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

Pours a hazy copper orange with a big khaki head that gives way to great lace.

Rich floral hops greet the nose and are joined by a faint malt presence.

Exceptionally bitter blast to the back ot the tongue is matched by a smooth malt balance. This reminds me more of an IPA than an ESB. Very complex and smooth.

This is a creamy beer that is richer and fuller than any other ESB I have tried. There is a sharp bitter finish in the mouth.

This is a very good beer that I could see myself drinking more often.

 518 characters

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

Belk's ESB was served from a 22 oz. bottle, with a message under the cap: "call you mother, she misses you". In a pint glass, the beer was an attractive hazy orange-metallic copper hue, and was topped by an ample off-white head. The nose was vibrant and bright, presenting a nice array of resiny and tingly citric hop notes and an underlying warm maltiness. The taste was suprisingly robust, with a lightly tart toffee-ish malt body that opened up with citric hoppy bitterness, which increased significantly in intenisity as the maltiness decreased, ending up with a big and aromatic bitter finish that left lingering resinaceous hop notes. I felt a warming sensation in the tummy as a drank, which suprised me coming from an ESB. The body was very full and rich as well. I found this ESB to be very tasty and full in every regard...quite enjoyable.

 849 characters

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

pours out a hazy deep copper/orange with a nice thick rocky head. lacing is somewhat sticky yet sparse. aromas of grapes (juice), tea, green olives, sweet malt and a light floral hoppiness. in the mouth it is at first dense and heavy but seems to lighten out a bit and goes down rather smooth. flavors of green apple skins and a sweet malt backbone dominate with a tart bitter hoppiness jabbing in and out. alcohol is evident and adds a bit of character versus making it hard to drink. overall a good beer, strong and flavorful.

 528 characters

Photo of jonnylieberman
4.75/5  rDev +25.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Poured from a bomber into my snifter. Perfectly orange in color. These slots right in between a pale ale and an Amber. Slightly clingy off-white lacing with tiny bubbles.

Smell: Orange, pine, hops, tangerince, vanilla and lemon. Cascade hops mixed with malt. Yum.

Taste: Excellent blend of malt, hop aroma and bitterness. Balanced! Delicious initial sweetness and hop citris is cancelled out by the deep--but not harsh--hop bitterness.

Mouthfeel is ideal! Thick and full, but not too full. A perfect weight.

I would like to try to drink 10. I think the 6.8% might get in the way.

Notes: A true California great. This beer should be more well known, especially to my BA brethren. Just an excellent all around beer that seems to score a bit too low around here...

 777 characters

Photo of Zorro
3.86/5  rDev +2.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Pours a near clear orange colored brew.

Smell is a mix of malt and hops with a tea and perfume smell.

Taste is mildly sweet with a complex malt and hops flavor combination. Flavor starts out sweet and then turns to flowers and then tea ending with a dry bitter finish. A very tasty brew.

Mouthfeel is full and dry.

Very drinkable brew ends with a very palette cleaning quality. Really more of a complex ale than an ESB.

 431 characters

Photo of UncleJimbo
3.46/5  rDev -8.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Sampled on tap at Redbones.

This ESB poured a hazy, amber color with white foam that persisted and clung to the glass. The smell was very minimal (light malt). The taste was fruity (hops) and sharp up front, then came the malt, and then a fruity hops finish. There was a touch of oak in the flavor. The mouthfeel was sharp and crisp with medium body and good carbonation. The fruity hop flavor lingered in the aftertaste. This was a pretty good ESB, though a bit more fruity than commonly found in an ESB.

 508 characters

Photo of woemad
3.23/5  rDev -14.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Bottle purchased at Huckleberry's in Spokane for $1.49.

Poured a cloudy orange color. Medium-sized white head. Lots of lacing.

Smell is of spicy & floral hops. I detected no maltiness in the aroma.

Taste is great...for a hoppy U.S. pale ale. Seriously, if drinking this blind, I'd never imagine this is an ESB, its just way too hoppy. It doesn't taste bad, it just isn't correct for the style at all. What maltiness there is in the taste is strictly a supporting player relegated to the background. This won't be stealing Fuller's ESB's thunder anytime soon.

Mouthfeel is fine, nothing to complain about. Nothing to rave about either.

This tastes just like a pale ale, and if that is what you are in the mood for, this could be a great session beer. I was expecting something closer to a classic Fuller's ESB. I mean, hell, the whole style is based on Fullers. Therefore, I graded down on drinkability. Also, the 6.8%abv is a little high for sustained consumption.

 979 characters

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

Belk’s begins with a massive off-white head that yields a bountiful and crisp hop fragrance. The color is a perfect clouded, glowing amber. This bitter goes on to deliver an elegant mouthfeel and a solid yet smooth bitter taste.

This is an all-around fine example of the ESB style. Hearty and well balanced.

 313 characters

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

This was a pleasant beer enjoyed on tap at Redbones last week. Pour was a slightly cloudy deep golden. I thought it had a clean, sweet aroma. The mouthfeel was medium, and I thought the taste was based on a piney hop note. The carbonation was slightly prickly. I did not realise that the alcohol was that high. Decent beer, but not overwhelmingly wow.

 351 characters

Photo of Gavage
3.74/5  rDev -1.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Pours a hazy gold color with a 1 inch head. Little lacing developed during the drink. The aroma was sweet and floral. The flavor was a nice balance of malt and hops. Caramel and a fruity sweetness rounded out the flavor.

The mouthfeel was very tingling as the carbonation level seemed high. Bitterness lasts long into the finish. I felt the bitterness got stronger after the swallow than during the initial taste. The is on the lighter side of a medium bodied beer. Nicely drinkable for flavor, but the mouthfeel was not as smooth as others in the ESB category.

 564 characters

Photo of genaro
3.32/5  rDev -12.2%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Belk's ESB was a cloudy gold color with a very substantial head that was a little soapy. There was a lot of clumpy lace.The aroma was floral and citrusy with a hint of maltiness. Tastewise it was bitter, citrusy (lemon and orange peels), yeasty, and a bit sour. There was also some caramel and sweetness. The finish was dry and a tad sour. An all right beer.

 358 characters

Photo of merlin48
3.53/5  rDev -6.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Pours a hazy, burnt-orange, amber color with a two finger beige head. Leaves patchy rings of lacing all down the glass. Aroma is initially of toffee and butterscotch, then comes an assault of westcoast hops with pine and lemony citrus. Mouthfeel is creamy, tart, and medium bodied. Plenty of carbonation here. Taste has a few complexities. Toffee and lots of bittering hops up front. Sweet caramel malts fight a losing battle with the big hop profile. Some buttery and nutty flavors seem to be present, but are, unfortunately, subdued by the massive hops. Finishes dry and very bitter. This could use a better malt profile to balance the hoppiness and come closer to matching the style.

 686 characters

Photo of malty
3.9/5  rDev +3.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Faintly cloudy copper color with a fluffy white head that sticks around for quite a while creating nice lacework. Bubbles are a bit slow to rise, anticipating a high gravity ale.

Somewhat malty nose with a toned down hop presence. Nothing quite jumped out - pretty tame.

Dry & bitter with a backbone of 'powdered sugar' sweet malt flavor. This is where that 'Pacific Northwest' hop characteristic takes center stage. Unmistakable Anderson Valley artisianal flavor, works maybe a little too well for this style. Warm alcohol is in the forefront.

Mouthfeel is top-notch. Medium bodied, oily, silky and full of momentum, my favorite part of this beer.

Very drinkable, especially if you gravitate toward dry, hearty pales.

Overall a great ale but not what I was expecting. Tastes similar to a sturdy pale ale. Another wonderful beer from a great West coast brewery.


 888 characters

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

Sampler-sized taste from bottle. First of several bitters sampled at our homebrew club meeting, so my notes are not copious: Light brown color with thin head. Bitterness is more "straight," like a traditional bitter, with less of a hoppy nose, at least IMHO.

 258 characters

Photo of Gasp100
4.25/5  rDev +12.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Poured a cloudy orange with a dense fluffy white head. The lace clings all the way down the glass. The smell consisted of a little raw hop and biscuity aroma as well.

The taste was big and malty with an extremely creamy and slick mouth feel -- almost like an orange creme-sical. Lots of malt with a huge sweet grain presence. A slight hops added a bitter character. Alcohol is warming and noticeable, but definitely not overbearing.

This is the last pair of a "sampler" case of ESB's and Pale Ales that I bought in PA (12 different brews in one). Every one was good, but I am glad I saved this one to the last. I really, really think this was the best of the bunch. It had a very "American" Character --- much different from the Fuller's ESB or Young's RamRod but just as enjoyable. I've noticed in DE that the Anderson Valley beers are quite a bit more expensive than most other micro's but I won't pass them up next time around.

 936 characters

Photo of stirgy
4.3/5  rDev +13.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A very nice beer. This one poured out an orangey gold color and the thin foamy head laced the glass nicely. The aroma gives off a sweet grainy, almost fruity malt aroma. There’s a nice balance of light and fruity sweet malt in the taste along with a dry and grassy bitterness. Detected a bit of alcohol peeking through, along with some woody and earthy notes. Finishes with a perfect bitterness. A very nice ESB.

 413 characters

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

Appearance: Orange/amber color, strikingly clear, like most of AVB's brews, strong carbonation with a creamy, thick head that stays nicely.

Smell: spicy hops, biscuity/bready malt aroma

Taste: starts with a hint of malt taste in the beginning and quickly leads into sharp hop bitterness. the end lingers with hop bitterness.

Mouthfeel: sharp, crisp, refreshing mouthfeel, but enough body to hold up the flavor.

Drinkability: Goes down easy. Pretty strong esb alcoholwise.

overall, a great beer, not what i traditionally expect though from esb, this is a more crisp, clean, american take on the style.

 618 characters

Photo of GeoffFromSJ
3.35/5  rDev -11.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

This is a good ESB but not a great ESB. It starts out with a nice malt flavor which quickly dissipates into a hops and alcohol bite. A strong hops presence at the end is expected and desired, but this bite was a bit too harsh. There is not enough malt to balance it out. As time wears on the bite is wearing on me.

To sum up, this isn't that bad. But don't go out of your way to get this.

 391 characters

Photo of cokes
3.38/5  rDev -10.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Blurred yellow-orange with a thin gray top. Bald after a few moments.
Nose full of lemon-zest hop essence, butterscotch and gin.
This begins, seemingly, as a pleasingly hopped-up, Left Coast ESB a la Brutal Bitter. It gradually falls apart from there. Malt is significantly lacking. Lightly toasted bagel hues up front. Buttery and attractive diacetyl looms large in the middle. Malt is gone at this point. Big, bitter hops loom at the end. Lemon rind, bitter herbs and faintly vegetal. Alcohol jolt at the finale, especially as this nears room temp. Medium-full in stature with stunted carbonation.
Not a total failure, but a bit tedious given the excess ABV and lack of malt backing.

 688 characters

Photo of skar
3.71/5  rDev -1.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Foreword: 12 oz bottle, light residue on interior of bottle cap.

Appearance/Head: Light brown, orange color. Clear. Awesome, very fine head with a nice lace.

Aroma: Fresh hops, light toffee, notes of alcohol.

Taste: Starts with a nice malty backbone, and transitions into a nice moderate hops flavor. The hops used are appropriate for the ESB style.

Bottom line: Quite a nice west coast ESB.

 403 characters

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

This brew pours a slightly hazy dark straw color with a big creamy white head that last for a while, leaving a silky sexy lace in its tracks.

Strong hop aroma hits the nose hard, as well as a buttery toffee smell come from the glass.

A strong bitter hop flavor is king in this beer, along with tasty pale malts, make this a well balanced brew. Tingle of carbonation on the tongue make for a very refreshing beer.

 419 characters

Photo of far333
3.55/5  rDev -6.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Hazy orangey color with big brown flecks of something or other floating around in it. Big beige foamy head about an inch high just sitting there and not moving. Lots of spider web oily lacing all around the glass. Aroma is sweet malt and hops and citrus and pine. Flavor is hoppy and piney and citrusy and has an odd malt flavor to it, like it's spoiled. The malt is a bit off. Not at all what I think of in an ESB. More hoppy and citrusy and lighter colored.

 459 characters

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

Presentation: 12oz. brown bottle; no "bottled on" or "best before" warning; purchased as a stray single from Trader Joe's for $1.17.

Appearance: Pours a slightly hazy, light amber; fine, one-fingered head; c-cup's worth of lace; fairly good head retention.

Aroma: Primarily of cherries, toasted malts and tropical fruits; spicy, floral hop medley.

Taste: Firm malt presence upfront with a moderate-to-heavy hop bitterness in the finish; ever so lightly sweet; notes of grapefruit, butter and non-citric fruits throughout; floral and spicy; fairly phenolic; medium bodied; somewhat creamy mouthfeel.

Notes: Big and tasty.

 632 characters

Photo of Boilermaker88
3.65/5  rDev -3.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Poured a clear apricot color with a frothy off-white head that faded to a small cap pretty quickly.
Smell was mainly of floral and citrus hops. Quite aromatic with the emphasis on the floral hops.
Taste was initially sweet with caramel/toffee flavor. Then a fairly robust grapefruit and citrus peel bitterness took over. Finished up with a lingering bitterness.
Feel was medium-bodied with a slick smoothness.
Overall, not too bad of a brew. In fact, I rather enjoyed this even though I'm not a big fan of well-hopped beers. This is a nicely balanced beer.

 560 characters

Photo of dmarch
3.83/5  rDev +1.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Golden in color with some orange hues and a thin, well-retained, off-white head. The aroma makes it obvious that hops are present. Lime and floral flavors show through with only the slightest hint of sweet maltiness. The hops really cover up much of the malt character, but a good ESB for the hopheads.

 302 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.