Bath Ales Ltd

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Bitter - English Extra Special / Strong Bitter (ESB)
Ranked #84
Ranked #31,667
3.78 | pDev: 12.43%
Bath Ales Ltd
England, United Kingdom
Very Good
Notes: It's 4.1% in cask and 4.8% in bottle
View: Beers
Reviews: 45 | Ratings: 94 | Log in to view all ratings and sort
Photo of James94
James94 from England

3.73/5  rDev -1.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

L: Reddish amber colour, thick lacing, one-finger head
S: Fairly generic, slight skunkiness, vague citrus
T: Orange, vanilla, light malts
F: Not overwhelming, smooth, drinkable

O: 3.75

Dec 22, 2019
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Beginner2 from Illinois

4.01/5  rDev +6.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

While I'm hardly an expert in this style (only my 16th rating), it makes me think I've been missing something.

Gem's Looks are driven by its medium chestnut and, in the sun, is brilliant. Decent lace, to boot. Smells are almost entirely malt wanting to become the juice of a hard fruit; call it apple. Tastes are perfectly balanced, just enough tang to tell me this is beer and not cider. Very sessionable and sits nicely in my mouth; waiting for the next bite of a snack.

Impressed by Bath Ales adherence to the CAMRA 'code" (as I call it... although it is looser than that), I went on Bath's website and was impressed that they have grown steadily since 1995 and have four pubs, a restaurant at the famous train station and a new brewery. They also were acquired 3 years ago by St. Austell... another purveyor of the English brewing tradition. Good luck.

May 21, 2019
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JonnoWillsteed from England

3.24/5  rDev -14.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.25

L- Dark Chestnut, 1cm white head reducing to lacing.
S- Toasty malts, pretty subtle
T- Toast. Dry toasted grains, some balance of malt comes later.
M- The toastiness is quite pungent, the overall mouthfeel is quite mild for 4.8%
O- The smokey/toasty nature might be just a bit too dominant for me. Interesting to try but I don't think I could get stuck into several of these in a night.

Aug 21, 2018
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jazzyjeff13 from England

3.43/5  rDev -9.3%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A 500ml bottle with a BB of Feb 2018. Purchased recently from Waitrose. Bath ales describe this as their premium amber ale - brewed with Marris Otter and Goldings.

A: Poured into a tulip pint glass. A deep coppery-brownish hue with good clarity and plentiful carbonation. Yields a decent head of frothy off-white foam that lasts for a minute or so before subsiding and virtually disappearing.

S: Aroma of caramel malt, ale yeast esters, subtle grain, mild barley sugar and delicate leafy hops. Decent but quite subdued.

T: Tastes of caramel malt with notes of ale yeast, mild barley sugar, leafy hops and faint grain. Traditional in character and nicely balanced. An understated bitterness upon swallowing.

M: Mouthfeel is smooth, tingly and dry, with pleasant carbonation and good body. Aftertaste of caramel malt, leafy bitterness and ale yeast.

O: Decidedly traditional but pretty good. Looks OK, while the aroma and flavour are a well-judged blend of caramel malt, leafy hops and yeast. Nice body. What it lacks in charisma it makes up for with above-average balance and depth of flavour. Goes down easily and is probably even better on cask. Worth sampling if you have the chance.

Apr 25, 2017
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bark from Sweden

2.94/5  rDev -22.2%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.75 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3

The colour is amber with a tint of brown, the liquid is clear. The two finger head is off-white and airy; it sinks down to an uneven lid leaving very little lacing.

The smell is malty with dry notes of rye bread, dried apples and a touch of oak wood. Floral hops in the background.

The taste is smooth with some toffee/butterscotch, rustic farmhouse bread and dried flowers. Light floral/spicy bitterness. Medium body. The aftertaste got quite a lot of raw alcohol, some sweet caramel, nutmeg, thyme and apricots. The finish got less alcohol, and a growing flavour of dough.

The carbonation is mild to medium, the few bubbles are mid-sized and long-lived. The liquid is smooth.

Quite an average bitter/amber ale with odd notes of alcohol and dough.

Apr 03, 2017
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flyingpig from Scotland

3.49/5  rDev -7.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

500ml bottle from Whole Foods, Giffnock (£1.79):
Nice stuff but probably not quite as good as Bath's Wild Hare that I tried last. Obviously a little darker & the sweetness seemed more pronounced at times with a nice combination of darker malts, toasted flavours & some sugars that complimented the caramel & toffee flavours nicely. Nothing seemed overdone & a good balance was maintained throughout, making this one another decent session offering but I'm probably go back to other beers before having this one again; still it's definitely a nice beer & well worth trying.

Feb 13, 2017
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vinicole from England

3.92/5  rDev +3.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Bottle. Light amber colour. Very little head. Gently rising effervescence.
Sweet honey and malt aroma. Hops present.
Lion Bar - toffee, nut and biscuit flavour.
Moderate feel and body.
Traditional malty English Pale Ale...and Bitter when drawn from the cask.

Apr 22, 2016
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DypsoBubble from England

3.57/5  rDev -5.6%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Colour of black tea with a moderate head which persists after pouring. Aroma is of malt but little hops.

Tastes very malty with some fruity esters and a back bitter hop. Up front hops, hard to detect. Quite a nice mouth feel for a low alcohol session beer. Pretty bog-standard British fare and not at all exciting. Tastes of mass produced bitter back in the 1970s which helped introduce lagers to the British palate.

Dec 14, 2015
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Dentist666 from Russian Federation

3.53/5  rDev -6.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Poured into english pint.
Pours clear copper beer with half-finger beige head. Smell - bready, malty, toasted.
Taste - biscuity malts, grainy, smooth and ok.

Jun 19, 2015
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interzen from England

2.57/5  rDev -32%
look: 3 | smell: 2.25 | taste: 2.75 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.5

500ml bottle poured into a pint glass

Look: Dark amber with a fairly creamy, off-white head to about a fingers-width. Retention not brilliant and recedes to a foam ring and some surface coating.

Smell: Predominantly malty - there are some dark fruit aromas in there but you've got to try really hard to pick them out, even after allowing the beer to 'breathe' for a bit.

Taste: Again, dark fruits with a hint of malt and caramel. In terms of taste, it comes a live a bit more than the smell might suggest but it's still on the wrong side of 'uninteresting'.

Feel: Easy drinking and pretty undemanding with it. Lack of carbonation isn't a big thing as there's nothing here that would benefit from it.

Overall: Again, pretty forgettable - as a traditional English bitter it just about passes muster but as an amber ale it's a bit of a fail. Not much to get excited about, sadly. Clearly it has its fans, but I'm not one of them.

May 27, 2015
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AllForAugust from New Zealand (Aotearoa)

3.89/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

A few things to address before reviewing. Firstly, BA has this listed as an ESB, while the brewery has it as an Amber Ale. That's going to make this hard. Secondly, there's a difference in ABV between bottle and cask. What gives, yo? This is the first time I've encountered this shit.

A: Very robust color if you're judging it by ESB standards, but for the sake of sanity, I'll be doing this review as the brewer/brewery has defined the style: as an amber ale. The robustness fits this style well. The amber color and clarity is much akin to famed InGen CEO, John Hammond's walking cane handle in the 1994 classic 'Jurassic Park'. There. That's enough pretentiousness for this review. Head looks great, but hardly lasts. The bead is fantastic. Little to no lace.

S: identifying the Maris Otter malts in this brew is hardly a challenge. In fact, I'm likely to make note of this beer as a prime example of its use. Sadly, there's little hop aroma. The sweetness of the malt overpowers it far too easily.

T: Sweet and wholesome Amber Ale twang! A lil but of toffee, a lil bit of grapefruit. But nt the grapefruit as I taste it now. It's kind of the icky grapefruit taste I remember from when I was a child. Dangerously drinkable, this drop is.

M: It just feels good, ya know? A bit sticky at first, but given enough time, it'll dry out. Great finish.

O: Great beer! Figure out what fucking style it is and you could really be on to something.

May 30, 2014
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EmperorBevis from England

3.6/5  rDev -4.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A light nutbrown or amber beer with no head. The aroma is weird with notes of hops, anise and pretty fresh. The flavor is carbonated, flat and pretty sweet of an OK maltblend containing m√ľnchner and caramel malt - the aftertaste is somewhat dry with a good bitterness. A pretty light beer

Nov 01, 2013
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djura from Serbia

3.49/5  rDev -7.7%
look: 4 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A - Very nice foam,creamy almost white,no bubbless,dark amber color. Classic ale.
S - Very weak aroma,almost nothing in it,but on the other hand,you could recognize some sweet malt and dark fruits
T/M - dark fruits,sweet caramel and gem,naturally. Easy to drink,clan finish. Lots of nice aroma in the aftertaste. Medium bitterness.
O - Good ale,drink it,you will like it.

Aug 17, 2013
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brewskifan55 from Mississippi

3.8/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Enjoyed at the Royal Oak, Bath, England

A: copper bronze. A half finger head that dissipates. Good lacing.

S: grapefruit, hoppy. Light malts.

T: Hop forward with grapefruit, then malts bring up the rear. Toffee, sweet. Bitter finish. A nice combination; well balanced.

M: Light to medium; light carbonation.

O: I really liked this one. Very sessionable. Although the brewery is outside Bath, this Bath Ale was a welcome basket of good taste upon our arrival.

Jul 28, 2012
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CwrwAmByth from England

3.75/5  rDev -0.8%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

Served in a straight pint glass at the Anchor Inn, near Tintern Abbey.

A light copper colour with a slight haze, and a decent head.

Strong malty sweet smell.

Tastes quite light and refreshing, pretty malty as well, with some hops adding bitterness.

Overall a generally cracking pint. Easy to drink, it goes down a treat.

Oct 17, 2011
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mdagnew from Northern Ireland

4.3/5  rDev +13.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

500ml bottle bought from Sainsburys..

Poured a lovely crystal clear light orange copper colour. Light creamy head poured thick and meringue like then faded slowly to nice firm layer... very sparse carbonation drifts very slowly to surface... very little lacing...

Aroma - Strong biscuity malts, lightly toasted oats and bread, light honey sweetness, some caramel, good juicy fruitiness (apples, apricots and some pears), lots of grassy notes, peppery hops, strong nuttiness, sea salt traces, some leathery traces...

Taste - Spicy / grassy hops to the fore, very light toffee sweetness, juicy fruits (oranges, apples, light figs), biscuity maltiness, definite toasty bread, can't really make out any oats, faint metallic notes, light floral / perfume traces, salty...

Feel - Quite sharp and dry... medium bodied... So so quaffable - a supremely sessionable beer..

Overall - An excellent example of an ESB... one of the most quaffable beers i've had in a while.... definitely recommended..

Apr 19, 2011
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Squelch from Texas

3.88/5  rDev +2.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pulled from a cask at the Hop Pole in Bath.

Appearance: crystal clear. Brunette colored. Nice lacing

Smell: malts malts malts. Very nice

Taste: wonderful toasted malt flavors. No harshness. Smooth.

Mouthfeel: medium bodied. No astringency

Drinkability: one I could drink all day

Feb 12, 2011
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Zimbo from Scotland

3.97/5  rDev +5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

The nice clear medium reddish rich brown sparkle makes a lovely introduction to that nutty nose. The head doesn't really last and despite a slight slight fizz it is mostly silky on the palate but it is neither too lean or too fat. Smooth and deep with a satisfying deep nutty end. Not at all severe but rather civilised actually. Definitely need to try again.

Dec 31, 2010
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marquis from England

4.63/5  rDev +22.5%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

This beer really is a little gem! I'm amazed by the astonishing complexity found in a beer with such a modest gravity.
**It should be noted that in common with many British beers the cask version is lower in gravity than when in bottle. This is an attempt to counter the flavour losses associated with bottling.Bath Gem on cask is only 4.1% ABV **
Lovely tawny red , crystal clear with just a touch of head which remained right through-just as good beer ought to have. A hint of vanilla, no great aroma but then cask bitters aren't expected to have this.
Vanilla, toffee, a hint of liquorice set against a superbly balanced bitter but not hoppy background.A truly polished beer.Gorgeous.
Drinkability is formidable. I swear I was in a state of grace after I'd finished it!

Dec 08, 2010
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fullsweep from England

4.43/5  rDev +17.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

500 mL brown bottle poured into a pint glass.

A: very appetzing rusty brown or light copper in colour, with a thin off-white/eggshell head that leaves plenty of lacing

S: very nice smell--almost has a sour tint to it, leaving me eagerly anticipating what it might taste like

T: richly bittersweet, a unique flavor, moderately sour with a great complex flavor

M: moderate body, tacky/sticky on the tongue, low to moderate carbonation

D: exceptionally drinkable!

Mar 20, 2010
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wl0307 from England

3.53/5  rDev -6.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

BB 30/09/09, served cool in a straight imperial pint glass. The bottle says the beer is "fine filtered" for quality, so it's filtered but not sure if it's pasteurised as well.

A: dark black-tea-ish brown in colour, coming with a creamy off-white foamy head with good retention and moderate carbonation.
S: pretty sweet in terms of caramel malts and brown-sugar water, blended with thick honey, raisins, dried red dates, sour-sweet plums, light orangey citrusness. Well-mixed and pleasant, but lacking a better harmony and complexity.
T: the bitter-sweet malty flavour resembling red-date+longan-fruit tea with a dash of honey comes forward, following onto a moderately bitter middle taste of mixed toasted dark-fruits, citric sourness, earthy hops... laced with an assertive black-tea-ish undertone in the end.
M&D: slightly "loose" on the texture (due to the medium-large bubbles from the carbonation) for the full flavour, making it somewhat unfulfilling throughout the drink. Otherwise, this could've be a really decent fruity and bitter-sweet premium bitter.

Dec 20, 2008
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1759Girl from California

4.88/5  rDev +29.1%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Appearance> looks a bit like maple syrup with a small white head (with large bubbles). Very lively. Good lacing.

Smell> caramel notes

Taste> Excellent bitter with a buttery and caramel hint, but still full and proper ESB traits.

Mouthfeel> perfect for a cask biitter

Drinkability> my new favourite bitter???!!!

ps> since they aren't on beerfly (much like everywhere I go, it seems...) I should mention that I had this at The Wheatsheaf in E. Hendred, Oxfordshire, UK. The people are very nice and make lurvely sandwiches.

May 21, 2008
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Daredevil from Switzerland

3.78/5  rDev 0%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

had this brew at the Bathampton pub on the riverside of the Avon in England (see:, as it was the most local on offer ... not a classic ale at all, being rather dry and smoky in the palate ... a very interesting brew, which is rather suited to accompany a meal than be enjoyed on it's own ...

May 04, 2008
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DaveUK from England

3.15/5  rDev -16.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Direct from cask.

Appearance - a tawny to dark brown colour with a moderate white head that persisted down the glass. Excellent retention.

Aroma - Caramel and toasted malt. Butterscotch and toffee.

Taste - More caramel malt and some spicy hops present. Juicy malt in the finish. After trying this beer several times, a cloying and sickly note becomes apparent from the caramel and toffee.

Mouthfeel - Cask ale well maintained can rarely be beaten. This was in good condition.

Overall - Quite powerful notes of caramel and butterscotch. Worth drinking as this ale is a quality example of a potent and tasty bitter. However, I would prefer a more balanced beer in this style.

Dec 25, 2007
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BlackHaddock from England

3.88/5  rDev +2.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

I think Bath Ales produce fantastic beers, so when I came across this 500ml brown bottle, locally, I had to get it. I wasn't dissappointed.

Looked fine in a Gordon's thistle glass, amber, with a good head.

I was not expecting the bannana, vanilla, sweet caramel aroma. You do not get it with the cask version.

No taste of the above aroma, thank God, although it is fairly sweet for a Brit bitter.

Mouthfeel is fine, the flavour stays and a bitterness does arrive, but you have to wait for it.

I prefer the cask, but this is still a good beer.

Jan 19, 2007
Gem from Bath Ales Ltd
Beer rating: 85 out of 100 with 94 ratings