Anvil Ale ESB | AleSmith Brewing Company

very good
331 Reviews
Anvil Ale ESBAnvil Ale ESB

Brewed by:
AleSmith Brewing Company
California, United States

Style: Extra Special / Strong Bitter (ESB)

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 5.50%

Availability: Fall

Notes / Commercial Description:
No notes at this time.

Added by kbub6f on 03-10-2002

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Reviews: 331 | Ratings: 674
Photo of Sammy
3.88/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

I am surprised I was able to finish a 750 over lunch, but I did. It is nicely done, somewhat bitter and not complex. But went well with various lunch dishes. Rather mild Malty and floral and understated fruitiness. Thanks Don for bringing back fresh from San Diego!

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Photo of UCLABrewN84
3.85/5  rDev -1.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a slightly hazy dark copper with a 1 inch foamy khaki head that settles to a film on top of the beer. Thin broken rings of lace form around the glass on the drink down. Smell is of malt and some earthy and herbal hop aromas. Taste is of toasted malt and some nice earthy, herbal hop flavors on the finish. There is a mild amount of bitterness on the palate with each sip. This beer has a good level of carbonation with a crisp mouthfeel. Overall, this is a good beer that is tasty and easy to drink.

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Photo of StonedTrippin
3.75/5  rDev -3.8%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

a fine esb, which has the odd misnomer of being called bitter, when in fact these are sweeter, grain driven beers. perhaps in my case bitter has a very different, more diabolical meaning. it was brew that started as a celebration of a big win in the stanley cup playoffs last night, guzzling the sweet copper colored liquid right from the bottle in jovial preparation for what was sure to be a winnable game 7 forthcoming. to me it was a beer that would taste awful good out of the cup itself in a few more months. however, as the aromas of burnt sugar, english toffee, and old world ale yeast moved into flavors of maple syrup, candied apples, and werthers candies, the unthinkable happened. the home team gives up two goals in the final two minutes, and lost early in overtime, a situation that had less than a 0.4% chance of occurring. as jubilation turned to head in hands curses to the powers that be, and soft goaltending, anvil esb went from a celebratory quaff to a sorrow drowning full bodied sweet beer i almost resented as much as i liked it to start. and as a playoff beard that began on game 1 of 82 way back in early october fell hair by hair into an already dirty white sink and razor burn irritation set in, the final lukewarm dregs of this beer were of little comfort. this beer, like the play of my team, was good for some 95% of its performance, but it ends up middling by the end. an all too frequent collapse not only for my team, but for this underwhelming style. the parallels are too many to name. 22 ounces never experienced to much emotion, from the summit of the greatest mount, to hopeless dejection that will span the entire summer...

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Photo of metter98
3.88/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

On-tap at Valhalla, New York, NY

A: The beer is clear but dark reddish garnet in color and has no visible carbonation. It poured with a quarter finger high off white head that died down, leaving a thick ring of bubbles around the edge and lots of lacing down the sides of the glass.
S: There are moderate aromas of earthy hops and biscuit malts in the nose.
T: Like the smell, the taste is earthy and malty and has hints of mineral water in the flavors.
M: It feels a bit shy of medium-bodied and slightly clean on the palate with a moderate amount of carbonation. The finish leaves a little dryness in your mouth.
O: This beer seems more flavorful and fuller-bodied compared to other ESBs but it is still very easy to drink.

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Photo of BEERchitect
3.5/5  rDev -10.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

With all the newfangled ales that microbrewers are churning out (hell, I even saw a beer with bull testicles in it), Its refreshing to see time honored recipes still making waves.

Anvil ESB pours with a bright, light-gold color and the most modest of haze. A billowing ivory-white head races to the top of the glass with loosely knit foam that settles into a creamy blanket and scattering a spider-webbing of foam down the glass.

Thin caramel, biscuit and pecans start the show as the malts provide a most supple type of sweetness rounded by the slightest toasted grain character. Its dry taste is perfectly balanced with a floral hop nose and honeysuckle taste from noble English hops before developing into a spicy middle and a drying woodish bitterness to close.

Its light body is accented by its high effervescence that springs the ale from the tongue and ushers in a fast, snappy, and slightly iron-like finish. Mild minty warmth stems from alcohol along with a medium pepper note and slim hop-derived bite to close.

Anvil is an effortless ale that's well suited for near sessionable quality, but is sturdy enough for that decadent plate of bangers & mash.

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Photo of brentk56
3.7/5  rDev -5.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Appearance: Pours a clear copper color with a thick, foamy head that leaves a few shards of lace

Smell: Musty caramel, overripe stone fruit, Burton-on-Trent water character, earthy hops and tobacco

Taste: Toasted bread and caramel, up front, followed by the overripe stone fruit; by the time mid-palate rolls around, the earthy hops and tobacco combat the mineral-heavy Burton-on-Trent water taste and it is those flavors that persist into the finish

Mouthfeel: Medium to full body with moderate carbonation

Drinkability: While I generally like the ESB style, I am not a fan of the Burton beers and I am afraid this one reminds me too much of its antecedents; well-crafted, just not to my taste

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Photo of kojevergas
2.86/5  rDev -26.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

Acquired at a beer store near San Diego about five days ago for $4.99. 1 pint 6 fl oz brown glass bottle with standard pressure cap served into a Uinta pilsner glass in me gaff in low altitude Los Feliz, California. Reviewed live. Expectations are high given the brewery, which rarely ceases to impress me.

Served a bit warmer than refrigerator cold. Side-poured with standard vigor as no carbonation issues are anticipated.

A: Pours a four finger khaki head of nice cream, nice thickness, and great retention - though the ABV is merely average. Colour is a clear vibrant amber. No yeast particles are visible. No bubble show. Appealing all around, but not unique or special.

Sm: Heavy toasted malt character. Heavy caramelization. Mild floral hops. A bit of biscuit malt. Some bubblegum. I never much cared for the ESB aroma, but this represents the style well. An average strength aroma.

T: Creamy open to a lightly toasted and caramelized clean bland malt foundation with mild floral hop tinges. Very empty in terms of flavour. There's little going on here. Quite simple. No yeast or alcohol comes through. A bit boring. I do like the fresh, clean feel. A bit of peanut butter on the climax. I assume it's diacetyl. Lacks body. No real complexity, though maybe some subtlety.

Mf: Velvety, smooth, and wet. Too much so on each count. Too light. Lacks presence. Suits the style but not really the flavours.

Dr: Admittedly, I'm not big on this style. Alesmith represents it fine, and I respect that - but I've had more enjoyable ESBs. It's drinkable, but overpriced and not worth it. I wouldn't get this again. I tip me hat to Alesmith because I'm sure fans of the style like this one, but I don't care for it. Best left only to true fans of the style.


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Photo of Phyl21ca
3.83/5  rDev -1.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Bottle courtesy of Naven: Poured a medium brown color ale with a medium foamy head with good retention and some good lacing as well. Aroma of dry malt with some fresh lightly bitter hops. Taste is also well balance between dry malt with some very light sweet notes and a dry light bitter finish. Average body with medium carbonation. Overall, I thought this was simple without much complexity but well made to quench thirst.

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Photo of zeff80
3.96/5  rDev +1.5%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

A - Poured out a golden amber color with a bubbly/soapy, off-white, two-finger head. It left nice rings of lace.

S - It smelled of citrus and roasted malt aroma.

T - It tasted of tons of hops and very grassy. Great roasted malt flavor.

M - It was crisp and sharp. A medium-bodied beer.

D - This is a very good ESB.

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Photo of Thorpe429
3.88/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Thanks to t0rin0 for sending this bottle my way. Served in a Bell's tulip pint glass.

Pours a moderate brown-amber color with a good off-white head and a nice bit of lacing on the way down. Collar throughout. The nose brings some light floral and earthy hops. A bit of bready malt. Flavor has a nice bitterness mixed with light hop flavor and bready malt through the background. Really excellent balance. Light-medium body and a semi-dry finish. Really nicely done ESB.

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Photo of oberon
3.87/5  rDev -0.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

I have been wanting to try this for going on three or four years now,after having it I feel maybe a little underwhelmed.Poured into a imperial nonic a slight hazed copper/bronze with a creamy-like light tan colored one finger head that left broken rings of lace as it settled into a creamy mass.Aromas are the best trait of the beer,the sweet caramel really burst out at ya,juicy fruitiness,and leafy hop provide the other elements.Seemed just a tad watery in the mouth,not earth shattering but it wasnt quite as rich as some others of the style in my opinion.Nice flavors but it seemed to miss a punch in the finish,starts out fruity and deeply caramelly,a pretty good shot of leafy hop rides thru the finish,the water gives that certain sulpheric element that Iam not overly fond of.Its a good ESB, but there are better American versions,I like a big bready malt character to mine.

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Photo of superspak
4/5  rDev +2.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

22 ounce bottle into pint glass, no bottle dating, purchased recently. Pours lightly hazy reddish copper color with a nice 1-2 finger fairly dense khaki head with good retention, that reduces to a nice cap that lingers. Spotty foamy lacing clings down the glass. Aromas of orange, grapefruit, pine, toast, raisin, caramel, molasses, floral, grass, biscuit, light nuttiness, and herbal. Very nice aromas with good strength and balance. Taste of grapefruit, caramel, toast, orange, bread, light nuttiness, grass, tea, floral, toffee, and herbal. Light herbal bitterness on the finish; with lingering notes of citrus, grass, tea, caramel, toast, nuttiness, floral, and herbal on the finish for a bit. Very nice flavor balance with good complexity; nice bitterness/sweetness balance; zero cloying flavors on the finish. Medium carbonation and body; with a creamy and fairly crisp mouthfeel that is nice. Alcohol is very well hidden with only a slight warming noticed after the finish. Overall this is an damn nice ESB. Well balanced flavors with good complexity; extremely smooth to drink. No complaints at all, a very enjoyable offering as expected.

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Photo of jlindros
3.88/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a nice looking fluffy slightly tan 1 finger head that fades fairly slowly and leaves decent lacing as it does. The beer is a mostly clear darker amber toasty ruby reddish colored beer, with lots of bubbles rising up to reinforce the head.

Nose emits an herbal earthy grassy hop aroma, lightly floral, fairly grassy, with hints of herbal notes, light malty aromas with hints of toasty reddish malts, but that's about it.

Taste comes out malty at first, some caramel and plenty of toasty reddish copper malts, with a hint of sweetness and some juicy malts. Then hops again, but keeps from getting too bitter. A big grassy herbal hop flavor comes through, but not the Hedgerow herbal vegetative UK style herbal, a different one I can't really label otherwise. I like this one better than the U.K. style I'm used to. The earthy hops bring hints of fruit as well, and quite grassy almost hay like grassy. As it finishes it dries quite a bit with lots of toasty grainy speckled copper malts, a nice bitterness that doesn't overpower, and a bit more of the very grassy slight herbal hops.

Mouth is med to a bit lighter bodied, tons of carbonation.

Overall not bad, better than I expected, I kinda put this one off for a little while as I was afraid it would have that herbal U.K. like hop that I don't like in most ESBs. Decent grainy malts, nice grassy hops, a bit floral, earthy, and tasty, without too much bitterness or sweetness.

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Photo of NeroFiddled
4.43/5  rDev +13.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

Carefully poured off of the yeast sediment it's only slightly hazy. The body is a standard amber color and the head is a short, creamy, light tan cap that holds well, keeping a thin and creamy 1/4" surface covering throughout the pint. Very nice appearance! The aroma comes on strong. It's sharply fruity and citrusy (orange, apricot, some lemon) over a sweet caramel and honey-ish malt - definitely attention getting! The body is medium with a lightly zesty carbonation that tickles the tongue. The flavor is a combination of fruity, citrusy (orange, grapefruit) and floral flavors from yeast and hops, married with a softly sweet and lightly toasty malt that's backed by a supportive bitterness. It finishes fruity but drying with some residual toffee-ish malt and swirling hop flavors. Very nicely balanced. Quite supple, and alive with bold flavors! Very clean and clearly well brewed. It's a bit of an American interperetation, and dare I say it, a touch one-sided (although that goes partly to the style)... but also highly drinkable. Well worth seeking out.

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Photo of Kegatron
3.68/5  rDev -5.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

22 oz bottle into a pint glass.

Pours a clear amber with a finger of foamy off-white head. Retains with a big creamy dollop that eventually spreads out and coats the sides with lace. The aroma is floral with hops and a bit spicy, with a splash of citrus and some thicker malts sweetness behind it.

The taste is bread and caramel, mingling with citric character, and some lightly spicy hop bitterness that slowly strengthens as this warms. The mouthfeel is medium bodied with a definite firmness to the carbonation but still stays fairly easy feeling in the mouth.

Quality ESB from Alesmith, that while it took a bit to warm up, this offered some solid flavors and stayed easy drinking. Nice.

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Photo of mactrail
3.01/5  rDev -22.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2.5

Tastes like a very lightweight English ale. Some fruitiness to the hops. Touch of sourness and dirty or earthy hops. Thin and lacking in malt. Dry and woody. Nice to look at, however, with dark amber color and long-lasting foam. Whiff of beery roast malt. If only there was more in the flavor.

Tastes like a very dilute amber ale. I get too much of the dishwater taste for this to be enjoyable.

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Photo of BuckeyeNation
3.86/5  rDev -1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Bloodshot orange-copper loaded with fine yeast; a gorgeous, multi-hued constellation of colors when viewed through late afternoon sunshine. The pale caramel colored head has rapidly compressed to its current two finger thickness, but doesn't appear to be interested in falling any farther. Although there isn't much lace initially, subsequent pours result in a thick, crusty band at midglass.

The nose is balanced and would be much better if it was stronger. There's a firm, toasted malt base with orange fruity hops layered on top. I can't tell for sure which hop varieties are in use, but it smells like an Anglo-American effort to me; heavier on the Anglo. It's a decent ESB nose, no more than that.

Anvil Ale is solid, like the implement that it was named for. Still though, I'm not tempted to go with the next highest flavor score. The flavor profile is supremely balanced. A toasted whole grain breadiness is seamlessly integrated with an acceptably bitter, orange marmalade hoppiness.

This is pretty unchallenging beer considering who brewed it. I can't decide if I mean that in a good way or a bad way. It has no rough edges and is tremendously polite in the mouth. That makes it a tremendously easy drinker and a wonderful session ESB on the one hand. On the other hand, it has no standout qualities that really impress me.

The bottom-of-the-bottle-therefore-even-more-yeast pour doesn't add anything of value to the flavor profile; nor does the flavor change appreciably as the beer warms. The mouthfeel is medium with a nod toward light-medium. A little more heft and a few more bubbles are what I'd recommend if asked.

After the incredibly wonderful, delightfully delicious AleSmith IPA and YuleSmith DIPA, my expectations for Anvil Ale were sky high. Although it failed to meet those expectations, it's far from disappointing beer. In the final reckoning, it's a good example of the American ESB style and should appeal to a wide range of people.

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Photo of russpowell
3.58/5  rDev -8.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Pours an effervescent orange/caramel with 3+ fingers of rocky sand-colored head. Very good head retention & good lacing

S: Slight fruittyness & some breadyness. Fruttyness picks up as this warms up

T: Some fruittyness & then lemony & grapefruitty hops up front. Leafy, peppery & citrussy hops & some biscuitty malt follows as this warms. Finishes with some apricot jam & pears, plus leafy hops.

MF: Medium-bodied with low carbonation, skews a bit too hoppy for me

Drinks okay, I like my ESBs maltier, this one is just okay-good. I'm shocked, Ale Smith has made at least one beer that I'm not crazy about!

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Photo of mikesgroove
4.35/5  rDev +11.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

What a great thing to be trying a new Alesmith brew! This one poured a very vigorous deep orange amber. A very dark color which took me a little by surprise to be honest. A very nice three inches of head formed on the top in a good light tan to off white color. Great retention had this thing hanging around for what seemed like forever. Some sediment actually poured out of the bottom and graced over the top of the foam at the end. A very hazy and cloudy brownish amber this was and it had a very full look to it. A very nice aroma of deep caramel malts was the first thing I noticed. A nice subtle hoppiness as well, though sweet. The flavor was very full, almost a hoppy scotch ale of sorts. Very big with a grainy and chewy kind of feel to it. Medium body with ample carbonation led to a great rich feel and this was just a superb drinker. Overall I really liked this one. Much more full bodied then some of the ESB’s I have had in the past, this one really had a body on it and was very filling. Great hoppy finish and a very well rounded feel. A great ESB and a great addition to the Alesmith lineup, this one was definitely a keeper.

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Photo of billab914
3.91/5  rDev +0.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured from a 22oz bottle into my Dogfish shaped pint glass. Pours a dark brown slightly red color with a huge off-white head. Very nice head retention and excellent lacing. Aroma is a nice mix of the sweet malts and the English hops. Taste is nicely balanced with the bitterness of the hops and sweetness of the malt. There is some nice roastedness and chocolate flavore to the malt to the malts as well. I'm also getting some slight fruit characteristics, maybe some apple. Enjoyable beer from Alesmith as usual.

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Photo of smcolw
4.03/5  rDev +3.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Dark amber color (similar to light maple syrup). Clear. Nice ascending head from the pour. Settles in lumpy fashion, leaving lots of webby lace.

Mildly earthy with a bit of semi-sweet chocolate. Good balancing hop to the nose.

Here is an ESB with a touch of Porter. Lots cocoa and spicy hop bitterness. The body is as one should expect for the style.

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Photo of Jason
4.13/5  rDev +5.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

Presentation: 22oz brown bomber, white silk screened label with no freshness date.

Appearance: Lush creamy looking off white lace. Red tarnish copper colour just about glows, real decent clarity from the yeast that has dropped well with the bottle conditioning.

Smell: Fruity with a mildly coarse herbal hop aroma, bit of lightly toasted grain and caramel in the nose also.

Taste: So damn smooth with a creamy back, carbonation is moderate but tight and textured. Big juicy fruit and bitter herbal hop twang, little bit of caramel and biscuity grain on the palate. Hop flavour is soft and nearly floral with woody undertones. Fruity with traces of ripe blood orange and rind, yeast is there yet more neutral than anything else. More caramel comes through when the beer hits cellar temp with a long grainy and leafy hop finish.

Notes: Do this beer some justice, serve it at cellar temp and in a big mug to give nice firm pouring. Highly drinkable with back and forth flavours from the malt and hops. Right on target for the style, back and forth of hops and malt … this one is a keeper.

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Photo of womencantsail
3.78/5  rDev -3.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

On-tap at Beachwood Brewing

A: The beer pours a dark amber color with a couple fingers of white head and some mild lacing.

S: Heavy on the caramel and toffee malts with some traditional English hop aromas. A nice earthy and floral hop character to this one with a hint of pine. Some mild cocoa and toasted bread, as well as some yeast, on the back end.

T: The flavor is similar to the aroma. Just a touch of citrus, but mostly floral and earthy hops with a mild bitterness to the beer. Sweet toffee, bread, and caramel hops with plenty of toasted character.

M: Medium to full bodied with a medium level of carbonation.

O: Like most Alesmith beers, really solid stuff. I could have used a little less sweetness, but the beer was still enjoyable.

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Photo of mdfb79
3.58/5  rDev -8.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

From 12/03/10 notes. Poured from a 22 oz. bottle into a pint glass.

a - Pours a mahogany brown color with one finger of fluffy off white head and moderate carbonation evident.

s - Smells of bready malts, light fruit, sweet sugar, and light caramel malts.

t - Tastes of caramel malts, bready malts, and light fruit.

m - Medium body and low carbonation.

d - A pretty good ESB, but not my favorite. Had some nice caramel and bready malts in the smell and taste and a nice smooth mouthfeel. Would try again.

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Photo of WVbeergeek
4.02/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Appearance: Poured into my Aventinus glass after sitting out of the fridge for awhile allowing it to warm up a bit, forms a nice caramel tan head that compliments the deep plum ruby tone of the body nice and cloudy some yeasties floating around. Lacing chunky patches spread unevenly with each sip not bad. Aroma: Hops have a very herbal tone with some caramel malts seeking through and a mineral note to add as well a bit metallic but not in an off way. Taste: Fair mix of big flavors with a great amount of hoppiness that is almost tame due to the amount of malts used here perfect sparring match between the caramel malts and piney hops great balance is where this beer got it's reputation, not in your face flavor. Mouthfeel: Medium bodied mellow carbonation nice texture going down. Drinkability: The balance of flavors is what makes this beer great overall ESB fits the style while still adding it's own flavor.

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Anvil Ale ESB from AleSmith Brewing Company
3.9 out of 5 based on 674 ratings.
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