Theakston XB | T & R Theakston Ltd.

very good
61 Reviews
Theakston XBTheakston XB

Brewed by:
T & R Theakston Ltd.
England, United Kingdom

Style: Extra Special / Strong Bitter (ESB)

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 4.60%

Availability: Year-round

Notes / Commercial Description:
No notes at this time.

Added by BeerAdvocate on 09-29-2003

For Trade:
View: Beers | Events
User Reviews
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters | Alström Bros
first ← prev | 1-25 | 26-50 | 51-75  | nextlast
Reviews: 61 | Ratings: 118
Photo of Skrumpy
3.54/5  rDev -5.6%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.5

Another bottle I received as a gift, not my normal choice for drinking, but new experiences are often surprisingly fun. This beer was poured into a standard pint glass. A foamy head that receded to a nice film, and there was sporadic lacing. The color is deep, dark amber, and the appearance is on the hazy side. The aroma is herbal, earthy and toasted malt. The flavor is similar, caramel malt, nuts, and some crisp fruitiness, apples and cherries perhaps. The finish is smooth, and there is not much to the bitterness. The mouthfeel is kind of watery, but there is an essence of that nutty, sweetness/bitterness that lingers that gives the beer a nice quality.

 669 characters

Photo of patre_tim
3.77/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Dark copper to almost deerskin brown. Clear and filtered with a little carbonation and topped with 2 fingers of light beige head.

Hard water, toffee, burnt sugar, apple candy.

Dark toasted malts, hard water finish with only a hint of bitterness and a glassy almost watery refreshing note that splashes in on the tongue at the end.

Medium to light body, little foamy carbonation.

Found at Villa Market in Bangkok. Drank in Chiang Mai Sept. 30th, 2015. Refreshing great beer that seems rare and unfamiliar in these parts but well done.

 540 characters

Photo of cab4514
3.76/5  rDev +0.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

Was willing to try anything from Theakston since I tried Old Peculiar. One thing to note is that the two are not similar. XB is much more fruity and lighter. I definitely got an apple hint from it, both in smell and taste. Has a light amber look with a good light head to it. Would definitely drink again.

 305 characters

Photo of FLima
3.61/5  rDev -3.7%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.5

Amber copper color with a thin head with short retention.
English tangy fruit aroma with hints of toffee, plums, biscuit and mild earth.
Flavor with notes of English hops, fuggle alike, toffee, tea leaves, plums, apples, lemon and fresh grapes. Hints of chocolates, grains, cola and minerals. Dry aftertaste with a rounded bitterness.
Bordering medium body with appropriate carbonation.
Easy to drink fruity ESB, with decent complexity though. Good balance between English hops and fruitiness. Not exceptional or unique, but still pleasant.

 540 characters

Photo of chinchill
3.54/5  rDev -5.6%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Appearance: Hazy copper with a decent bubbly head.

Feel: Medium-Light body.

The flavor is similar in quality to the aroma, but much stronger. Fine fruity, malty flavor.

 172 characters

Photo of brentk56
3.85/5  rDev +2.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

Appearance: Pours a clear tea color with a proper head that leaves a respectable amount of lacing

Smell: Plummy, with caramel apple and earthy tones

Taste: Fruity, at first, with plum apple tones melting into toffee; earthy bitterness builds in the mid-palate but fades, after the swallow; the finish is grainy and slightly sweet

Mouthfeel: Medium body with moderate carbonation

Overall: Not quite at the ESB level as this is more sessionable, it is,nevertheless, a pretty good beer; I would like to see the bitterness raised a notch but that may be a function of the age of the bottle as the bottling date is in a code I cannot discern

 640 characters

Photo of Axnjxn
3.9/5  rDev +4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

500ml into a tulip.

pours a dark orange/brown with a nice head with great lacing. the smell is big on toffee and malts...nice actually! taste is slightly bitter...toffee not very apparent. kind of "plain" but expected for the style. easy drinking and tastes like a higher ABV than it is. toffee comes through slightly on the finish. medium bodied with mild carbonation.

overall enjoyable. obviously not a world beater here but good.

 435 characters

Photo of Cresant
3.16/5  rDev -15.7%
look: 3.75 | smell: 2.75 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.25

Reviewed from notes. Poured this 12 oz brown bottle into a Sam Adams glass. The body was a hazy pale caramel color. The khaki head maintained for a long while.

The smell was of caramel apples. I swear I smell whiffs of fish!?

The taste was also of caramel apples. Fruity with a light tartness. Seems to be a typical English Pale Ale.

The mouthfeel was medium to thin in body with a subtle, smooth carbonation.

 414 characters

Photo of jazzyjeff13
3.08/5  rDev -17.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

A 500ml bottle with a BB of Feb 2014. Picked up from a B&M store not too long back. A local brew with heritage...

Poured into a tulip pint glass. A clear coppery-brown colour with light carbonation. Forms a decent head of frothy off-white foam that lasts for a minute or so before disappearing. Aroma of caramel malt with hints of stewed leaves/veg, fruity ale yeast and cardboard. Dry and dull.

Tastes of caramel malt with a mild, dry finish. Notes of stewed leaves, caramel, mild grain, fruity ale yeast, faint grass/hay and cardboard. Well-attenuated, followed by a subtle bitterness upon swallowing. Mouthfeel is smooth, dry and tingly, with decent carbonation and good body. Slightly astringent, accompanied by an aftertaste of stewed leaves, cardboard and mild fruity yeast.

Meh, pretty bland and uninteresting. Looks OKish, with an aroma/flavour of caramel and stewed leaves. Body is alright. Perfect example of the type of traditional British ale that lacks character. It's well made and there's nothing fundamentally wrong with it, but it doesn't command your attention. Nowt special - no need to seek it out.

 1,121 characters

Photo of Bung
3.82/5  rDev +1.9%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

Pint 0.9. bronzy pour, thin layer of white head. Just a little left sticking to the glass.

Aroma, Mostly toffee, some toasted malt.

Taste, Malty caramel, lightly toasted malt. Some leather and tea. Mild English hopping. White grape or yellow raisin. Some woody chocolate as well.

Heavy side of light bodied, good level of cabonation keeps this mostly sweeter brew drinking pretty easy. I bet this is really excellent on draft. Good English session brew.

 456 characters

Photo of puboflyons
3.74/5  rDev -0.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

From a 12 fl. oz. bottle stamped: L142-KE--02:42. Sampled on June 27, 2013.

Looks like a British Bitter with its medium amber pour and long lasting off-white head that leaves lacing on the side.

The aroma is bold with caramel malts, butterscotch, and sweetness with a milder hop note.

The body is creamy and in the medium range.

The taste is full of sweet sugary malts, caramel, toffee, and the like with only a modest bitterness at the end. This is something that I would quaff down in a British pub.

 505 characters

Photo of WissBrauSean
3.98/5  rDev +6.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

The beer poured a clear light brown to amber colour with a nice foamy one finger head that lasts as a full ring around the glass and leaves an nice woman's bottom pattern on the glass. I made sure that I poured this at about 55 degrees F from the bottle into the standard pint glass.

The aroma comes off to me as straightforward caramel malt sweetness with some hints of fruts (diacetyl) and not much else. My nose is stuffed so that is a hindrance. Dang sinusitis.

The taste is of caramel malt when it hits the tongue and as it rolls across towards the back the carbonation brings a nice hop taste to the top. I think that may be the bramling cross hops and they are kind of earthy and nice. The hop flavour then becomes a little bitter on the back of the tongue and leaves you very lightly dry. This is well balanced for sure.

Mouthfeel is well balanced between sweet and hop dry and a light to moderate body. The carbonation is also light to moderate and the finish is slightly dry with a hint of black pepper.

Overall, I would have to say that this is an excellent ESB! Without looking at the ratings I would have to say that it is approaching world class. I was a little disappointed in the thinness of the body, just a little more would have set me off! But it is definitely a beer to recommend and drink again! 4 out of 5 would be the very least that I would score this beer as!

 1,389 characters

Photo of UCLABrewN84
3.51/5  rDev -6.4%
look: 3 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.5

Pours a hazy dark orange with a foamy khaki head that fades to nothing. Small dots of lace slowly drip into the remaining beer on the drink down. Smell is of toasted malt, caramel, and dark fruit aromas. Taste is much the same with a wood-like flavor on the finish. There is a mild amount of hop bitterness on the palate with each sip. This beer has a lower level of carbonation with a slightly crisp mouthfeel. Overall, this is a pretty good beer that is drinkable but quite subdued, especially in the flavor.

 510 characters

Photo of woodychandler
3.68/5  rDev -1.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

How hard is it to put a price tag on a beer? For this one, it was enough to cause me to leave the premises before being 86'd. I will be hard-pressed to return to that venue until after an extended cooling-off period. It was a bottle, to add insult to injury. Bah!

From the bottle: "What's in a name? In our old brewery cellar in Masham, we have, for many years, distinguished the contents of one cask from another by using wooden blocks dipped in whitewash shaped either with a letter B or with an X. As we only had two blocks at the time and with our other beers limiting the options, we were left with either BX or XB. We preferred XB!"; "A classic English ale. The subtle dry undertone is balanced by the fruitiness of the Brambling Cross and Fuggle hops, resulting in a distinctly complex aroma and flavour. Enjoyed by beer connoisseurs all over the world."

I hate the designation "beer connoisseur", but I do like beer, so it was time for a pour. I had a nice two finger, fizzing, tawny head with moderate retention. Color was a deep-copper with NE-quality clarity. Nose was really fruity, like Juicy Fruit chewing gum in terms of sweet fruit. There was also an underlying malt sweetness, somewhat sugary. Mouthfeel was medium but the sweetness of the nose did not transfer onto the tongue. Instead, it retained its fruity flavor, but it was nowhere near as cloying as I girded myself to expect. Finish was semi-dry and I began to wonder how long they age this before bottling. This was very pleasant, but I wish that it could have been purchased under more pleasant circumstances.

 1,588 characters

Photo of pkalix
4.67/5  rDev +24.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

darker orange with very little on top and weak lacing down the sides.
smells very nice, malty. tastes the same- very good malt flavors, but i dont see where the 'bitter' comes in. this is just a really nice tasting brew.
but i suppose it ought to be a nice tasting brew at such a low abv. heck, even coke and pepsi taste good, right? i learned that lesson before and keep forgetting it- if it does not list the abv then it is a very low abv because it doesnt have to list it. i love a refreshing beer and i love the way the brewer can tweak a taste with additions and subtractions. but if i wanted a nice tasting beverage, and i wasnt concerned with abv, then i would be drinking iced tea or pepsi, right? i believe the ability to draw a great tasting beer with the abv sidling in with the flavors is the goal and it is what sets aside the duvels and the doppelbocks from the buttweisers and miller lites, no? so in judging this brew, i did give it good marks for taste, etc because i compared it to big sellers like the buttweiser, but the accomplishment is really in the duvel. because one can only drink so much beer in one night before he either begins making repeated trips to the urinal oe he compliments it with a nice whiskey.

 1,234 characters

Photo of tdm168
3.65/5  rDev -2.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A - dark amber with a thin, soft, white head that has decent retention

S - toffee, caramel, sweet, a bit sugary

T - toffee, bread, caramel, faint sugar, sweet, faint bitter finish

M - a bit crisp, medium bodied, sticky

This isn't a bad beer. It's smooth, flavorful, and highly drinkable. It's a bit malty at times, but a slight bitterness adds some balance. It's worth a try.

 379 characters

Photo of smcolw
3.47/5  rDev -7.5%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Modest starting head that dies to a single layer of minute bubbles. Little lace. Cloudy, brown color.

Strong sweet caramel aroma. Very candy like.

Leans to the sweeter side. There's a touch of hops that doesn't quite balance this beer. Neutral body with a higher than expected carbonation for a British brew. Strong caramel aftertaste.

 339 characters

Photo of damndirtyape
3.61/5  rDev -3.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

1pt, 0.9oz bottle poured into a Tulip stout glass. Date stamp is L134 KE 16:12. Some tiny amount of sediment came along with the pour.

Appearance: Hazy copper. Off white head, about 1/4" thick upon pouring which died back to a thin but persistent skin across the top. Lots of persistent islands, strands, and sheets of lacing. Good looking ESB.

Smell: With a swirl, caramel malt, hints of fruit (plums?), and maybe some herbal hops. Otherwise quite mild in aroma, even as it warms up.

Taste: Caramel malt, hint of butter and toffee, metallic notes, British bitter finish which is clean and not lingering. Not really amazing in flavor - just simply there.

Mouthfeel: Good carbonation but a bit watery.

Overall / Drinkability: Overall I've had better ESBs with more impressive aromas and flavors, but it is well balanced which is the feature of a ESB. Very drinkable. Went very well with dinner (pesto covered Mahi Mahi and basmati rice) and is quite's nothing special but very easy to knock back. Maybe this is its charm - just enough flavor and appearance to be enjoyable, but nothing amazing to slow you down in drinking more. I could see having another if it was offered.

 1,198 characters

Photo of rangerred
3.72/5  rDev -0.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

12oz bottle into a pint glass

Pours a slightly hazy light brown with a one finger white head. Pretty good lacing.

Aroma of dark fruit, caramel, and toasted malt. A nice dark breadyness comes through too.

Flavor has quite a bit of dark bread with more restrained fruity flavors. A healthy dose of toffee and caramel and some tartness. Carbonation is quite high in this leading to more of a sharpness compared to other ESB's I have had.

Overall, a good beer but not nearly in the same league as Fullers ESB. Not really something I would seek out again.

 555 characters

Photo of fx20736
4.47/5  rDev +19.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

served cool in a nonic.

Dark copper, thick toffee head.

aroma of grapes, nuts and rich toasted malt.

mouthfeel is thick and soft.

taste is rich, reminds me of eggnog, all the aromas are in the taste.

notes: this really good stuff, drinks like an old ale.

 259 characters

Photo of barczar
3.83/5  rDev +2.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Pours a clear, deep caramel color with orange highlights and a rich half inch cream head that leaves little lacing and lingers as a solid layer of foam.

Fruity hops, almost reminiscent of artificial cherry mingle with a moderate toasted, bready malt aroma. A bit of caramelization provides a nutty note that accents underlying floral hops.

Caramelization and big toasted, bready malt form the backbone of the flavor profile, with light citrus notes of lemon and a bit of floral hops leading into a somewhat bitter, dry finish. The malt lends a buttery, nutty touch in the background.

Body is moderate, with moderately low carbonation and a bit of astringency.

Very balanced beer. Both the malt and hops are complex enough to add intrigue without overtaking the flavor profile. Significant bitterness lends a dry finish that makes you want another sip.

 855 characters

Photo of nickfl
4.12/5  rDev +9.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A - Pours with one finger of off-white foam on top of a clear, copper-brown body. The foam settles fairly quickly and leaves decent lace.

S - Toasty brown malt, toffee, red apples, and plum.

T - Light, sugary malt up front with bready notes and a hint of toffee. Some light fruit notes in the middle with a touch of caramel. Finishes with more red apple, toffee and light hop bitterness.

M - Medium-thick body, moderate carbonation, and a slightly sweet finish.

D - Lots of rich malt flavors and a great, fruity yeast profile, but I find the hop character to be too weak for the style. The finish is completely dominated by the malt and lacks any of the bitterness that usually characterizes an English Bitter. Still, it is a flavorful and enjoyable ale and I can't complain that much about it failing to fit a style that it may not even have been intended to be.

 867 characters

Photo of drabmuh
3.63/5  rDev -3.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Served in a snifter. Beer is amber / light brown and clear with an thin off white head of medium sized bubbles, some lacing, low carbonation.

Aroma is mildly malty but a little hoppy.

Beer is medium to light in body, mildly bitter, nice finish, an average to slightly above average ESB. I might have it again but I won't go out of my way.

 340 characters

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

Clear deep amber under a small head that settles to a considerable bubbly ring. Fruity English yeast esters are well balanced with a toffee and bread malt base. More of the same with the flavor...lightly sweet malt, black tea, leather, honey, spicy/floral hops, and more fruity esters. Medium bodied and light on the carbonation. Drying with a delicate tartness. Nothing particularly special, but nice.

 402 characters

Photo of BeerAdvocate
3.87/5  rDev +3.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

From BeerAdvocate magazine Issue #58 (November 2011):

LOOK: Mildly hazed amber

SMELL: Ripe plums, herbal, woody, grassy, toasted grain, toffee, chalky yeast

TASTE: Smooth, creamy, medium body, semidry, toasty, faint toffee, grainy, overripe fruit, buttery, mild alcoholic esters, dried grassy finish

Saying “session” would be the easy way out, as this ale is much more than that. Complex, as layers peel back each minute it gets warmer. A prime example of the style that sets the benchmark pretty high for brewers. A delight to throw back!

 548 characters

first ← prev | 1-25 | 26-50 | 51-75  | nextlast
Theakston XB from T & R Theakston Ltd.
3.75 out of 5 based on 118 ratings.
  • About Us

    Your go-to website for beer (since 1996), publishers of BeerAdvocate magazine (since 2006) and hosts of world-class beer events (since 2003). Respect Beer.
  • BeerAdvocate Microbrew Invitational

    Join us June 2-3, 2017 in Boston, Mass. for beer, cider, mead, kombucha and sake from over 70 small producers.

    Learn More
  • Subscribe to BeerAdvocate Magazine

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