of the tongue. The hop character is nice and refreshing, cleansing the palate well for the next sip.

Mouthfeel/Drinkability- Great carbonation... active, yet it subsides elegantly in the mouth. Easy and refreshing, a bit too strong to session but great alone or with pub fare.

 805 characters

Photo of dirtylou
3.9/5  rDev +3.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

12oz single, Steve's - University

appearance: pours a translucent copper-orange into a new glarus pint glass, light fluffy beige head forms with a nice cloud ring left behind

smell: aromas of a bakery fresh loaf, buttery, big toasted malt, lots of sweetness, light yeast, caramel, noble hop presence

taste: a pretty good esb...big and bready, strongly toasted malt, grain, sweet malt, apple, smooth caramel, nutty characteristic, nice bitter hop presence...very juicy, herby, acidic

mouthfeel: slick, medium body, mild bitterness

drinkability: above average

 572 characters

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

Poured a medium copper color with a magnificient white puffy head. Head was extremely long-lasting and left great lacing on the side of the glass. Smell is sweet summer fruity with peach and apricot notes present. Taste is sweet malt, more summer fruit, and a progressive hop bitterness that slowly takes over. Nice complex taste. Mouthfeel is creamy with the pleasant sweetness giving way to the hops. An extremely nice drinking beer.

 435 characters

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

 811 characters

Photo of jockstrappy
3.9/5  rDev +3.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Pours a dark copper tone with a creamy head that settles to a sticky white cap. Aroma is a nice mix of malt and grain notes, with a slight hop aroma as well. Taste is hoppier then anticipated, but malts come through and balance things out nicely, also noticed a slight alcohol bite at the finish. This one sticks to your palate after the finish, and actually gets better as it warms. Don't know if I'd drink more then 2 or 3 in a sitting, but I guess I shouldn't rule it out either. Only downfall for this brew is that it may be a bit pricey in some opinions, but still worth a try.

 582 characters

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.

 1,323 characters

Photo of kmpitz2
3.62/5  rDev -4.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Must have a name change on this one, as my bottle says Boont ESB, not Belk's. Pours a light copper color with a light coating of head over top and moderate clarity. Nose is moderately toasty and lightly earthy from British hop, lightly biscuit. Flavor is more aggressive. Hops are earthy, with a light kiss of citrus playing over a very strong toasty and biscuit malt with just a touch of caramel behind it. Feel is moderate with a light-moderate carbonation. Not a bad brew at all. I'd like to see the malt character be a little more reserved, as its really aggressive, with a bit more hop carry through.

 605 characters

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

Amber in color. Fair-sized head dissipates quickly to not much. Medium bodied, moderate carbonation. Smells like cheese, a little pungent. Taste is well balanced, with caramel malt and bitter hops. All around nice and very drinkable, but I don't know that I would seek it out.

 276 characters

Photo of riversider76
3.2/5  rDev -15.3%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Pours hazy golden,with a nice foamy head. Good retention and lacing. Aroma was of carmels, hops,and a hint of citrus.Body is medium,and slightly carbonated. Taste is a decent balance of malt and hops,with a bitter edge. Finish is smooth,but leaves a bit of a after taste. Not a beer of choice for me,but worth a try.

 316 characters

Photo of GClarkage
3.47/5  rDev -8.2%
look: 5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

02/09/06- Purchased at Ledger's Liquors in Berkeley, CA.

Presentation- 12oz bottle with no freshness info listed on the bottle. Poured into my Eye of the Hawk pint glass.

Appearance- Darker golden pour. Plus inch white head upon pour. A good 1/4 inch remains throughout...nice! Excellent sticky lace streaks and chunks dried onto my glass.

Smell- Large caramel malt scent backed up by a bit too much alcoholic scent. Bready and what seems like a grainy malt scent. Detracts from the decent but pungent bitter hop aroma.

Taste- First taste is the darker toasted caramel malt, but that quickly fades with the pretty bitter grapefruit and pine flavored hops. Hangs around a while in the aftertaste.

Mouthfeel- Mid range carbonation level.

Drinkability- Seems balanced at first, but a bit too much on the hop side of things. Tastes OK and drinks fairly well, just wouldn't be my top choice or top ten for thius style for that matter.

 947 characters

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

No bottled date – bad! But a nice chill hazed amber/mahogany brew with a nice and sticky white head. Purty laces in the glass. Weakish aroma of malts followed up by the hops. Also a tad floral, but thankfully it did not pop up in the taste.

Quaff was malty and earthy with a spicy hop backbone, finished with a vine aftertaste. Tangy, acidic on the tongue. Not quite as ES as I anticipated, but still a sturdy and drinkable.

 428 characters

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

    Founded in Boston in 1996, BeerAdvocate (BA) is your go-to resource for beer powered by an independent community of enthusiasts and professionals dedicated to supporting and promoting better beer.

    Learn More
  • Our Community

    Comprised of consumers and industry professionals, many of whom started as members of this site, our community is one of the oldest, largest, and most respected beer communities online.
  • Our Events

    Since 2003 we've hosted over 60 world-class beer festivals to bring awareness to independent brewers and educate attendees.
  • Our Magazine

    Support uncompromising beer advocacy and award-winning, independent journalism with a print subscription to BeerAdvocate magazine.