Anvil Ale ESB | AleSmith Brewing Company

very good
676 Ratings
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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User Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 676 |  Reviews: 332
Photo of armock
4/5  rDev +2.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A - Poured an amber color with a tan head that leaves some lacing behind

S - Is of sweet caramel malt with some hints of dark fruit

T - Follows the nose caramel malt and dark fruits with a bitter finish

M - This beer has a medium body with higher carbonation to it

D - Overall this is an enjoyable beer it has a good taste making it easy to drink I could drink a few of these in a sitting worth trying sometime

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Photo of bohemiandonut
4.4/5  rDev +12.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

Toasty, stout-like malts surround an orange-rind bitterness. Promising ecru head dies off too soon, might benefit from a tulip glass. I really love the bitterness on this - it is subtle but an absolute feat aside the malts.

I'm thinking the right glassware is truly essential here. The foamy head on this is as enticing and luxurious as that of primo cappuccino: great to get both textures in at once.

A supremely drinkable beer that keeps you guessing. An IPA without the heavy oils? An herbal stout? A cooling, anti-Belgian? This is a super piece of work under the radar. Looking forward to more from the brewers and of this style.

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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 missingsense
4.32/5  rDev +10.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Reviewed on 5/13/10

A: Dark amber with a small tan head comprised of tiny, clingy bubbles.

S: Nice, strong aroma of stone fruits (particularly plum) and berries. A bit of caramel and toffee.

T: Dried fruit and sticky sweetness. Sweetness lingers and gradually melds with a slight bitterness to balance it out. Subtle toffee-like notes in the background.

D: Flavorful enough to need only one, yet it was very easy to drink. Overall, it was a quite delicious beer. Since it's relatively local, I would certainly have it again to support the Southern California brewers.

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Photo of corby112
3.95/5  rDev +1.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

Pours a very deep dark coppery chestnut brown with dark mahogany edges that is completely opaque with a very thin off white head that quickly fades into a thin lasting ring.

Slightly hoppy aroma with a decent amount of sweet, slightly roasty malt, caramel malt and subtle chocolate and toffee notes. I'm also picking up some subtle rye and more earthy hops toward the end of the nose.

Chewy full malty body with a prominent caramel malt presence that is slightly roasty as well as some toffee, rye and milk chocolate character. It's also pretty hop forward with a strong citrus peel presence and some earthy pine notes. This is quickly countered by the prominent malt profile but it lingers throughout into a sweet and slightly bitter dry finish. Pretty well balanced with a slightly more prominent hop profile. Kind of like a roided up American version of an English ESB.

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Photo of bulletrain76
3.36/5  rDev -13.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

22oz bottle. Clear red/brown with a medium, rocky off-white head that laces a little. The aroma hit me as a little off a first, with a definite lemon iced tea character. I think its was the yeast. Kinda cool, but strange. The flavor had a little of the same, with subtle hops that balanced it out nicely. Some grape tartness too. medium body with ample but soft carbonation. An odd ESB, but very drinkable and interesting at the same time. I'll definitely get another the next time I'm down in SD.

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Photo of TexIndy
3.76/5  rDev -3.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Poured from a 750ml bottle into a pint glass. No dating info but Milt bought direct from Alesmith and shipped same day so it's fresh and well handled. Was a rich ruby color with some carb streams. Had a 2 finger tan head hat settled into a thin foam. Good lacing as the head retreats.

Never been a huge fan of the ESB aroma or flavor but this one is excellent for the style. Aroma is toasted and caramel malts mixed with herbal and floral hops. The taste follows the aroma with the malt taking the lead. Been on a major hop kick the past year so this very malty brew while good doesn't quench the thirst as well as it used to. Mouthfeel is medium with good carbonation.

Overall, a very good ESB that I recommend if you like the style or are looking to try one in it. For me, it's good but not something I'd seek out that often. Rotation - not avail in TX so had shipped. Would try again during the brewery tour but no more bottles or tap at bar.

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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 coldmeat23
4.43/5  rDev +13.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

TEMP: Cellared @ approx 50 degrees

Wowee! An easy-to-medium pour just gave me, literally, a mug full of foam. Thick, creamy, tan colored foam. Almost like a Nitro-tap pour. After about eight minutes or so, it finally leaves me with a lightly amber tinted, golden colored liquid. Slightly darker than I'm used to for an ESB, which pleases me. The lacing is spotty, plentiful, and sticky.

A fair amount of toasted malt presence is in the nose. Nice presence of floral hops. Light hints of apples and traces of dark fruits.

The taste follows the nose very well. Loads of that toasted malt flavor. It blends quite nicely with a balanced level of those wonderful floral hop notes. Light hints of granny smith apples and bing cherries. There is a very light hint of smokiness in the aftertaste.

This has a nice, medium, body. It has a medium-to-high level of carbonation. It's nice, little, small bubbles, which help it out. It is smooth, with a mild level of active-ness on your tongue. It has a slight touch of creaminess, which helps it's enjoyability factor.

Traditionally, I am not big on the ESB style, but this is a definite exception. This is a beer that I could drink many of. Often.
Thank you, Alesmith!

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Photo of Offa
4.06/5  rDev +4.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Although not outstanding, this is very good and very balanced. It has more of an American amber/red ale quality than a true English taste to it, and is a bit on the bland side, yet it's very balanced with both maltiness and hoppines as an ESB should be. Although the character profile is not quite what I look for in an ESB, and is a bit flat and bland, the character it does have holds up well. This, combined with the balance, extremely clean quality, and lack of anything at all off, makes this a solid, drinkable, and pleasant ale.

Deep red, it has a medium large creamy tan head with faint orange hue to it, steadily srhinking to a thin foamy top and leaving a little bit of lace.

The aroma is toasty malty with musty fruit, faintly lafy and citrusy, flowery and more like a fuller American amber/red ale than true English ESB.

Taste is simlar to aroma, yet very balanced. On the first taste, it's hard to detect anything specific - only a restrained, balanced, general malty-hoppy character. However, it develops definite light fruitiness, faintly sweet-sour in an English way, with light faintly winey plum, but also a light mustiness more common to American red/amber ales that try to be English in style. There's a light toastiness, faintly approaching chocolate hints, more in line with a brown ale or darker, maltier American amber/red, and it lacks any buttery or caramelly quality so common in English ales. It has light leafy, faintly citrusy-spicey bitterness with faint musty orange to balance light sweetness, the hops tending more to the English than American in character. It's clean with a light mineral quality. Overall, it's on the dryish side, very balanced in bitterness and sweetness, malt vs hop. There's a definite, light yeastiness with grain, but again more like a typical American amber than an actual English ESB. It's also a bit on the bland side; the character's somewhat thin, lacking complexity. The feel is good, lively yet rather full in feel. It's easy to drink.

However, drink this warmer, cellar temperature preferably. It is an ESB and like most good ESB loses much of its character when colder than that.

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Photo of macktbone
3.76/5  rDev -3.6%
look: 3 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

A- reddish gold in appearance with a thick head that clings to the glass as it mellows out. Part of the head looks like a rootbeer float, coagulated along the edges with a darker color.

S- sour apple, bitterness, smells clean and refreshing. sweet hops, grapes. Reminds me of sticking my head in one of the barrels at Firestone Brewery (the blow off tank).

T- CO2...No kidding, it tastes like Carbon dioxide. The bitterness is well represented. Hops are there but definately not overpowering, just as it should be. After taste is of vanilla cream soda.

M- Nice thickness without being too sticky.

D- Another good showing from Alesmith. ESB is not my cup of tea generaly but this is a good daily drinker.

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Photo of theopholis
3.23/5  rDev -17.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Appearance- Body is a relatively clear, deep amber with blood orange highlights. The head is huge, and has decent staying power. Very little lacing however, and what there is doesn't last. Continually effervesces with very small bubbles for quite some time.

Smell- Decent, malt sweetness on the nose, but not cloying. Hints of darker mark flavors and some good English hops. Just the barest hint of cideryness.

Taste- Tastes like a decent English ESB except just the barest hint of pinyness. This is not to style, but actually enhances the flavor. Good malt proile with a hint of creaminess. Not as much toastiness as I would expect. Gets a bit biscuity as it warms. Overall, very nice.

Mouthfeel: Good and creamy all around, medium-bodied. Low level of carbonation, whuch works well. Not much stickiness tho, which detracts from the aftertaste.

Drinkability: A decent, but not great ESB.

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Photo of Bung
3.95/5  rDev +1.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

22 oz. Amber pour, fluffy white head. Spicy citrus nose, some malt. Surprisingly creamy mouth feel. Citrus with some malt and caramel apple. A little acidic. Pretty clean finish with some hop bite. Drinkable, overall not bad for the style. Would have liked a little more maltiness and tea/tobacco. Worth trying, unique bottle art also.

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Photo of asabreed
4.16/5  rDev +6.7%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Bomber into a pint glass.

Appearance: Every pour is a tsunami of a head. Nothing backs down. Tons of rain forest and windshield lacing. Hazy darker copper amber body. Haven't seen retention or a head this good, first pour or last, on any ESB, ever.

Smell: Buttery diacetyl amber darker mark flavors and some good English hops.

Taste: The balance here seems much like an English ESB, which should be the case, and thankfully. Good malt, a little burnt or toastedness going on, and a bit of buttery biscuit and mild hops. A fiery amber fruity malt backbone comes to fruition as it warms. Long lingering biscuity mildly hoppy finish.

Mouthfeel: Good and creamy all around, medium-bodied.

Drinkability: Quality and flavorful ESB. Something I'd easily go back to. I want AleSmith, since I'm not sure how to gauge them yet.

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Photo of snaotheus
3.26/5  rDev -16.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

22oz bottle (thank you, BevMo) poured into crappy little hotel glasses (thank you, Residence Inn)

Pours a very strong tea brown with a big foamy head. Little lacing, but the head settles into peaks and canyons, which is pretty amusing. Smells a tad soapy, lemony, musty and dank.

Taste is, at first sip, sweet and weird. Maybe I'm just not very well versed in ESBs. Sweet tea-like flavor, a little soapy-ness (my wife calls it 'dirty dishwater'), maybe a little fruit, a moderately sour finish.

Mouthfeel is light. Weirdness of the taste (to me) detracts from its drinkability. Maybe a few of these spread out over a couple weeks would help acquire a taste for it, but I don't have that taste yet.

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Photo of aforbes10
4.37/5  rDev +12.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bottle from Monument Liquors in Concord, purchased today. Pours a ruby red with a tall (3-4 inch) puffy light brown head. Sticky lacing. A couple of yeast cake chunks floating around but otherwise gleaming and spotless. Smells of malt, bread and green grass. Flavor is richly malty with a lemony, zesty tang to it. Some nice bitterness complements the graham cracker malt. I get a hint of peat in there too. Medium bodied. Lots of ESB for maltheads.

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Photo of lacqueredmouse
4.1/5  rDev +5.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Pours a very nice reddish brown with a minimal head of beige foam. Lacing is good, carbonation is minimal, which is what you expect for the style. It's not a look that makes me drool with anticipation, but it's reasonable.

Nice sharp metallic English hops on the nose. Clean grass, sawdust and wood notes, with a fragrant lift of fresh fruits to lift it. Note a huge or pungent nose, but what's there is very pleasant.

Clean tannic palate, quite dry and just brushed with that truly traditional English hop flavour. Tea leaves, light fruit essences, resin and barley water. Mouthfeel is very light, but it's not too bad. The carbonation is very well subdued, and just great for the style.

This is a very good ESB to my mind - an English style the English would be proud of, if they'd brewed it. I think it's particularly good that the rowdy extreme-beer culture of American craft brewing takes a deep breath now and again and brews something like this.

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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 ClockworkOrange
3.68/5  rDev -5.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Thanks go out to jgap for sending this one to PA and to psycohops for sharing this bomber with me. We still had a good amount of sharp cheddar left after we finished a barley wine, so we figured we'd see how it fared up against an ESB. Poured into an Adnams Imperial pint glass, the bitter appears a hazed golden copper color with at least three full fingers of fluffy, cloud - like off white foam. Nose is really heavy on the stone fruit notes - peaches, nectarines, and apricots. Tastes of peaches, light malt, grassy bitter hops. Light bodied, yet rather highly carbonated.

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

Thanks to Kegatron for sharing this bomber.

Pours a clear coppery amber color with nice foamy off-white head. Good retention and some decent lacing. Smells of caramel, brown sugar, buttered bread, grain, grass, and spicy hops. Tastes of earth, toasted grain, caramel, a touch of spice, orange zest, and grass. Medium in body with good carbonation. Smooth, earthy and malty sweet with a nice bitter finish. Easy to drink, definitely gets better as it warms.

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Photo of fbinla
4.26/5  rDev +9.2%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

Not sure what happened to mine, i tool it from the fridge where it sat upright for three days without being moved out of the fridge to a direct pour to glass. Didn't gush when i opened it, but it poured even at a full right angle with 70% head. What a head it was though, thick cloud like, you could lay a ten pence piece on top of it. I even poured the remainder of the bottle into a mixer glass same huge head. After a while the head settled down to a decent size, still thick and impressive.

Brilliant clarity, amber cooper color. Highly carbonated, not sure if this was the brewers goal.

Great smell, fruity smell, very little hop smell, the smell might of been better but i only began to drink it once the head settled down.

Well balanced beer with controlled bitterness, malt. Clean doesn't leave much on the tongue accept a slight bitterness and malt making me want to drink more.

Need to try another one, hopefully it will not be so high carbonated.

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Photo of JohnQVegas
4.18/5  rDev +7.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Pours clear dark copper, beautiful creamy off/white head with a coppery tint to it. Sticky, fine lacing.

Nose is spicy hops, bit of fruity esters. Some toasty malt coming through underneath.

Taste is nicely toasty, with a nice spicy/orangey hop note wafting in. Some fruity esters coming through too; nice.

Mouthfeel is sticky, soft and prickley, near perfect.

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Photo of ccrida
3.79/5  rDev -2.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bomber poured into a nonic, Anvil Ale is murky, ruddy brown with a large, fluffy light sand colored head that leaves lots of heavy lace. Super impressive for an ESB, no doubt, it looks more like a Belgian Amber!

Smell is pretty sweet, brown sugar. Good but simple. There's also a very slight tang that I first noticed in the taste (see below), but can subsequently find traces of in the smell as well.

Taste is good, smooth, sweet, it really reminds me of a Southern English Brown Ale, brown sugar and a touch of caramel, but with a nice herbal hop snap. There's a slight bite to the malt that I don't love though, very subtle, but reminds me a bit of a poorly made extract homebrew - not the whole beer, just that slight bite. Perhaps a bit yeasty too, this is a style that I'd probably rather be filtered (there was even some sludge on the lip of the bottle from laying it sideways on the way home).

Mouthfeel is pretty smooth, medium light bodied.

Drinkability is good, a tasty beer if you like sweet English style ales. I do, and haven't had a sweet brown ale in a while, they're just not to common here, but I really dig this one. Luckily for this American glutton, the ABV doesn't reflect their goofy tax system - or wait, they make weak beer for the nuance, yea right! Still, there's no reason to but this in an overpriced bomber, a 6 pack beer if I ever saw minus .5 for value.

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Photo of Phillyduke
4.08/5  rDev +4.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A: 22 oz. bomber dated "Jan 2008" served into an Imperial Pint glass. Difficult time getting a solid pour, as the head continually threatens to crest out of the glass. When I finally do get a decent 12 oz. pour, I'm left with a beer that is clear and copper brown in color with LOADS of tight active carbonation, which I find unusual for a bottle-conditioned beer. A big 3-finger head of dense tan foam caps the glass, receding ever-so-slowly leaving trails of rocky, sticky lacing down the sides of the glass. A generous cap remains atop the glass for the entire drink.

S: Nose is crisp and clean, and reminds me more of a German lager than an English ale. Not detecting much malt (or any other discernible scents), but I do get a fair amount of grassiness with a slight medicinal quality.

T/M: Taste is certainly making up for the smell and difficulty pouring. Caramel malts and doughy, gritty grain coat the palate, accented by some nice herbal hop bitterness. Extremely well-balanced. Smooth and creamy with carbonation that's tight and tingly. Finish is bright, crisp, slightly sweet, and pleasingly bitter. Perfect for an ESB.

D/O: A perfect blend of caramel malt and herbal hops. The balance and back-and-forth of flavors are what kept me coming back. A highly quaffable beer that gets better as it warms. I'd love to try this cask-conditioned. The rollicking pour did hurt the overall score here. Nice to see an even, balanced beer from a brewery known for it's more over-the-top offerings.

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Photo of AWolfAtTheDoor
3.55/5  rDev -9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3.5

Poured about half the bomber into my Stone IPA flute. HUGE head. I had to really baby the pour to make sure the head didn't get too out of hand. Beer was at fridge temp. too. None the less, the head was beautiful, I rate the lacing a solid B+. Thin line of foam has remained on top during the whole session.

Smells great. Hint of some dark fruit, caramel, with just a hint of alcohol.

More of the same on the mouth. Malty, slightly fruity. Just yum.

Mouthfeel was what brought this beer down a little for me. It was just too carbonated. My ESB experience is limited strictly to what England has to offer. Is this typical of American ESBs? The carbonation seemed to detract a little from the taste.

Overall another solid offering from Alesmith. Only had two of their beers so far, but I'm extremely impressed. Would definitely have again

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Anvil Ale ESB from AleSmith Brewing Company
3.9 out of 5 based on 676 ratings.
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