Redhook Brewlab

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Bitter - English Extra Special / Strong Bitter (ESB)
Ranked #305
Ranked #47,608
3.43 | pDev: 14.29%
Redhook Brewlab
Washington, United States
Notes: Brewed in the style of a traditional British ESB (Extra Special Bitter), we’ve been making ESB continuously since 1987, and it’s now the benchmark for the Amber beer category. Despite having “bitter” in its name, Redhook ESB is really not that bitter at all. This brew is all about the balance of caramel malt sweetness completed by spicy, citrusy hops.

28 IBU
Reviews: 879 | Ratings: 2,138 | Log in to view all ratings and sort
Photo of dunkel_weizen
dunkel_weizen from Oregon

3.31/5  rDev -3.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

6 month old bottle, head is white and splotchy with mild retention and about 1 finger thick at pour. Nice straightforward nose, with hints of flowers, minty hops, and some citrus and herbal tones. Pour was light, and consistent strong carbonation throughout with a crisp clear apricot color. The body is seems rather thin to me. Taste has an immediate bitter note that pleasantly rounds out with a nice nutty character, with notable malt and some light hop. The lighter notes noticed on the nose reappear after a notable delay, as a pleasant finish.

Although it has a notable medicinal vibe, it's a good refreshing ESB in a region where they are hard to come by. This seems like a nice spring or fall beer to me, although it could be enjoyed year round.

May 01, 2020
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_ryan from Washington

3.42/5  rDev -0.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

First non-macro beer I grew to love. Although this beer doesn't have any elements that stand out to me this serves as a solid example of a neutral and high-quality beer.

Jul 03, 2018
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stevoj from Idaho

3.35/5  rDev -2.3%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.25

Dry and mildly bitter ale. Pours darkish amber with oily beige head. Aroma is light hops, malt and caramel. Taste is hops, dry malt, pine, wood. Reminds me of a redwood forest.

Mar 04, 2018
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OldSchoolMike from North Carolina

4.29/5  rDev +25.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

I used to buy the RedHook sample twelve packs, as they were about the only sample twelve packs without some horrid blackberry or ugave or whatever non-beer additive that some crapft beer twerp wanted to add to the mix. Liked this one a lot. Too bad I can't find it around here any more.

Dec 13, 2017
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mintzmeet from Washington

3.51/5  rDev +2.3%
look: 3 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Smells a bit like cat. Doesn't take like it thankfully. Nice wholesome maltiness, not very hoppy. Not too bitter but great flavor. Caramel flavor. Full body.

Nov 21, 2017
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OzmanBey from Massachusetts

4.75/5  rDev +38.5%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Bought this the other day because I really dig ESB's I was a little skeptical being that it's an American made beer, in the past the American ESB's have been a little flat or not as tasty. I'm really glad I tried this one because it lives up to the way ESB's should be, it has that nice malty smell, that nice malty taste with full flavor and a hint of hops that gives it that nice bite. I am very happy that I tried this brew.

Oct 08, 2017
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ordybill from Georgia

3.75/5  rDev +9.3%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Poured from a 12 OZ bottle into a pint glass. The appearance is a cloudy golden yellow with a small white head. The aroma is faint malt. The taste is watery but has caramel malt in it.

Jun 22, 2017
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pro45 from New York

3.75/5  rDev +9.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

12 oz bottle 3 months old. Pours an amber golden color with a soapy off white head. Smells of sweet malts, caramel, toffee, hops, citrus. Taste follows the nose with some sour nectarine and apricots. Hops are not so much here. The caramel malts take center stage, but a good balance with the flavors. Mouthfeel is sticky, yet good carb. For $7.99 a six pack you can't lose with this beer. Tastier than AAL's and many pale Ales. This was also not bitter. You can taste some faint bitterness on the finish, but not overpowering. Very tasty, easy drinker.

Jun 20, 2017
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Everydayoff from Thailand

3.57/5  rDev +4.1%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

355ml bottle poured into a pint glass.

Mildly hazed copper amber color, it tops with thick frothy off-white head that stays with pretty good retention before gradually sinking to a bit lasting bubble sheet atop and leaving some lacing patch and spot on the glass-side.

Lots of sweet caramel in a nose together with baked bread, biscuit, and toffee, all from malt. Hop same time provides its crisp spice and mild fruitiness.

The taste is also led by caramel sweetness. Then it is joined in by baked bread, biscuit, and toffee like the aroma while hop lends its mild fruitiness, some spice, and subtle herbal bitterness at the end.

The body is between light to medium with semi-smooth mouthfeel and high carbonation through the palate. The feeling is okay and no offensive.

It is true to the style with malty loaded of caramel sweetness also baked bread, biscuit, and toffee.

Jun 20, 2017
Photo of Ri0
Ri0 from Wisconsin

3.29/5  rDev -4.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.25

I've had this on many occasions over the years. It is a pretty approachable beer that is lightly hopped and malt focused. Anyone who enjoys beer will be fine drinking one of these.

May 14, 2017
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D1noB from Oklahoma

2.97/5  rDev -13.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2.75 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

A smooth earth beer that has bitterness lurking throughout;

Taste Rating in Words: It's the guy staring at you from the corner, the one that asked if he could lick your tooth, like that would ever be ok.

May 06, 2017
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VoxRationis from New York

3.14/5  rDev -8.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.25

Production date 25 Feb 2017; decanted into a tulip pint glass. Gave it a second try.
A: Orange-copper color, half inch head, with short-lived Belgian lacing.
S: Medium roast malts, honey and maybe pepper -- pretty thin bouquet though, had to dig into the glass for it.
T: Rather bitter throughout without the sweetness up front that I expect from the style.
M: Very light bodied.
O: Still no impressive compared to other examples of this style. May have had a "bad bottle" previously.
Try a Fuller's, if there is an question about the scoring here.

Apr 26, 2017
Photo of Berta
Berta from Connecticut

4.56/5  rDev +32.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

This is one of my favorite beers! Delivers smooth and finishes with a crisp not too bitter finish. Caramel in color and toasty in taste. Easy to have more than one every time they're in the fridge!

Mar 16, 2017
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andrewh995 from Arizona

3.44/5  rDev +0.3%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.5

Fruity and citrusy but not bitter at all which really surprised me based on the name. I guess after researching, this type of beer isn't actually supposed to be bitter? Odd name choice then.

Mar 05, 2017
Photo of bbtkd
bbtkd from South Dakota

3.68/5  rDev +7.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Redhook ESB, 5.8% ABV, 28 IBU. Pours medium viscosity and orange, with a one finger white head, leaves foamy lacing. Nose is alcohol, malt, and hops, taste is a balance of malty and hoppy with a moderate bitter close. Decent mouthfeel, and overall good. I had expected an ESB to be extremely bitter, but it's not - actually less than many IPA's.

Feb 21, 2017
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Hackattack from Indiana

4.5/5  rDev +31.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

I am really dumbfounded that this has been getting such low reviews. I have been to numerous pubs in Great Britain and have experienced the taste of pulled from the tap.... what they call bitter. It's cellar temp. with low carbonation and every little town had at least one pub with their own signature homemade bitter. Red hook ESB is the closest thing I have tasted in the USA to the stuff I had in GB. We visited the RH brewery in Seattle and had it fresh on tap. This was in the very early days of the American microbrew revolution, so maybe my memories of that experience were due to the novelty of it.

Jan 14, 2017
Photo of Brutaltruth
Brutaltruth from Ohio

3.79/5  rDev +10.5%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

From a 12 oz bottle in a snifter. This fine ale pours a medium dark copper color
with a nice head of white foam that subsides to a thick ring, thin layer, and features
some nice lacing. Nose of toasted malts and subtle grassy and herbal hop notes. Flavors
follow but exceed with character; smooth toasted malts offset by light herbal hops and a
medium to light hop bitterness that is perfect to the style. Medium carbonation is lightly
prickly and perfect to keep things lively and crisp with a lightly sweet moderately hoppy
finish that is very nice. Overall, nothing to hate and everything to like for a starter brew.
Just because it is distributed by a macro means little to the overall taste----it is a nice ESB
and one that I used to look forward to enjoying back in the day before they were distributed
by the "evil empire".


Jan 11, 2017
Photo of q33jeff
q33jeff from New Jersey

2.02/5  rDev -41.1%
look: 2.5 | smell: 1.75 | taste: 2 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2


AROMA: malt, vegetable
LOOK: Dark yellow pour. Eerie. No head to speak of.
TASTE: Vegetable, Soy….some lemon.

FEEL: ok carbonation, medium body.

Not really a fan of this one.

Dec 31, 2016
Photo of J_T_Arlington
J_T_Arlington from New Mexico

3.38/5  rDev -1.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

Pours copper with a small head that goes down to a thin lace.

Smells malty.

Tastes malty, barley, bready. Bitter, but without the pine taste of their IPA. Sipping is the way to go, gulps are too bitter. Slight hoppyness, especially on the aftertaste, but owhere near the level of an IPA.

Feels light, easy and refreshing.

Overall, definitely not bad. Good afternooner. Good for front-porching, sipping and philosophizing the time away.

Jul 16, 2016
Photo of drdiesel9483
drdiesel9483 from Ohio

3.42/5  rDev -0.3%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Look - copper color with a quickly disappearing head.
Smell - barley and malts. Sweet spiced bread.
Taste - very similar to the smell
Feel - fairly light body with a slight crisp carbonation.
Overall - nothing outstanding

Jul 12, 2016
Photo of MichaelProcton
MichaelProcton from North Carolina

3.5/5  rDev +2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.5

Pretty, clear honey-brown brew with hardly any carbonation. Smell is sweet and malty, but truthfully quite muted. Much rich, malty sweetness on the front end of the taste, too, though some hops sneak up on you at the back end. I do very much like the substantial, full feel of this beer.

Jul 09, 2016
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PorterLambic from Florida

3.53/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.5

A pint glass full of hazy orange brew with a short-lived white head.
Smell is decidedly sweeter than expected and with a noticeable orange scent to it. Malt and bread notes follow. Somewhat medicinal on the back nose.
Taste is as the nose promises, orange sweetness, malt, breadiness with a touch of hops to balance the whole shebang.
Smooth, medium plus body, lighter effervescence. An easily quaffable brew, very sessionable, too.

Apr 16, 2016
Photo of ricke49
ricke49 from Oregon

3.67/5  rDev +7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Was glad to see this in 22 oz. at a budget price. In that classic hop/malt balance, which make me love ESB's, this offering is a bit light in the hop element. As a 'malty' ESB it would be near ideal, if that was your desire. I note that many reviews observe a small, quickly dissapating head. The bottle I poured into a Becker pint glass was fairly robust in that department. Doesn't match some of my favorite ESB's (i.e. those served at Brewers Union Local 180 in Oakridge Oregon) - but at the price, I'm fine with it.

Apr 14, 2016
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rodbeermunch from Nevada

3.24/5  rDev -5.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.25

Pours an amber color, nice warm feel to it. Off white head 1/2" Aroma of earthy hops, forest like notes.

Toffee, caramel balance out about 35 ibus of bitterness. Much toasting. Guessing cascade hopped. Really enjoyed a lot of these back in the 90s, haven't been crushing them the same lately, the occasional baseball game, but with palate shifts and corporate ownership, something has pushed maltier the last 20 years.

Apr 03, 2016
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KatyBeerGuy from Texas

3.11/5  rDev -9.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Poured hard into Tulip. Lots of initial head, disappeared in 60 seconds. Fairly non-descript taste and smell. Good beer for after you've drank 3 or 4 other actually tasty and worthwhile beers and just want to continue your buzz. This used tI be a favorite of mine, it held mythical status and I used to search it out. Not so much anymore. But hey, it's better than bud and till contains alcohol! Eh!

Mar 20, 2016
ESB from Redhook Brewlab
Beer rating: 78 out of 100 with 2138 ratings