Redhook Brewlab

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Bitter - English Extra Special / Strong Bitter (ESB)
Ranked #311
Ranked #48,249
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: 880 | Ratings: 2,139 | Log in to view all ratings and sort
Reviews by Keepnitrl:
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Keepnitrl from Washington

3.74/5  rDev +9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Apr 21, 2015
More User Reviews:
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tippydog666 from Washington

4.99/5  rDev +45.5%
look: 4.75 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

I'm new to Beer Advocate since I just turned 21. I live in woodinville,wa where Redhook has a big brewery so I've been waiting to legally try them out for a long time. I really like the EBS By Redhook. Nice beer to sip and relax, I buy them in pints and will go through the pint in about 35 to 40 mins. It has a warm bitter taste with just the right amount of boldness. A very smooth beer but not creamy. I highly recommend this beer. Only $2.69 for a pint of good beer, it's pretty much a steal!

Dec 22, 2013
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DoctorEvil from California

5/5  rDev +45.8%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

A revelation when I first tasted this in college in the 80's. And to think the brewery (then) was a few blocks from my grandmother's house in Ballard area was so cool....especially compared to the other local choices in town (Rainier, Oly, Lucky, Henry's, Killian's) at the time. This has been my standard baseline taste profile by which other IPA/DIPA/ESB's are judged in my experience. Really not too bitter for regular IPA drinkers (maybe for lager-hounds), but I believe it is perfectly balanced... really close in profile to Sierra Nevada and Schubros 680... oh...and Go Cougs!

Jan 21, 2015
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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
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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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Southernbrew from Georgia

3.33/5  rDev -2.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Nice orange-gold color, little head that leaves quickly. Smells like a sweetwater IPA for those who have had one, crisp citrus hops aroma. Medium mouthfeel, strong hops feel. Slight bitterness in the finish (obviously). Not really what I would describe as an exceptional beer, but not anything noticably bad.

Feb 28, 2004
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JDK from Ohio

4.3/5  rDev +25.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Poured a nice amber color with a 1 finger head.
Some lacing on the glass that clung to the side for a short while
Smells nicely of hops, slightly sweet with mild citrus
Some carbonation that lingers on the tongue
Very nice taste that lingers for a few moments.
Could easily drink a few of these in one setting

Feb 11, 2007
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Goregazm from Rhode Island

4.12/5  rDev +20.1%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5


Appearance: Pours a very nice light amber color, with a few bubbles rising to the surface. Has a one-finger head which stays for a minute or two and leaves some small lacing behind.

Smell: This beer has a nice, smooth scent which isn't to strong. Has the smell of hops in front, with some honey, malt, toastiness, and a slight citrus in there as well.

Taste: Starts out with a bitter citrus taste, with a slight malt in there. Has some toastiness and fruit tastes next, then becomes hoppy toward the end. Bittersweet and refreshing.

Mouthfeel: In the mouth, this beer has a carbonated feel and is a little tingly on the tongue. Has a good texture, right in the middle of being thick and thin. So-so aftertaste which leaves a bitter, hoppy taste on the palate.

Drinkability: I really like this ESB. I've noticed some negative reviews, but I thought it was very refreshing. This is a good beer to drink during a meal, or just as a session beer. Check it out if you're into the ESB thing.

Oct 16, 2008
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TeamUgly from California

3.25/5  rDev -5.2%

Mar 18, 2012
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ponbon63 from Minnesota

3.5/5  rDev +2%

Mar 30, 2013
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MacCherry from Massachusetts

3.25/5  rDev -5.2%

Oct 19, 2012
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famous_mortimur from Colorado

3.5/5  rDev +2%

Sep 21, 2013
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anthony-martinez from California

3.28/5  rDev -4.4%

Sep 28, 2014
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arguemaniac from Virginia

3.85/5  rDev +12.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

Pours a bright orange amber with a foamy (but brief) off-white head that leaves a slight lace. A mellow, sweet maltiness to the aroma, with some subtle hop as well. The flavor is incredibly smooth and exceptionally balanced: some light fruitiness, caramel, citrus hops, toastiness, and grain. The really nice thing about this beer is that no one flavor is dominant or overly assertive. The mouthfeel is wonderfully creamy while the carbonation is pretty subdued.

Even though I generally go for more robust brews I always end up having this one at least a couple times a year. Next to Anchor Steam Beer, this is one of the best session beers out there. Highly recommended.

Dec 07, 2005
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billybob from Massachusetts

3.76/5  rDev +9.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

pours orange amber color with a large egg shell colored head that fades to a covering on the beer and moderate lacing. very slight buttery aroma with some toasted malt and some caramel present. sweet malty caramel just covering the hop finish. mouthfeel is smooth and balanced with good carbonation. maybe not the best but a good session beer.

Mar 17, 2007
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Reaper16 from Alabama

1.64/5  rDev -52.2%
look: 3 | smell: 1.5 | taste: 1.5 | feel: 2 | overall: 1.5

12oz. bottle served into a pint glass

Pours a lightly caramel brown color. 3/4 of a finger's worth of offwhite head. I'm struggling to say much of anything about this beer's appearance. It's utterly generic. If you go into Microsoft Word's library of ClipArt and search for "beer" you will find a picture of this beer.

Have you ever smelled bread sitting on the counter, from like two rooms away? That's what this beer smells like. It's dominantly bready in the most boring way possible: subtly and distantly. If you sniff very hard you can make out a flutter of peanut shell and a wink of musty hops. But this is bread central and it is so utterly boring because of it.

Finishing this bottle is going to be a chore because I am rapidly falling asleep while drinking it. Here's a bad sign as to how boring and underdeveloped this flavor profile is: I can taste the water. Redhook ESB has notes of bread, nuts, an insultingly low percentage of bitterness, and yes, mineral water. This is an utterly benign ale that the English would be embarrassed to see labeled as an ESB. Watery flavor begets watery mouthfeel. This beer is Paper Mario-thin.

Overall: this beer's existence caused the London riots.

Aug 13, 2011
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phideltashaggy from Tennessee

3.74/5  rDev +9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Poured from the (sweet) bottle into a standard pint glass.

A-This is a pretty beer: light, clear copper with a big, fluffy white head and plenty of lacing.

S- Smells like an English bitter, alright. Hints of hoppiness (not a lot) and a decent amount of clean breadiness.

T- This beer tastes nice at the end of the day. The front end is a little malty, the back end is bitter, and a good mix of both lingers for a few minutes.

MF-The mouthfeel was great when the head was present, the fluffyness lent an almost a thin, cream-like feel. After the head receded the feel is quite a bit thinner; boring, but not bad.

Overall, this is a nice brew that I would drink again. Great for in between foods or brews as a palate cleanser and as a nice session beer at the end of a nice shift or at a bbq.

Jan 26, 2012
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beerguy36 from Tennessee

3/5  rDev -12.5%

Dec 24, 2011
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HazardousBrewer from South Carolina

3/5  rDev -12.5%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Mar 02, 2015
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Joshuacmagee from Ohio

3.25/5  rDev -5.2%

Sep 23, 2013
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TyFluth from South Dakota

3.94/5  rDev +14.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Aug 12, 2015
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kegerator from Maryland

4/5  rDev +16.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

this was an all around pleasant beer.
very well blended between malt and hop.
it was deep orange/copper in color with a nice 1/2 inch head that stuck around nicely.
smell was faint, mild malt and hop aromas mostly of caramel sweetness and an earthy hop character.
taste was mild but very smooth with a slightly creamy mouthfeel.
it was a perfect beer at that moment.
very pleasant indeed

Aug 29, 2005
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bmwats from Louisiana

3.54/5  rDev +3.2%
look: 4 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

A: An almost cloudy medium amber, medium-light bubbly head. Dissipates quickly, but leaves a little carbonation. Each time you drink, leaves an "age ring" in terms of lacing.

S: Not much in terms of smell. Slight, yeasty and a little spicy aroma.

T: Only lightly bitter taste, but enough to make for a good quaff.

M: Nothing special here either, but nothing negative either. As with most bitters, the flavor it does have sticks around a little bit, but not too long. It almost clings to the inside of the mouth.

D: Nice drinkability, especially if you're someone that doesn't appreciate a heavy brew, but does enjoy good taste. Refreshing.

Good brew, but nothing transcendental about this. Nothing special as far as "atmosphere" is concerned, but does have a solid flavorful taste. Good for a light refreshing quaff.

Dec 07, 2008
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Metal4Breakfast from Florida

4/5  rDev +16.6%

Jun 23, 2013
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Blitzen15 from Michigan

3.4/5  rDev -0.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

A - Orange Red in color with absolutely no head at all. there is obvious sediments floating around in it but it isn't as foggy as I would expect from a non-filtered beer. Furthermore, I don't know if this is filtered but I would assume not. Interestingly the color becomes more orange than red as the sediments sink to the bottom.

S - This is an interesting red meets pale type smell. I don't know what else to say about it but it is decent.

T - Not as bitter as the name would suggest but it has a distinct hop taste. I wouldn't exactly say the taste was exceptionally strong considering it's name. Overall I am slightly disappointed but I did have high hopes.

M - There is a little bit of a linger in the back of the throat allowing me to taste the bitter longer than that of a easy going lager.

D - I could cuddle up to this beer if it wasn't for my wonderful fiance' always cuddling up to me. It's nothing unique but it's tasty so who cares.

Jul 08, 2010
ESB from Redhook Brewlab
Beer rating: 78 out of 100 with 2139 ratings