XB | T & R Theakston Ltd.

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118 Ratings

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

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Ratings: 118 |  Reviews: 63
Photo of grahamboudreaux
4/5  rDev +7.2%

Photo of woodychandler
3.68/5  rDev -1.3%
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 Sipchue
3.25/5  rDev -12.9%

Photo of pkalix
4.67/5  rDev +25.2%
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 mwar
3.75/5  rDev +0.5%

Photo of GreyGhost4
4/5  rDev +7.2%

Photo of leinie13
4/5  rDev +7.2%

Photo of dmcclurejr
4/5  rDev +7.2%

Photo of dougbassett
3.5/5  rDev -6.2%

Photo of Dapperticus
4.25/5  rDev +13.9%

Photo of tdm168
3.65/5  rDev -2.1%
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 mquinn919
4/5  rDev +7.2%

Photo of smcolw
3.47/5  rDev -7%
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 DaveRTP
3.75/5  rDev +0.5%

Photo of bumchilly25
3.75/5  rDev +0.5%

Photo of damndirtyape
3.61/5  rDev -3.2%
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 drinkable...it'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 -0.3%
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 +19.8%
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 +2.7%
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 +10.5%
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 Mebuzzard
4.25/5  rDev +13.9%

Photo of drabmuh
3.63/5  rDev -2.7%
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 -2.9%
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 +3.8%
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

Photo of GreenMountainBoy
3.5/5  rDev -6.2%

XB from T & R Theakston Ltd.
Beer rating: 3.73 out of 5 with 118 ratings