Anvil Ale ESB | AleSmith Brewing Company

very good
330 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

For Trade:
User Reviews
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters | Alström Bros
Reviews: 330 | Ratings: 673
Photo of SABERG
3.8/5  rDev -2.6%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 3.75

Poured into a modified tulip at 50deg.

A - Caramel colored, clarity is nice, light thin topping of white froth.
S - Tones of warm dark fruit, burnt sugar, and warm wheat toast.
T - Caramel, brown sugar, a hint of floral at the end.
M - Uniform coating that lingers for some time. The carbonation is low giving the mouth feel a slickness.
O - I find the offering a little thick, the flavor is complex, and the balance is wonderful
I will revisit and report back.

Cheers all

 474 characters

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...

 1,663 characters

Photo of msquared36
3.45/5  rDev -11.5%
look: 4 | smell: 2.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Caramel color with a thick tan head. Nice lacing.

Smells of black pepper and musty wool. There is something about the scent that is familiar but not necessarily pleasant.

Strong taste of caramel up front, though without the sweetness. Finishes with a crisp, balanced bitterness.

Tiny bubbles that make the beer smooth.

Overall a tasty beer. Not as drinkable as other ESBs though.

 385 characters

Photo of philbe311
3.72/5  rDev -4.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

A - Two plus fingers worth of active lush slightly creamy off-white colored froth comprised of medium-to-large sized bubbles... Rock solid retention... Ultimately there is a full, mostly thick, veil of lacing and a thin-to-moderate collar... The color is a darker than expected deep copperish bronze... There is a little ruby hue that lingers underneath as well... Loaded with micro-to-small bubbled carbonation that rises throughout... Gobs of lacing cling to the sides of the glass... A very nice looking ESB...

S - Bright and vibrant nose... Loaded with malty goodness... Short bread... Caramel... Toffee... Loads of airy light bready notes... A light layer of euro-hoppiness lingers a bit beneath the surface...

T - Mostly a malt bomb on the palate... Lots of bready malts... Caramel... Some light toffee as well.. There is a light hop presence... Also a bit of a metallic twang, but it's rather enjoyable...

M - Medium bodied... Smooth... Sleek... Even and consistent... Mostly lush with just a touch of dryness on the finish...

D - Insanely quaffable... A very nice ESB and another solid offering from Alesmith... There is a reason I consider them to be one of the top breweries going... Solid for the style... Solid regardless of style... Just a solid enjoyable brew... There's a lot going on here with a low 5.5% ABV... Good stuff...

 1,348 characters

Photo of smakawhat
3.89/5  rDev -0.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

Poured from the bottle into a nonic pint glass.

Real perfect copper red body, and deep crystal amber shine. Head is fluffy light tan evenly made, and grows a nice controlled four fingers tall. Light soapy lacing just coats the glass, and some fine white thin carbonation crawls on the sides. Great looking beer.

Large hints of loose leaf tea. Heavily herbal, but with some clove spice aromatics to match. Cinnamon. Some faint sweetness of caramel hiding in the background as well. Some almost creamy senses of milk too, very inviting.

Palate comes with a bit of flat mouthfeel. Slightly wet bodied, but with some leafy hops and large herbal tea like presence. Hints of mint, oolong on the finish. Soft tannins as well that coat but are also still quite wet. Hop forward a bit for a bitter, with the herbality growing nicely on the finish. Malt depth and sweetness is missing and classic esters.

If there's one thing I find about bitters is they usually have a good malt presence and this one while relishing some great herbal presences is really missing some malt depth. Some depth or crackery or biscuit and caramel oomph to this would really set this beer on fire.

 1,170 characters

Photo of BeerLover99
4.22/5  rDev +8.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

A: shiny copper body, 2 finger khaki head,
flawless legs

S: light herbal notes, toasted malt/grains

T: mild lemon peel, caramel, bready malt, earthy finish

M: med body, creamy smooth mouth

O: 1 of the best American ESBs I have ever tasted.
Having visited Eng + Sco, this is up there with
many of their finest offerings.


 352 characters

Photo of T100Mark
4.34/5  rDev +11.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Served on tap, in a shaker pint glass, at the California Fish Grill, in Lake Forest, California.

Appearance - Reddish brown in color. Fine, tan head that never entirely disappears. Good stickage on the side of the glass. Great clarity. A very handsome beer.

Smell - Sweet Carmel with just a hint of hop bitterness.

Taste - The first flavor that you experience Is the robust malty sweetness followed, quickly, by a subtle hop bite. The balance between the two is perfect.

Mouth - Fizzy. Tart. Fun!

Overall - AleSmith knocked this one out of the park! In my previous review, I damned AleSmith's IPA with faint praise. This beer, however, is a wonderful interpretation of an ESB. Watch out Fuller's.

 704 characters

Photo of anarchia
3.58/5  rDev -8.2%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

22 oz bomber. Bottled-on date reads 6/25/2013. Drinking today, 1/17/14. More carbonation than expected for the style. Lots of lacing. Ruby-colored beer, very clear. Aroma is very biscuity, has a "tang" to it that I would describe as faintly metallic. Sweet and fruity in the mouth. British malts are fairly subtle, lending some caramel and slight breadiness. Lots of fruitiness from the yeast, seems to be the dominant set of flavors here. Oily texture that coats the tongue. Some slight hop bitterness on the finish but they don't show up strong in the aroma or flavor profile. I'd like it better with more malt character, less carbonation, and maybe even a little more hop bitterness. Your mileage may vary.

 709 characters

Photo of Samuel906
3.21/5  rDev -17.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 2 | overall: 3.25

Pours a very nice looking reddish amber, very clear and bright with off-white to straw colored head that is thick and clingy. Some subtle effervescing of bubbles. Smell is caramel, apples, black tea and yeast. I get very pronounced tea character in the taste as well with hints of lemon and some thick bready malts to finish it off. Has a character reminiscent to me a bit of a Wee Heavy. Mouthfeel was much to thick and syrupy for me and did not suit the style well. Mild carbonation and my mouth was left feeling sticky.

 522 characters

Photo of scotorum
3.63/5  rDev -6.9%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

No visible bottling date, bought at a good price ($6.75) at a store notorious for leaving bottles on the shelves until sold, so God knows how old this is.

Poured from the 22 oz. bottle into a Harpoon IPA glass.

a: Deep nearly clear red-brown, huge bottle-conditioned tan head receded slowly to patchy surface foam and spotty lacing.

s: Ripe fruit.

t: Apples at first, a bit sour later, then a strong porterlike smokiness takes over. Near the end, when warmer, good caramel malt begins to shine through.

m: Medium, good body, smooth except for the slight sourness early on.

o: Odd for an ESB, like a cross between an English porter and a Belgian dubbel. The smoky porter taste which dominates later is pleasant enough, but lacks the malt dominance one might expect from an ESB. Probably the issue is a combination of bottle conditioning and age on the bottle, where the remaining yeast eventually bore some unintended fruity esters. I'll try to find a fresh bottle and give this another whirl.

 998 characters

Photo of PhillyStyle
3.71/5  rDev -4.9%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 3.5

On-tap at Father's Office in Santa Monica, CA:

The beer appeared a nice darker amber color accompanied by a small, off-white head, maybe 1 finger, which was not well retained. The beer gave off a nice, sweet toasted malt aroma that was balanced nicely with some earthy hops...very nice. If only the taste followed the aroma; the beer was much maltier than expected...I expected much more balance, but it was a nice bready malt, with hints of biscuit and toasted malt. The beer did have a really nice feel, medium body, smooth, creamy and very drinkable. Overall, I think that I need to give this one a shot again, but from this tasting, it was not bad.

 653 characters

Photo of hardy008
3.71/5  rDev -4.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Pours hazy dark copper with a small off white head. The aroma has toasted malt, caramel, and herbal hops.

Has a sweet taste with toasted malt, caramel, herbal and floral hops. Nicely balanced. A very solid beer, but with no truly outstanding flavors. All the flavors do compliment each other nicely, but none are very bold.

Medium bodied with slightly below normal carbonation. There is a toasted malt and caramel aftertaste. This is a well made beer, as all Alesmith beers are, and I would buy this again. I just wish there was more complexity.

 548 characters

Photo of Auraan
4.21/5  rDev +7.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Poured a nice deep amber with a one finger off-white head that receded to a nice ring off-white that left good lacing. Quite nice. Scents of sweet caramel malt, honey, light toasty notes and hints of grassy hops. Simple, appealing aroma. Flavor is toasty malt, a light sweet malt flavor, nutty flavors, earthy hops, moderate floral hop bitterness, slight toffee on the finish and aftertaste, also some grain husk on the aftertaste. A very good flavor, with a bit going on, but not too much that the beer is overwhelming. It remains extremely drinkable while having a pleasant flavor. Mouthfeel is light bodied, with moderate carbonation, fitting an English pub ale. Overall it's an excellent session beer, with a good aroma, flavor and drinkability and an excellent example of a classic British style.

 801 characters

Photo of GarthDanielson
3.92/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Poured from a bottle into a shaker pint, the beer is a dark, muddled, slightly hazed, ruby-highlighted amber coloring with a frothy, filmy, off-white head that settles into a thin surface coating. Aromas of sugary sweetness in front, with toffee and caramel notes abound, highlighted by hints of chocolate and an almost egg nog like character. Very rich and sweet. Flavors of roast forward, with a strong nutty character blending with a rich milk chocolate profile. Very interesting, very sweet and bitter, balanced, and a touch earthy. An overall roasted character prevails, with a bitter build towards the end of the palate, combining with a tangy caramel highlight. The body is thin, but robust and supportive of all the flavors. Aftertaste of tangy sweet and bitter, with a more toffee feel to it. Thin, slightly cloying and lingering finish, with a touch of dry at the end. Pretty solid brew, with very robust and bold flavors.

 932 characters

Photo of MattyG85
4.21/5  rDev +7.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Poured from a 22 oz. bottle into a tall Summit glass. Bottled on 06/13/13.

Appearance: Pours a deep copper amber orange with a lot of rising bubbles. Solid three fingers of off white head which slowly fade into a thinner creamy layer. Leaves a good amount of lacing clinging to the glass.

Smell: A nicely bready and nutty malt forward aroma with caramel and some earthy hops. Upfront bready and toasted malts with good hints of biscuit, sweet caramel, toffee, cracker, grains, yeast, nuts, oats, and some tea like hints. Decent earthy hop balance with some hints of grass and light pine. Subtle citrus fruit hints of orange, grapefruit, and lemon. Some light floral hints as well. Definitely an English smelling brew. Solid aroma.

Taste: Like the aroma, a bready malt forward taste with good notes of biscuit and caramel and some earthy hops. Toasty malts upfront with notes of biscuit, toffee, caramel, grains, yeast, cracker, nuts, and oats along with a tea like presence. Good presence of earthy hops with floral and herbal notes. Some grass and light pine is detected. Nice citrus notes of orange, lemon zest, and grapefruit. A very bready malt forward brew, but with a nice hop presence that brings some balancing bitterness.

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied with a moderate amount of carbonation. Very creamy and smooth. Starts sweet and finishes fairly dry.

Overall: A pretty solid English style Bitter. Good biscuity caramel malt taste with a solid American hop balance.

 1,477 characters

Photo of BMMillsy
3.77/5  rDev -3.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 3.75

Bottle from trade. Thanks brutha! Bottle date is rubbed and cant really see it. Pours a deep dark red amber with big frothy off white head. Aroma of lots sweet malts, fruit, some dry yeast, and a bit of earthy hops. Flavor is a big biscuity malt profile with slight bitter. A nice molasses presence but not sweet. Lingering maltiness on the aftertaste. Slightly resiny but overall light medium mouthfeel with medium carbonation. Pretty easy drinking brew that finishes clean. Not overly exciting but nicely executed.

 516 characters

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.

 1,166 characters

Photo of BeerFMAndy
4.24/5  rDev +8.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

22 oz bottle poured into a Nonic
5.5% ABV, Bottled on 06/13/13

A - Pouring mostly clear this tarnished copper beer rests quietly below a tall ivory foam that cakes the Nonic in lacing.

S - AleSmith captures smooth maltiness throughout the aroma, focusing on caramel and toffee nuances with toasted wheat bread crust undertones. Uniqueness, straying from the classic, comes through the use of American hops; citrus and soft pine accent the finish of this beer.

T - Anvil ESB remains malt forward at first, with toast and toffee flakes quickly shifting to American hoppiness that's balanced but forward for an ESB, lingering with lemon rind and soft pine cone.

M - Smooth and soft on the palate this ESB has a excellent level of carbonation, which allows the beer to finish out with a rather clean and balanced hop bitterness.

O - Anvil ESB is an interesting take on the style from AleSmith, incorporating a complex English malt profile with subtle but clearly American hops. Nice and drinkable, Anvil ESB finishes smooth!

 1,025 characters

Photo of utopiajane
3.86/5  rDev -1%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Pours a copper mahogany color, toward the brown with a garnet hue when held to the light. Scant head of loose beige foam that fell very fast but left admirable lace. Almost clear and just a pretty beer. Nose is fruity and herbal hops. Little pungent with a touch of orange peel way in back. Malt is lightly sweet with caramel. Taste is just as it should be. Fruity and earthy hops with a lightly sweet fruit meets a graceful malt that is sweet like brown sugar. together they glide over the palate to a gentle hop bitter and to the back palate where plenty of woody and earthy qualities combine for a soft aftertaste. Body of the beer is thin and creamy, the carbonation is soft. Has a great texture and is drinkable and very simple but also very brisk.

An instant favorite, this beer keeps all it's qualities in balance so that none boast of themselves above the others. It's big hearted and natural with a mild flavor that makes it easy to drink all day.

 958 characters

Photo of spointon
3.81/5  rDev -2.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 5 | overall: 3.5

I poured this one from a 22oz brown bomber bottle into a stemmed tulip glass.

A= This beer poured a super bright/clear orange amber color with a tall cream colored head that showed great retention. Tons of sticky lace down my glass.

S= Lots of nutty, toasty malts up front with earthy hops in the end.

T= Started off with a nicely complex nutty and toasty malt flavor, and some faint malt sweetness. Hop bitterness is modest, with a lot of earthy/herbal hop flavor. Alcohol is well integrated. Finish is moderately bitter with a long nutty/toasted malt aftertaste.

MF= Medium bodied, creamy mouthfeel, and a soft but firm carbonation level. Pretty spot on for the style in every respect.

D= Super drinkable and well made ale. While this is really drinkable and tasty, it is not particularly "Englishy" in character. I am guessing this wasn't made with an English yeast strain and the toasty character is a bit much. That being said though, this is highly drinkable and enjoyable.

 984 characters

Photo of CommanderOfAwesome
4.2/5  rDev +7.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

22 oz bomber poured into a snifter.

A: Pours a golden amber color with a wonderful 2 finger head that lingers. Delicious lacing on the glass the whole way down the glass.

S: Toasted grains, slight herbal tea, some nutty-ness and some caramel sweetness.

T: Creamy smooth, Caramel malt backing with a biscuity characteristic. Just really easy drinking, with a packed with a mouthful of flavor.

M: Surprisingly fuller bodied, perfect amount of carbonation, sweet on the palate that finishes dry.

O: a fantastic beer that perfectly illustrates the style. I recently had a homebrew from a friend that was close to this, so I was looking for a sessionable beer that fit that mold. Very easy drinking beer. Def check it out.

 727 characters

Photo of bennetj17
3.66/5  rDev -6.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

Bottled 3-6-13. Dark copper color, very clear, with a robust head of tan foam. The foam lasts nicely, leaving behind some spotty lace. Bready smell, with touches of grassy hops. The aroma has a slight vegetal character as well.

Taste is very similar to aroma, the malt sweetness is low, with a cracker-like flavor and only mild suggestions of caramel. There is also some more vegetal character which is not very desirable. The finish is lightly dry with a good bitter bite. Alcohol is low in this beer. The mouthfeel has a medium body and decent carbonation but otherwise unremarkable.

I've been avoiding reviewing this beer for years and tonight I figured let's give it a shot. I guess the fact that AleSmith is finally putting a date on the bottle is why I was willing to pick it up. I could trust it wasn't like 2 years old or something like that. In the end I wasn't too impressed. The vegetal notes are a bit off-putting, and overall it's just not well rounded enough to score highly. Considering this is $5 a bomber I would much rather get a sixer of GI Honker's or something like that. Worth a try...

 1,111 characters

Photo of RaulMondesi
3.59/5  rDev -7.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Chilling out niccce and slow at tha new spot - Linx, in the Circle of Orange, CA.

While chomping down a vegan sausage (vegetarians, represent) Raul decided on this bad boi because of the price and volume offered. And what does Raulsky think? Aiiite! Well, Raul isn't tripping like Jennifer Lawrence at the Oscars, but it's sleek and cool enough to sip on while looking all sleek and cool.


 397 characters

Photo of rhoadsrage
4.3/5  rDev +10.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

(Served in a Nonic)
A- This beer pours a deep dark copper body with a slight dense thick light tan cream that last for a good bit and some microbubbles pushing to the surface.

S- The flinty green British hops have some earthy notes to them with a clean finish. As the beer opens there is a nice mineral note and a lightly toasted dry malt aroma.

T- The soft dry pale malt covered slightly by a papery green hop flavor that has just a hint of tartness to it and a mineral note in the finish with just a touch of husky grain.

M- The light mouthfeel has a gentle fizz and no alcohol heat noticed.

O- The nice clean easy drinking session beer has a good hop profile and a nice fresh dry malt character to boot. Even though it was a large bottle it didn’t last long.

 771 characters

Photo of GuzzLah
3.64/5  rDev -6.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

A - pours a fairly clear dark amber with a beige head and some lace. No bubbles.

S - bready yeast and malts with herbal and soft cinnamon hops. Faint red grape malt note. Not much roastyness.

T - is very similar to the aroma. Bready and herbal with a dash of spice and a touch of chocolate malt. Nice balance in the flavor and nothing is extreme.

M - medium body with low-medium carbonation and a good feel for the style.

O - a malt forward, bready beer with a mild bitterness. It lacks the English funky yeast, but it is a good American interpretation of the style.

 570 characters

Anvil Ale ESB from AleSmith Brewing Company
3.9 out of 5 based on 673 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

    No fake news here. Get real beer content delivered to your doorstep every month.