Portsmouth Extra Special Bitter | Portsmouth Brewery

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Portsmouth Extra Special BitterPortsmouth Extra Special Bitter
54 Ratings
Portsmouth Extra Special BitterPortsmouth Extra Special Bitter

Brewed by:
Portsmouth Brewery
New Hampshire, United States

Style: English Extra Special / Strong Bitter (ESB)

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 6.00%

Availability: Rotating

Notes / Commercial Description:
Our ESB is a bolder, hoppier pale ale.

Added by Bierman9 on 12-31-2002

User Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 54 |  Reviews: 25
Reviews by sethmeister:
Photo of sethmeister
4.4/5  rDev +18.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

22oz bottle from the brewery.

Pours a dark coppery red / brown with a creamy tan head. Minimally laced.

Scent is toasty, fruity, sweet.

Taste is lovely. There's a toasted bread flavor. Lightly fruity and sweet notes are balanced by a sturdy hop bitterness. Crisp yeasty bread crust. Spicy hop flavor. Earthy tea like notes.

Mouth is soft, creamy and mellow which seems to accentuate the bitter finish.

Drinkability is exceptional.

What a delicious ale. Perfectly balanced and imminently drinkable. I think this might be my favorite ESB.

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More User Reviews:
Photo of JeffDam
3.75/5  rDev +1.1%

Photo of WoodBrew
3.17/5  rDev -14.6%
look: 4 | smell: 2 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

So I am in New Hampshire for the Great Bay Half Marathon...its the night before a race and ....why not drink some....ok....alot of the local beer!!! The Extra Special Bitter from Portsmouth is good. This beer has was a copper/amber in color with thin white head and great lace. The smell was nothing to write home about. This beer was light and crisp in taste! Basically a solid beer nothing crazy going on with this beer. The ABV leads to this beer being a Session...certainly worth a taste.

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Photo of slasich
3.78/5  rDev +1.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Photo of bewareOFpenguin
4/5  rDev +7.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Since my growler could not be filled, I brought home a couple of bombers of this. Nice copper color, with a nice head. Looked good just sitting there. It had that "bitter'" taste that I was looking for, but not "extreme". Thus it made for good drinking and I polished off 2 bottles. Very good beer, but be warned, it will ruin your taste buds for any beer that follows it.

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Photo of Kinsman
3.77/5  rDev +1.6%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Had myself a good time for a couple of hours when I stopped by Portsmouth this afternoon and had the chance to try a few new beers while I was there.

Dark copper colored body with some ligher orange hues. Was poured from the tap with a nice foamy and slighty sticky off-white colored head that initially was just shy of 2 fingers thick.

Aroma was simple and straight-forward but enjoyable with a nice caramel and toasted malts profile and some floral and grassy hops to balance this out.

Not as hoppy as some ESB's I've tasted, but then again many authentic English ESBs are incredbily well-balanced and this seems to fit in well with those. Caremel like sweetness with slight hint of toasted and bready grains for the malts and plenty of grassy and herbal or floral flavors to balance this out with hops.

Mouthfeel is light bodied, a bit lively, and rather crisp. Overall, nothing mind-blowing here but still a very tasty brew.

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Photo of Danielr26
3.6/5  rDev -3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Photo of deltatauhobbit
3.78/5  rDev +1.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Pours a clear amber/copper color with a bit of head that goes around the rim, the head is the type of big bubbles that don't leave much in the way of lacing.

Smell is primarily malty with a touch of caramel and some fruity tones, the hops are quire subdued though and take a backseat.

Taste follows up on the malty presence, lightly roasted and caramel add some character to the malt, still picking up hints of fruitiness, beer has a slickness to it that seems buttery at times, definitely a bit of diacetyl but nothing that is overwhelming or distracting.

An enjoyable ESB and easy to drink, nothing overly complex but fits quite well within the style, still there's more readily available ESB's out there that are just as good.

 732 characters

Photo of meathookjones
4.35/5  rDev +17.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Dark cherry wood colored body with a good sized tan fluffy head. Some decent lace was left on the glass as I drank this. Nice crisp bitter hoppiness in the aroma with a solid malt backbone. Caramel, dark fruits and toasted malt notes kept it pretty balanced. The flavor started off with some bitter earthy hops and light citric notes. Plenty of malty sweetness and toasted malts to balanced it out. Some caramel and fruit notes. A dry bitter finish. Definitely one of the most tasty ESB I have had. Solid body and very easy drinking stuff. I could drink a lot of this stuff if I could get my hands on it. One of the most flavor packed ESBs I have come across, great bitterness and plenty of balance.

 699 characters

Photo of phingdong
4/5  rDev +7.8%

Photo of AgentZero
2.76/5  rDev -25.6%
look: 3 | smell: 2 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 2.5

Thanks to MasterSki for providing this at our ESB (fail!) showdown.

A - Pours an odd looking orangish/reddish/brown. Just seems like an artificial color for some reason. Little bit of yellow on the edges. No stick or ring at all on my pour, although MasterSki showed a fine ring on his.

S - Something of a fail here on the smell. A strange sulphur-like smell hit me at first, actually thought I was smelling something else. Caramel malts are primarily in the light smelling profile.

T - This is really boring and average. Caramel malts, some sort of lighter, sweet fruit taste. A bit of honey, tastes kind of like honey water, just nothing going on here.

M - English style carbonation (soft) and lighter bodied. Appropriate for the style.

D - This is just a boring beer that is easy enough to get down, but not particularly good. DOn't want this again.

 857 characters

Photo of randomdanger
4/5  rDev +7.8%

Photo of smcolw
3.97/5  rDev +7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Copper brown color with a light haze. Starts with a modest head which settles to single layer of minute bubbles.

Strong toast aroma. Low hop nose.

The taste matches the smell until the swallow which is bitter. Lots of biscuity toast with a little malt sugar. The hop is hidden. The body is thin but there's a bit of "roundness" and the carbonation is low like the British versions.

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Photo of ales4baldo
3.5/5  rDev -5.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A- Poured a small head, not much. Copper color and a little dark. A little foggy but a bit clear as well.

S- Lots of sweet malt. Biscuit notes. Reminds me of a Dunkel style beer. A little honey and not too much of the hops coming through.

T- Interesting. Really does remind me of a Dunkel. Has a nice honey in the initial drink. Marks come through and stay throughout. Has a nice sweetness to it. Hops are mellow and the bitterness Is low. Kicks in a bit at the end.

M- Has a soft and small body. Really thin and water like. Flavors are subtle but rounds out nicely. Good malt character to this beer.

O- A decent beer. Nothing's special but a good drink by itself or with a heavy meal. Has a nice taste and good malt use. Simple and refreshing at the same time.

 766 characters

Photo of mklisz
4.5/5  rDev +21.3%

Photo of spoots
3.15/5  rDev -15.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

This beer looked good off the pour--nice color, aroma and head. But on tasting, this is a slightly watery example of ESB. It has notes of caramel, grass, and wheat--not qualities that I immediately associate with a good ESB. Still, it's pretty drinkable and is slightly better than average.

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Photo of Mikecap
3/5  rDev -19.1%

Photo of Maxwell
3.57/5  rDev -3.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.5

The beer pours the color of honey and sits in the glass similarly, somewhere between red, orange, and yellow in color. The beer pours with a light, half a finger’s width head of medium sized, yellowing bubbles that fade down to a scrim. The head leaves a lacing of slick clouds that swiftly slide down the side of the glass. In body, the beer is clean and translucent with a slight haze and lots of carbonation bubbles racing up throughout the glass. On the nose, the beer smells pleasantly hoppy with a good, minty herbal touch and a strong backbone of biscuity, caramel bread from the malt. On the tongue, the beer tastes lightly bitter yet caramel sweet with the faintest touch of acid on the sides of the mouth. In flavor, the beer begins as herbal caramel bread, moving slowly towards a more toffee flavor before the bitters overwhelm the caramel flavor with hints of English Tea and grass. This gives way to a strong, lightly tannic, bitter ending and finish to the beer that mingles grassy and herbal hops with just a faint touch of bread sugar from the malt. The finish is light, shorter, and quite reminiscent of a black tea. The aftertaste mimics the finish’s flavor in a lesser way, appearing light and bitter tannic on the tongue. In the mouth, the beer feel slightly slick and on the light side of medium in body. Carbonation is of a middling amount, providing a light scrub on the tongue, while not providing any fluffiness and only a touch of crispness. Overall, this is a fairly good interpretation of an ESB. Honestly, it’s a little too bitter for an ESB by my standards, but I’ve really only ever had American interpretations of the style, so my judgment might be flawed. Still, it’s a nice sipper with some good characteristics. As the beer heats up, the malt plays a bigger role on the tongue, and the bread characteristics start to unfurl and become more nuanced, which is great. A solid beer to knock back at the pub, and an excellent beer to pair alongside stronger pub food, like a burger or buffalo wings.

 2,040 characters

Photo of johnnnniee
3.75/5  rDev +1.1%

Photo of robwestcott
3.75/5  rDev +1.1%

Photo of cosmicevan
3.83/5  rDev +3.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Massive props go out to my buddy CooperEllis for picking up my KtG and nabbing me a mix pack of Portsmouth bombers (and glassware).

a - Popped the bottle and filled my portsmouth tulip. Deep copper amber with a thin bubbly head and vibrant carbonation. The head didn't hang too long, but wasn't gone that quick. The surface of the brew left a murky swampy trace of the head that was once there.

s - Malts. Smells kind of malty. Pretty malty. Did I mention that this beer smells like malts? It is almost lagerish in the smell or even a malty red or amber ale. There is some subtle potpourri notes in the background...kind of like walking into a craft store, but not nearly as intense. Overall the smell is pretty subtle and laid back. Really have to dig in to pull much of anything beyond the malt.

t - Toasted malts. Almost like a toasted lager, but a bit more seasoned or spicey (again potpourri), but just a pinch of that festive spiciness.

m - Medium to light bodied...even a bit watery. Leaves a cooling biscuity aftervibe. Carbonation is very subtle

o - As the description suggests, they key to an ESB is balance. Should be called Extra Special Balance. This is a very non-offensive brew...I think it would be accessible to any beer drinker and is a solid example of the style. There is a tingle of festiveness which gives it a bit of pizaz. There isn't any real hopping to this beer to speak of...all malts...but not in a bad way.

 1,442 characters

Photo of Archemedies
4/5  rDev +7.8%

Photo of ToasterChef
4.1/5  rDev +10.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A cellar temperature bottle was poured into my NERAX Imperial Pint. The liquid is light brown...perhaps tarnished copper...in color. A good sized egg shell colored head sits on top and fills up about a fifth of my glass. As it recedes, good lacing is left behind. A number of small bubbles cling to the bottom of my glass; occasionally one break free and rises quickly to the top.

The aroma has some nice, slightly bitter hops. A tiny bit of fruit juice sweetness is mixed in as well.

A tasty ESB, there is a little bit of bitterness as the beer enters my mouth and it builds in intensity until I swallow, where bitter flavors linger on. The hops are grassy. The malt has a bit of caramel flavor to it.

Full bodied with not too much carbonation. The coat is slight but noticeable. It has some sweetness to it.

Very drinkable. I could easily have had this entire bottle myself. In fact, a growler would not be out of the question. An excellent beer; I hope it is on tap the next time I visit the brew pub.

 1,008 characters

Photo of erlenmeyer
3/5  rDev -19.1%

Photo of Stockfan42
4/5  rDev +7.8%

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Portsmouth Extra Special Bitter from Portsmouth Brewery
Beer rating: 3.71 out of 5 with 54 ratings