Left Hand Brewing Company

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Bitter - English Extra Special / Strong Bitter (ESB)
Ranked #99
Ranked #35,854
3.74 | pDev: 12.57%
Left Hand Brewing Company
Colorado, United States
Notes: Sessionable. Unpretentious. Left Hand's original flagship. Proof that a beer can be both complex and balanced. Malty chewiness slowly transitioning over to herbal, earthy hops with a dry finish. Brewed to be enjoyed with friends and to stimulate serendipity.
Reviews: 721 | Ratings: 2,193 | Log in to view all ratings and sort
Photo of Mindcrime1000
Mindcrime1000 from South Dakota

4/5  rDev +7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured from a can into a tulip.

Pours a slightly-hazy copper/amber, with a decent head, but not much retention. Good lacing and a nice skein of foam.

Malty, toasty, nutty, and mildly fruity aromas all waft mildly through the nose. Just a touch of earthy floral hop.

The flavors follow the nose and are very well balanced. Caramel, toasted, and slightly fruity malts on the tip of the tongue, but only slightly sweet. Crackery and mildly spicy yeast in mid stream, with a clean grain fullness and citrus peel. Mild earthy and floral hop bitterness brings it hope at the finish, with just a hint of alcohol warmth, and balances well with the slightly sweet malts.

The brew is nearly medium bodied, creamy, and only moderately carbonated, yet it finishes well. A very drinkable, repeatable brew.

Overall, an excellent take on the style, especially for an American brewer. The British are the masters of understatement, and this brew is appropriately understated in both its malt (not too sweet) and hops (not too bitter), providing an easy balance in the process. It all comes together rather well. It isn't an exciting brew, but it's an eminently flavorful, drinkable one.

Oct 05, 2019
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Blondarm76 from California

4.18/5  rDev +11.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

On tap this cannot be passed up...hands down one of my favorites anywhere. Deep copper with a nice thick tan head, it definitely resembles an authentic English Bitter (to me). Bready & malty (two of my favorite characteristics) but crisp and clean on the finish; keeps me coming back for more. Love this beer.

Dec 19, 2018
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jjamadorphd from Florida

3.33/5  rDev -11%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Another of my favorite brewers and a pretty decent offering...

A dark caramel colored brew, it poured out a bumpy-looking foam with some decent lacing. Not much to the nose on this one, at least nothing that I would consider unique or even mention-able. The mouthfeel is medium-bodied, carbonated, and a tad astringent. I do believe this is a solid ale - maybe a run-of-the-mill, but still good. Overall, it's another good offering from one of the brewers I always keep an eye out for.

Sep 02, 2018
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EMH73 from New York

3.5/5  rDev -6.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.5

Pours a clear amber with a half inch off white head that settles to a thin ring pretty quickly and leaves nice lacing. Smell is pretty mild with lightly roasted malts and some hops. Tastes of lightly roasted malts, caramel, light hop presence and some earthy notes. Light to medium bodied for the style, moderate carbonation, mild bitterness and slightly dry finish.

Aug 12, 2018
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tone77 from Pennsylvania

3.53/5  rDev -5.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Poured from a 12 oz. can. And yes, that can did come from the incredible woodychandler. Has a bronze color with a 1 inch head. Smell is of bready malts. Taste is malts, caramel, light hops at the finish, easy drinking. Feels medium bodied in the mouth and overall is a pretty good beer.

Apr 16, 2018
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bgillespie from New Jersey

3.28/5  rDev -12.3%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.25

Poured into a pint glass.
Appearance: Clear cooper/amber with a thin off white head.
Smell: Faint smell of malt
Taste: Light flavor, mostly malt, herbal taste
Mouthfeel: Light and crisp with good carbonation.
Overall: Not a bad beer, but light on flavor. A good session beer.

Feb 22, 2018
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ZebulonXZogg from Illinois

3.08/5  rDev -17.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.25

Poured from a can, it's a clear amber orange with a white head with decent lacing. Aroma is malts and a little hops.
Flavor matches. Body is thin, nice carbonation. Overall just a so-so beer. One of a pick six. If I see it again, I'll leave it behind.

Jan 22, 2018
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Spydersweb from Colorado

3.49/5  rDev -6.7%
look: 5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Bottle poured into nonic glass.
The beer pours a nice amber with a tan head that remains for several minutes. Nice lacing left on the glass.
The smell is lightly roasted malts, very light English hops.
Taste is mild caramel, malt heavy with a little lingering hops bitterness. Overall a decent beer, but there are better ESBs on the market.

Jan 15, 2018
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RyanK252 from California

3.81/5  rDev +1.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

Bottle poured into a Mountain Rambler Brewing Co pint glass

A: Pours copper amber with a frothy tan head that settles to a firm layer and laces nicely.

S: Toasty bready malt, slightly earthy, fruity notes, and toffee sweetness.

T: Toasty bready malt, fruity notes, blackberry and prune, slight earthy bitterness, and some toffee sweetness.

M: Medium body, moderate carbonation.

O: This bottle is less than fresh so I will look to try this one again in the future, but I'm enjoying what's there.

Jan 13, 2018
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MrOH from Malta

4.01/5  rDev +7.2%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Absolutely gorgeous clear copper with an off-white head, nice lacing.
Smells like sweet, biscuity, caramelly, malt.
Tastes like it smells, with a slight hint of citrusy hops. Nice finish with a crack of bitterness.
A little heavier and stickier than I tend to like, but it suits the style, I suppose.
Not one much for ambers, but this one is pretty good.

Nov 24, 2017
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Vetbidder from Pennsylvania

3.68/5  rDev -1.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

See through amber beer with not many bubbles seen and a slight head. Slight caramel malt on the nose with some sweetness detected. Really not a whole lot on the nose of this one, maybe some slight grassy hops in addition . Slightly citrus with some bready and slight caramel malt finishing slightly bitter and grassy. A bit watery but pretty decent. Taste and feel was better than the nose for sure.

Nov 23, 2017
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feuematt from Pennsylvania

3.75/5  rDev +0.3%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Amber colored beer with a slowly fading head. Taste is caramel and bready malts. Pretty rich in flavor yet goes down pretty smoothly. I would recommend to try at least once.

Oct 29, 2017
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dbl_delta from Pennsylvania

3.83/5  rDev +2.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Can dated 8/17/17 into pint glass. Pours a clear caramel-amber color with a persistent light tan head. Initial impression is dry, citrusy, bitter, medium-bodied; a hint of resinous hops with biscuity and caramel malts balancing all the foregooing somewhat. Carbonation is slightly on the high side of medium. Finish is dry and bitter with caramel undertones - consistent with the overall experience. Would be a dandy session ale.
Billed as an Amber Ale on the can. I think it fits better in the ESB category.

Sep 19, 2017
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NeroFiddled from Pennsylvania

4.43/5  rDev +18.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Left Hand Brewing Co. "Sawtooth Ale"
12 fl. oz. brown glass bottle
$2 @ Weis, Conshohocken, PA

Notes via stream of consciousness: Clear deer-amber/copper colored body beneath a finger thick head of fluffy off-white foam. The aroma is gently sweet and caramelish with a light hint of floral hops behind. The flavor follows the aroma. It's gently sweet and softly caramelish malt is accented by a light yeasty fruitiness that suggests pears and yellow apples as well as a bit of cherry. It's bready, biscuity, and just lightly toasty. The maltiness is not overdone, either in actual volume or intensity (percentage of the mash), or in depth of color and flavor (choice of ˚L caramel.ccrystal malts); and it's very nicely balanced against the floral and leafy hops. There's also a delicately mineralish character to it that gives it a bit of extra complexity. It's got a firm bitterness, that in combination with the mineral edginess, leads to a dry finish. Just a drop of sweet medium-dark caramel lingers along with some leafy and lightly grassy hops. Looking back I see that I've still got a completely solid, and somewhat creamy surface covering, and the lacing is in both broken and solid sheets throughout the entire area where the beer once was - in other words, excellent head retention and very good lacing. In the mouth it's medium bodied and smooth with a fine- bubbled, moderate carbonation. This is intended as an English-style premium bitter and the mouthfeel quite appropriately matches that of a hand-pulled pint (once it's warmed a bit). A beautiful beer that's remarkably well-done! It's balance is impeccable, and it's rounded character is fantastic! This is probably the best American made English-style premium bitter that I've ever tasted, and not only does it rival some of its UK cousins, it also surpasses many. Absolutely worth seeking out for fans of the style.

Sep 08, 2017
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KTCamm from New Jersey

3.62/5  rDev -3.2%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

6/25...pours rich amber, white foam about 1/8th of an inch high. Soft caramel nose, breads, toffee. Maple syrup forward taste. Soft mouthfeel. Tastes very fresh. Almost a cherry flavor. Cool.

Sep 02, 2017
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Bitterbill from Wyoming

3.07/5  rDev -17.9%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2.75 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Bottle best by November 22nd.
Pours a clear copper with a 1" head of foam.
Smells of citrus hops and grainy malt, with some caramel.
Grainy taste, nice bit of bitter hops that's kinda fruity. Finish doesn't appeal to me. Sorta bitter but then it fades and gets all watery.
Not much of an ESB in my book. More like an average Amber.

Aug 04, 2017
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woodychandler from Pennsylvania

3.62/5  rDev -3.2%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Knowing that I was getting ready to do a small brewery horizontal of Left Hand's beers, I picked this one up recently to add to my collection. You may begin to get the sense of why The Bottle Backlog here at Chez Woody is undiminishing.

From the bottle: "Brewed on the banks of the mighty St. Vrain"; "This Amber ale is the perfect balance between malt and hops. A great session beer."

I kind of enjoy the Pop!ping of the cap. It is one of the few pleasures that I derive from bottled beers. I use a quarter atop the cap so that while the opener remains the lever, the coin becomes the fulcrum, preserving the cap for a local Countian who makes all sorts of art from them. As soon as I had the cap removed, I got a buncha foaming coming up through the neck, forcing me to take drastic action. Once everything settled to the point that I could move on, a very gentle pour produced two fingers of dense, foamy, rocky, tawny head with good retention Color was Deep Amber/Light Copper to Copper (SRM = > 13, < 17) with NE-quality clarity. Nose had a pine-like mintiness along with a bready maltiness. Mouthfeel was medium. The taste was much along the lines of the nose - bready malt & piney hops. It was not mind-blowing, but it was not unpleasant, either. I guess that I was still bothered by its desire to gush on the opening. Finish was semi-sweet, which was appropriate for the style. This review is a whole lot of damning with faint praise. Ho hum.

The FGBS recently had a tasting with the Left Hand B.C. rep & I came away with a buncha CANs for inclusion in The CANQuest (tm)! Today is Sa, 27 January 2018.

From the CAN: "Brewed on the banks of the mighty St. Vrain Est. 1993"; "This Amber Ale is the perfect balance between malt and hops. A great session beer."; "Employee owned, righteously independent (tm)"; "Please recycle".

I debated for a seCANd following the Crack! & decided to go with an inverted Glug for the first time in a while. The result was a fingers of dense, foamy, rocky, tawny head with decent retention that left some nice lacing in its wake. Color was a gorgeous Deep Amber/Light Copper to Copper (SRM = > 13, < 17) with NE-quality clarity. You may remember me mentioning Linda Lou, one of the ones that got away. Her hair was this shade! Gorgeous! Nose seemed to me to be weighted in favor of the biscuity malt, but that's okay since I don't expect a lot of hoppiness in an ESB anyway. Mouthfeel was medium-to-full, not quite creamy, but on the approach. The taste was still more malty than hoppy, but it also had a sweet berry-like fruitiness that was kind of unexpected, somewhere between raspberries and strawberries. Mmm. Finish was semi-dry, but very pleasant & quite quaffable.

In this Bottle/CAN matchup, CAN wins, going away!

Jul 15, 2017
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TPZEM from Illinois

3.47/5  rDev -7.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.5

Not sure what I was expecting with this beer, but definitely something worth the venture! I usually stick to less hoppy beers, but decided to take take a chance on this one as I have heard good things about Left Hand beers. Pours a medium-light amber with a decent, froth head. Has more lacing and retention than some of the other beers I have tried. Tastes of a sweeter maltiness on the tongue with a citrus finish. Very light to the taste, but my one big problem with the beer was that it left an extremely unpleasant aftertaste that just seemed to intensify as time went on. Definitely a beverage to enjoy while out with the boys, but if you don't immediately follow up with another beer, you might be feeling as if the Sawtooth has overstayed its welcome. Still, solid ale that could easily be up for another round at the bar!

Jul 12, 2017
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davisrs from Pennsylvania

4.42/5  rDev +18.2%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

NOTE: I compare all other beers to Sierra Nevada's Pale Ale; there may be better out there, but many that are worse.
This gives a 3 finger light brown head that stays.
The color is a cloudy dark amber.
The aroma is a sweet malt with a slight hint of hop.
The taste is a sweet malt, slightly burnt on the tip of the tongue, with citrus/pine flavor to the back of the mouth.
Bitterness is mild toward the back of the palate with a lot of malt which offers a smooth finish.
Overall, the flavors are unique for an ale, but appear on different parts of the palate not bonded together into a single smooth flavor throughout the mouth.
The above critique was from sipping from a glass. When consumed directly from the bottle with a larger mouthful swished around, all of the flavors fall together into a very pleasant taste experience ... I am upgrading my experience with this beer to a 4.4!
Not as crisp and refreshing as Sierra Nevada, but a flavor experience I will try again!!.

Jun 07, 2017
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poisoneddwarf from Idaho

3.45/5  rDev -7.8%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.25

Backlog from 2009. Since those days, I've come to appreciate the style more. This is due for a re-rate.

12 oz bottle. I’ve never been a big fan of this style. It’s too malty for my tastes. Not much of a head here. Smells of molasses and malt. Nice amber hue. Definitely a quality beer. It’s drinkable, but I don’t forsee ever buying this again.

Jun 05, 2017
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williamphelps from Colorado

4.54/5  rDev +21.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Brownish amber color. Thin lacing/head. Rich yet subtle rye bread with some staleness, light caramel. Palate is caramel, toffee, almonds, peanuts, some roasty bitterness, some citrus, grapefruit hops toward finish; very malty overall, nice richness; finish is sweet kettelcorn; medium plus intensity. Pros are nice intensity of flavor, richness, complexity, roastiness yet with balance. Cons are maybe too sweet and malty taking away from refreshment, not enough hops to balance that, a little staleness at times. 92/100. Very Good.

Apr 16, 2017
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ObstinateOutcast from South Dakota

3.93/5  rDev +5.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Drank 04.03.17
L: Yellow/tan head with a fair amount of retention, however, a small head. The body was golden amber with a decent amount of carbonation.
S: Sweet with hints of fruit, crisp, and bright.
T: Crisp and light, earthy, and slightly hoppy (thus a slight bitterness) with a strong hoppy aftertaste.
F: Light, slick, and a dry aftertaste.
This reminds me of a snappy, summer beer.

Apr 04, 2017
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HorseheadsHophead from New York

3.74/5  rDev 0%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

L: Clear brown with a thin foamy tan head. Not too much retention or lacing.

S: Brown bread, buttery biscuits, a bit of caramel and toffee. A bit of nuttiness and earthiness. The aroma is barely existent, though.

T: Coarse brown bread, like pumpernickel bread. Buttery biscuits. Some caramel and toffee. Hints of cherries and raisins. Lightly earthy, herbal finish. Slightly sweet.

F: Light, but not watery. Carbonation pushes it along quickly. Smooth and endlessly drinkable.

O: A really solid American ESB. Great for fans of English styles or session ales.

Apr 01, 2017
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Parmesan from Colorado

4.02/5  rDev +7.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

L: Copper-gold color with a medium white head and several fingers of lacing 4.25

S: Nutty, caramel and toffee, and nice toasted grain.

T: Nutty, careless and earthy, with a medium.floral Hop bitterness, and some nice toasted grain.

F: Medium body and carbonation

O: This is a great easy drinking Amber ale.

Mar 17, 2017
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biboergosum from Canada (AB)

3.71/5  rDev -0.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

8oz glass at Beer Revolution YEGDT. Not a lot of ESBs available around here, so it's nice to see one from a new entry to the Alberta beer market.

This beer appears a clear, bright medium copper amber colour, with one average finger of puffy, loosely foamy, and bubbly beige head, which leaves a bit of skewed Bonsai tree lace around the glass as it evenly dissipates.

It smells of bready and biscuity caramel malt, faint toffee notes, ethereal generic citrus rind, and some plain leafy, herbal, and floral green hop bitters. The taste is gritty and bready caramel malt, ethereal biscuity toffee, some softly burnt white toast, still hard to pin down citrusy acerbities, some minor dank pine resin, and more earthy, leafy, and dead floral verdant hoppiness.

The carbonation is quite understated in its perfunctory frothiness, the body a basically normal middleweight, and mostly smooth, nothing particularly up for messing around here. It finishes off-dry, with a nice biscuity malt and mixed hoppy interplay.

Overall, Sawtooth is a pleasant enough version of the style, with a bit of Americanization that is kept well in check. More apt as an old-school pub 'usual', one might think, yet it works equally well in this shiny modern beer bar all the same.

Mar 05, 2017
Sawtooth from Left Hand Brewing Company
Beer rating: 84 out of 100 with 2193 ratings