Belk's ESB | Anderson Valley Brewing Company

very good
356 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: 356 | Ratings: 545
Photo of Knapp85
3.88/5  rDev +2.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

vThis beer poured out as a brownish amber color with a light tan head on top. The lacing was scattered on the glass. The smell of the beer has a nice sweet malt character to it, with a bit of floral hops on the nose as well. The taste of the beer reminded me a bit more of an IPA than an ESB in my opinion. The flavors were a little sweet upfront with a touch of caramel that faded into a strong bitter finish. The mouthfeel I found to be pretty good with a nice easy going drinkability to it. Overall I like the beer, I would drink it again for sure. I wouldn't run out to buy a case though.

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Photo of dylanrossi
3.33/5  rDev -11.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

No date.
Under the caps reads "Boonter piked up to harp or help."

Appearance: Thick, creamy head. Dissapates rather quickly, leaving behind a good deal of lacing. Hazy orange in color with minimal carbonation noticeable.

Smell: Very balanced nose. Some toasted malt, dried fruit, and possibly some trace hops.

Taste/Mouthfeel: Slight hoppiness comes through initially, giving way a combination of roasted malts and some phenolic flavors. Finish is dry, leaving behind some unpleasant bitterness. Medium bodied and very lively.

Overall: Quite a hefty beer here. Alcohol comes through rather strong along with some phenolic flavors which makes it slightly resemble something of the Belgian variety. Could be more balanced though.

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Photo of TheBeerAlmanac
2.19/5  rDev -42.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2 | taste: 2 | feel: 2 | overall: 2.5

Bottle poured into a pint glass

A: Dark yellow in color and has a surprisingly thick and spongy head.

S: It does smell a little bitter but also metallic, much like a typical adjunct lager, not the greatest comparison.

T/M: Tastes malty like a traditional ESB with a slight hoppy bite and little bit of that bitterness in the finish.

Overall, it’s relatively bland.

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

A- hazy golden orange. Little head retention with some white lacing around the edges.

S- Earthy piney hops, malt sweetness backs it up a little bit. Smells of a blend of english and american hops.

T-Lots of hops and malt. Citrus hops and bitter earthy hops blend into a nice bite. drys out after the sweetness comes in.

M- A little abrasive on the palate, but mostly dry and fairly clean.

O- Really good ESB but its most definitely a west coast interpretation. Heavy on the hops for this style, but still really nice beer.

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

12oz bottle into red wine bowl at my aunts house. Reviewed from notes.

A: Pours a clear amber with a couple fingers of bright white head that receded into a quarter-inch film that lasted forever and left a few wisps of lace.
S: Notes of clean caramel malt and lightly bready scents with a nice balance of mild, grassy hops.
T: Fairly bitter actually with a taste that follows the nose. I get a touch of sweet fruity orange juice in there as well. The aftertaste is bitter and caramely sweet with a hint of tobacco.
M: Clean and easy body with a slightly syrupy mouthfeel. Carbonation is even and smooth.
O: A great drinking beer that I ended up having a few of, although not my favorite. I love this brewery though, and while none of their beers blow my socks off, they are constantly one of my go to breweries because everything they make is so drinkable.

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

The beer is hazy light amber, has a high off-white head that leaves a little lacing.

The smell is mostly in the floral area, straw, hay and fresh grass.

Starting with bread notes, some toffee, lemon peel but also grass.

Medium carbonation, small bubbles, a good body, a dry finish.

A good hop composition, nearly an English character, but more floral notes.

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

Poured out with an instant accumulation of frothy head. Vibrant orange in color. The aroma has a lot of sun burnt grass and some bready notes. Some small amounts of earthy hops. A ton of malt on the palette. A darker malt but not chocolate. Roasted but not too much.There are other burnt caramel and toffee notes. A medium/full body and an assertive, bitter, hop dryness for a finish. A roasted/earthy finish that is very smooth and drinkable.

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

Appearance - Clear amber/copper colour with a very large size frothy and creamy beige coloured head. There is a low amount of carbonation showing and there is a lot of lacing. The head lasted for around 5 minutes before it was gone.

Smell - Malts, caramel, butterscotch, grains

Taste & Mouth - There is an average of carbonation and the beer feels creamy on the tongue. I can taste lots of malts mixed with caramel and butterscotch. There are also notes of breads/grains and some light hops. The beer finishes with a sweet butterscotch flavour with the hops at the very end.

Overall - This is a very good ESB. It's up there was one of the best I've ever had. The alcohol is well hidden and it is very drinkable. A must try for fans of ESB's.

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Photo of ElGrecoVerde
3.31/5  rDev -12.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Bright golden orange.

Citrus, sugar, caramel and cranberries. Thick smelling though not all that bad.

Interesting blend of citrus hops, tart fruit, and a bit of vinegar. sugary sweetness is decently countered with grapefruit hops.

Strong enough carbonation to carry the heavier flavors.

Unique brew to say the least. Not really my style but worth trying.

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

Appearance - Huge offwhite head with good retention. Slightly hazy, sediment laced orange-brown amber body with visible carbonation.

Smell - Lime peel hoppiness. Grassy and slightly floral.

Taste - Lime peel cuts right through and turns metallic in the finish. Dry and astringent.

Mouthfeel - Medium body.

Overall Drinkability (ha)- An interesting and enjoyable beer. I'm still learning about this style (this is my very first) so I'm not sure how much of a go-to ESB it is.

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

Pretty good summertime, outdoors/camping-type ale. Characteristically West Coast in its rustic, herby, fresh orange-citrus hop and sweetish, soft-cookie malt flavors.

In a few ways a hybrid of sorts. I can see why they call this an ESB, based in part on its malt profile and perhaps more for its fine bitterness emerging during the finish. But an overall earthy element and its orange fruitiness put it in the same company as many of the west coast pale ales and IPAs I've had.

I suppose what else sets this apart from a typical ESB is not only the vaguely-whipped, frothy, spongy foam look to the head, but also its quite bright orange-amber color. I'd expect more of a brown, copper hue instead.

They got it pretty close on with the malt in the nose and the flavor. Sweet, no doubt enhanced by the hops, with the hops lending a light spice that adds to its cereal/oatmeal-cookie quality. Those hops are what makes this one unique among ESBs.

Everything is balanced well. Body is clean and smooth and a touch sudsy, alcohol hidden well as well. A good drinking beer. Has its place and time.

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Photo of Shrews629
3.77/5  rDev -0.3%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Appearance - This beer looks similar to apple juice. It's cloudy brownish/orange in color with an off white head that was not very large nor did it have any worth while lacing. Only held its retention for a few moments then the head was gone.

Smell - A very strong malt aroma that seems to consist of mostly caramel and fruity hints of apple and peach. Nothing elaborate. Just pretty straight forward.

Taste - In the taste I got the nice stab of bitterness with the caramel malt and no discernable alcohol presence. Some of the fruity esters (peach, apple) along with a hint of nuttiness. A bit earthy in the taste also.

Mouthfeel - Medium mouthfeel. Smooth with nice carbonation. Nice bit of bitterness and flavor is left on the palate. Seemed a little bit chewy even. Mostly dry. Slightly above average.

Drinkability - This beer is pretty good. Honestly, I thought it might be a little bit better. It's nothing bad. Decently solid. Worth a try I guess to change things up. I could have a few no problem.

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Photo of hiku7
3.73/5  rDev -1.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12oz bottle in Nonic pint glass

A - Orange to copper color, a bit cloudy, with 2 finger white head, slightly eggshell color. Thick rings of sticky lacing.

S - Not a strong aroma, but became a biscuity malty aroma as the beer warmed.

T - Toasty maltiness with solid hop presence makes for a balanced taste with distinct malt and hop flavors coming through. Dry finish.

M - Smooth and full bodied, not heavily carbonated.

D - Pretty drinkable, though fairly full bodied.

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

Gave a medium white head, a filtered honey color, and great lacing. A very good looking drink.
Smell is mildly hoppy and alcoholic. Reminds me of a pale ale in smell and in taste to a point.
Quite mild for an ESB, and smooth! You get the initial slap of sour, but it mellows quickly. It has high carbonation with caramel undertones to smooth out the hops. A solid offering for any IPA or PA lover.

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Photo of DaveHS
3.75/5  rDev -0.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

A-Pours a clear amber with 1 inch of fluffy eggshell white head. Leaves a good sized cap of foam and spidery lacing as it dissipates.

S-Bright, lightly citric hops.

T/M-Bitter, with biscuity malts and a lingering dry finish. Very simple.

D-Okay. It doesn't stand out in any way.

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Photo of Rizalini
3.18/5  rDev -15.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A - Golden yellow in color, with a foamy, bubbly white head that disipates quickly.

S - Sweet malt aromas, almost butterscotch-like.

T - Sweet maltiness transfers from the aroma overpowers the hop flavor. Kinda has a sweet tea taste on the front.

M - Light-medium mouthfeel. Slighty coats the tongue.

D - Drinks crisp and buttery. A refreshing beer that would be great on a warm day.

**This is the 1st ESB I've ever had, and it wasn't as bitter as i expected... a little too sweet for my liking.

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Photo of treehugginslug
3.84/5  rDev +1.6%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

A - Light, orange color with really nice foam which stayed quite a while.

S - The malts was so familiar, almost like fat tire or boston lager. Nice spicy hops.

T - Strong malty sweetness. Hops are really spicy and biting.

M - Pretty good carbonation, could use a little more. Spicy hops gives it a nice bite.

D - Very nice beer to drink on occasion. Couldn't drink a six pack, but did enjoy.

Whould I buy it again: Maybe, maybe not
Would I recommend it to a friend: Yes
Would I drink it if I was offered at a party: Yes
Overall: I really enjoyed it. I think IPA's should be more like this, not so strong on the hops, but nice balance of strong malt and hops. The malt just has a familiar taste that I can't put my finger on.

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Photo of rembrant
4.55/5  rDev +20.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

hazy gold with a lush 2 finger off-white head Really makes a mess of the glass with lace,film,hop oils etc.

Aroma Caramel,grain,and maybe the most pineapple scent I have yet encountered.

Flavor typical of this brewer,her's an elegant beer that's not in any way extreme yet is no copycat,has it's share of depth and complexity with a balance that enhances the flavors while not neutralizing them.
The lead is caramel but it never gets real sweet a sort of English yeast and a dry woody-grassy hop weave with the malt annd grain elements and some spice notes flicker.
There's then a smooth shift to the hop side with that pineapple element there and a bit of pine-spruce at the tail end

Anderson Valley distributes over a wide range and their basic 5 beers have been solid for 20-25 years. While this has been around forever and I probably had my first Barney Flats Stout about 20 yr ago,this is my first taste of the ESB's got something special.

Mouth That haze,that intense lace,hints that this has a lot of stuff in it even if it's not dark. Indeed,I'm impressed a lot by the creamy mouthfeel. It's got wetness and substance. The carbo is spot on. the aftertaste is lingering,tasty,and classic while not being a "been there/done that.

drinkability Major. You could spend time with a few of these. This has a special touch of "beerness",has a nice showcase of distinctive hops,but has a quality sort of like a top lager (Elliot Ness) where the malts ,grain,yeast,add depth and the malt side tempers the bitterness enough to allow loading up hop flavors while the whole keeps some balance.

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Photo of WYVYRN527
3.85/5  rDev +1.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured from a 12 ounce bottle into a pint glass.

A: Deep golden color with a slight haze. The white head settles quickly, and lacing easily slides down the glass walls.

S: Aroma is rather faint, but malt shows up, revealing hints of caramel and toasted cereal grains. Hops lend a slightly floral, woody character.

T: Very well-balanced flavor, with hints of toast, caramel and toffee making up the malt character, with some green fruit elements. Hops are floral, slightly piney, and bittering in the finish.

Notes: This is definitely a bigger beer for it's style. Full bodied, and very flavorful. The 6.8% ABV definitely shows itself, with a warming sensation as it goes down. Boont ESB is easy to drink, and a solid examole of this style.

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

Deep yellow color with a good, but not perfect clarity. Poured with a rocky white head. Good head retention and lots of sticky lacings on the glass. Light toasted malt and herbal hop aromas with hint of citrus orange. Medium bodied with light to medium carbonation and a buttery smoothness. A good balance of toasted malt and hop character in the beginning. Hop flavors are spicey with a bit of tangy citrus. Finishes a bit dry with a lingering herbal hop bitterness.

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Photo of Thorpe429
3.8/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

On tap at Anderson Valley in August 2009. Reviewed from notes.

Pours a caramel color with a nice off white head. Nose brings forward some bread, caramel, fresh biscuits, and some herbal and pine hops. Taste brings a good deal of lighter malt flavors forward and is backed by a good amount of bitterness, but isn't as pleasurable as the nose. The mouthfeel is good, although a bit heavy for the style. Drinks really well and is one of their better standard offerings.

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Photo of littlesgtpepper
2.82/5  rDev -25.4%
look: 4 | smell: 2 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Had a 6oz taster glass at AVBC.

A soft off-white head faded fast on this beer but had some nice lacing. A rather pretty deep honey color.

Maybe I had a bad batch? The scent is slightly skunky which was weird for Anderson Valley and kind of overpowered the smells of hops and malt.

Good strong hop flavor (Cascade hops maybe?), but not enough malt flavor. Something slightly floral is here too but I can't place it. A nice ending spicy bite.

ESB's are all about balance between hops and malt and this beer tends to lean more toward and IPA style. Not a bad beer but I won't go out of my way to try it again.

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Photo of beagle75
3.98/5  rDev +5.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Poured from a 12 oz. bottle into a tulip glass.

A: Clear, reddish-amber color with a less than one finger of off-white foam head. Heavy lacing remains on the glass.

S: Abundant stale bread and sweet caramel are accompanied by subtle spiciness and earthiness.

T: Rich, off-dry malt and spicy aromatic hops to start, with these flavors expanding on the palate as faint butter and scorched straw are briefly detected in the middle. The finish dries out and contributes a hard mineral bitterness that remains.

M: Light-medium viscosity with low carbonation coats the palate but does not distract from other sensory qualities.

D: Pronounced flavors, bordering on pungent, make this beer a wonderful showcase for the classic qualities of English-style pale ale--however, it is not to be mistaken for a session beer. That said, it is equally capable of entertaining the palate when featured in a solo performance, or as part of an ensemble cast of food and drink. The archetypal qualities and the complexity of this beer demand return visits by the drinker.

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Photo of bagpiper2005
4/5  rDev +5.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pour: Slightly hazy copper color. Two and a half fingers of off-white head that retained well and laced the glass nicely.

Smell: Citrus and piney hops up front, cradled by a caramel and toffee sweetness.

Taste: Rich, sweet caramel and toffee front end with a rich, biscuity middle. The back end finishes up with a moderate piney hop bitterness than lingers for awhile. Deliciously balanced.

Mouthfeel: Medium to full bodied, slightly creamy, and with just the right amount of carbonation.

Drinkability: Fairly high given the level of bitterness and ABV. Smooth drinking. Very sessionable.

Final Notes: Think of Sam Boston Lager with a slightly richer feel and a bit more hop kick. If you like that beer you'll definitely like this one. Delicious, well-rounded, and sessionable.

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Photo of StaveHooks
3.6/5  rDev -4.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

A - Pours a brilliant clear peachy brown. Slightly tan head.

S - Bready malt with a touch of cinnamon, caramel and toffee. Smells kind of like a cinnamon roll.

T - Herbal hops start it off with an assertive bite and add some earthiness. Slightly buttery toffee malt. The hops are pretty aggressive.

It had some metallic notes at the beginning but faded. The herbal hops lowered the drinkability for me.

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Belk's ESB from Anderson Valley Brewing Company
3.78 out of 5 based on 545 ratings.
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