Durham ESB | County Durham Brewing Company

12 Ratings
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Durham ESBDurham ESB

Brewed by:
County Durham Brewing Company
Ontario, Canada

Style: Extra Special / Strong Bitter (ESB)

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 5.00%

Availability: Rotating

Notes / Commercial Description:
No notes at this time.

Added by BeerAdvocate on 11-14-2002

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Ratings: 12 |  Reviews: 10
Photo of liamt07
3.75/5  rDev +1.9%

Photo of MattPS
3.25/5  rDev -11.7%

Photo of kwjd
3.63/5  rDev -1.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Had this on tap at Smokeless Joe's. Pours an amber-orange colour with a finger of white head. Nice enough head retention with some mild rings of lacing on the glass. Smells of biscuity malt, bread and earthy and floral hops. Flavour is mildly bitter, fairly sweet. A bit thinner than I expect for an ESB. I believe this was better when I've had it on cask before, but I hadn't had it for a while on cask so maybe my memory is fading.

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Photo of biegaman
4.01/5  rDev +9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Off cask at the Ceili Cottage, in Toronto.
Listed as 'Durham Tommyknocker ESB'.

Good thing the patio was sunny that day, Durham ESB has such a rich colour that only under bright light can the full extent of its many tones be appreciated. At its neck, the beer is substantially dark, a very deep chestnut, but by its base it becomes a shimmering, shade of yellow. Despite it being poured from cask, there is plenty of head (and a dense trail of lace that winds around the glass like a self-replicating code).

If the aroma is any indication, we're in for a treat; soft scents of delicately floral hops and nutty, toffee brittle are in and of themselves huge treats for the sense of smell. You can tell already: this cask is in good shape and, more than likely, tapped just earlier today. The bouquet is buzzing and vibrant, lively and lush and strikes me as a perfect summer quaff.

The flavour isn't something hard to get your mind wrapped around but it is hard to step away from - I took gulp after gulp after gulp until, in no time, the pint was already half empty. Succulent, nutty, toasty malts are balanced by earthy, floral hops - it is a medley so harmonious you'd think Beethoven himself concocted it.

The taste is of biscuits and biscotti, of citrus zest and floral perfumes, all grounded in this sticky-sweet toffee base. The bitterness is brisk and effervescent. The lack of carbonation allows, not only smooth sailing right over the tongue, but sips twice as large as normal (an attribute greatly supported also by the beer's wholesome and delicious flavour).

County Durham brewery prides itself on crafting exceptional quality, traditional and sessionable English-style offerings; this ESB is not merely emblematic of that but is also, arguably, the jewel in the brewery's proverbial crown. Whether I was out all night drinking with a crowd or merely taking my time, slowly sipping away at one pint for the course of an entire afternoon, this ESB makes the ideal candidate for either occasion.

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Photo of biboergosum
3.97/5  rDev +7.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Guest cask at the Ceili Cottage's St. Paddy's week celebrations...

This beer appears a hazy orangish-brown hue, with one finger of soapy off-white head, which renders a curtain of lace around the pint glass as it fades. It smells of cracker, bread, and light toffee malt, and a bit of citrus hops. The taste is crisp bready grain, and mild citrus, grassy hops. The carbonation is quite low, the body smooth, soft, and mellow, and it finishes dry, clean, and somehow ethereal.

A nice, pleasant session bitter - I would have had another, had I not eyed the pot still whiskeys screaming to bring in St. Paddy's Day in their own indomitable Irish manner...

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Photo of bobsy
4.08/5  rDev +10.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

On cask at the Ceili Cottage, under the pseudonym 'Durham Tommyknocker'.

Light orange body with a good finger of creamy white head. Decent retention and nice lacing complete a nice all-round appearance. Light fruity nose mingling with a biscuit base, rounded out by floral hopping. Classic English bitter taste makes this a suitable candidate for sessioning. Fruity malts mix in with biscuit malts to provide a good backdrop for a limited floral bitterness. Occasional orange and toffee notes appear and disappear. The hopping is probably seen as startlingly low by people used to hop bombs, but you have to concede that this is true to the style, and this beer would not be out of place in any traditional English pub. Hand-pumped from the cask, the body has a wonderful smoothness to it - almost creamy - and you have to admit that it benefits from the cask conditioning. What carbonation there is keeps its head under the parapet, but provides just enough zip to keep things interesting.

This beer could define session brew - its light both in alcohol and in strong flavours (which isn't necessarily a bad thing), its smooth body and cask dispensation make it easy to drink, and as a complete package it makes you want more. Another triumph from Ontario's most consistently strong brewery!

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Photo of Derek
4.3/5  rDev +16.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Nitro-tap at Smokeless Joe's.

This is a great beer, but it's a little weak for the style (in alcohol & hops). Perhaps more of a 'Bitter'.

A: Orange-amber; creamy white head, plenty of retention & lace.

S: Plenty of fruity esters from the British yeast; pleasant biscuity malt in the background.

T: Very pleasant fruityness with some quality malt flavour as well. Mild bitterness seems perfectly balanced; very little hop flavour.

M: The nitro gives this lightweight a nice creamy body.

D: Very drinkable.

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Photo of TerryW
3.56/5  rDev -3.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Good looking beer, soft cloudy orange with a good head and decent lace. Looks quite appetizing.

Pretty mild across the board the rest of the way. Pleasant and competent, but not outstanding. Tasty, but more malt than I would have expected from a bitter - could stand to muscle up the hops some.

Still with enough character to be interesting. Enjoyable and worth a try.

 374 characters

Photo of Viggo
3.35/5  rDev -9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

On cask at Volo. Cloudy amber/orange, tight creamy head and good lacing. Smell is very malty, chocolaty and rich, some nice hopping. Taste is strange, malty and grassy, like very grassy and not entirely enjoyable. The hops were nice and floral and the bitterness was good but the grassy/dirt taste was strange. Mouthfeel was full, nice and creamy.

 347 characters

Photo of Sammy
3.67/5  rDev -0.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Had it fresh on cask at Volo Cafe and it was, intentionally, a different beer. Substantial more malted, including fresh malt aroma like malted milk, and smooth, with citrus and bitterness secondary. Lighter brown colour and much foamier. Appropriate understated carbonation. A different better, and rated significantly higher.Had it two years later on cask and I find it inconsistent.On tap and creamy three years later.

 420 characters

Photo of foamer
3.29/5  rDev -10.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Deep rich, clear amber with a thick white head which leaves a solid wall of foam down the glass. This beer is a looker. Sadly, everything else left me lukewarm. Very clean nose with very faint malt. Sweetish malts with strong nutty hints in the taste leading to a mild, too mild, hoppy finish. Nothing particularly spectacular. Nice mouthfeel though, with not too aggressive carbonation. An acceptable beer but not a great example of the style. I would like it to be a little more extra and special if it is touted as an ESB. More hops would do the trick, I think.

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Photo of DrJay
3.45/5  rDev -6.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Served at C'est What? in Toronto. Clear, dark brown, nearly opaque, with a creamy tan head provided by the nitro tap. This produced a large quantity of lace that lasted through the entire pint. Quite a mild aroma as far as hops go... mostly caramel with a hint of toffee. Sweetness and roasted malt dominated the flavour, with some hop bitterness. Relatively clean finish and full body, with some astringency drying the palate. Overall, it seemed a little light on hops. It could be better without the nitro.

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Durham ESB from County Durham Brewing Company
3.68 out of 5 based on 12 ratings.
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