The Wise ESB | Elysian Brewing Company

very good
133 Reviews
The Wise ESBThe Wise ESB

Brewed by:
Elysian Brewing Company
Washington, United States

Style: Extra Special / Strong Bitter (ESB)

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 5.90%

Availability: Year-round

Notes / Commercial Description:
No notes at this time.

Added by BeerAdvocate on 11-14-2001

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Reviews: 133 | Ratings: 207
Photo of SitkaSteve
3.75/5  rDev -3.8%

I had this on tap at Mcgivney's in Juneau.
It was poured into a pint glass.
The appearance was a hazy burnt orange to slightly ruddy brown color with a one finger white foamy head that dissipated within about a minute. There was some light lacing sticking and then sliding down the glass.
The smell had some nutty malts with a subdued bready toffee and caramel malts.
The taste was mainly the same.
The mouthfeel was somewhat heavier than I expected but nothing wrong or overbearing. It left a dry smooth maltiness in the aftertaste and finish.
Overall, pretty good ESB that I would have again.

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Photo of rickyleepotts
3.45/5  rDev -11.5%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.5

OK, so we are in Seattle and figured that since we were here, we would hit up some breweries. We started with Redhook, a staple to the state of Washington. I didn’t realize they were owned by Anheuser-Busch, but that isn’t obvious when walking around the brewery. Sheryl had actually been here before, and wanted me to take the tour. It’s only $1, but you get to try several of their beers. Basically two pints of beer, plus the tour that lasted well over an hour. Needless to say, it was worth the buck.

After the tour we headed down to the bar and tried a few new ciders they had on tap. We left there and headed to Black Raven Brewing Company. This is a small operation in Redmond, and I was VERY impressed with their beers. They had a wide selection and even had two beers aged in wine barrels from local wineries. Chateau St. Michelle is actually not far from there. As a matter of fact, the winery is right across the street from Redhook. Anyway, my favorite was their barrel aged scotch ale. Not quite as good as Kilt Lifter, but still a delicious experience.

Today we decided to see Elysian, a brewery that has a few beers on our list. There are actually 3 beers from them on the list including The Wise ESB, the Avatar Jasmine IPA, and the Dragonstooth Stout. When we got to the brewery, located in a hipster part of town, we parked out back and walked in. I saw all three beers on tap, and a fridge full of bottles beside the bar. We sat down, met the bartender and the manager, and started talking about the beers. So… they still brew the ESB, as it is one of their most popular beers. However, they no longer bottle it and haven’t for over a year. So what did we decide? To review it anyway! We are here, won’t be able to get the beer in a bottle, and decided to just review it anyway. This is the FIRST beer we have reviewed like this, and might just open a door to new possibilities for our blog. Lets drink! First up is The Wise ESB.

In the Glass: People know Redhook for their ESB, a recipe that changes with the season. Not sure this one changes, but the Black Raven ESB was amazing. This beer looks like a traditional ESB but is producing quite a bit of lace. The lace is the most noticeable thing for me thus far.

Aroma: It smells like an ESB, but with a hint more spice than I expected. I hope that carries over into the flavor on this one. I am sick of looking at this beer. Let’s drink!

Flavor: (I will have to sip on this as we are splitting a single sample… But there is enough left in the glass to satisfy.) Just like the aroma, I get some of those subtle spices on the palate. This is, by far, the most bitter ESB I have ever tried. Not saying that’s a bad thing… I like bitter beers. I AM a hop head, after all. This is definitely the best, most flavorful ESB I’ve ever had.

Mouthfeel: The mouthfeel is thin, but I’m drinking this a bit warmer than I wanted. For the Dragonstooth, that’s OK. However, comparing it to the Redhook ESB, this is a much better experience. I had enough for a second sip, and swished this one around my mouth a little. Those spices just opened up even more doing that.

Aftertaste: I didn’t expect all the buttress from the flavor, and I sure didn’t think the finish would last as long as it does. The finish is a drying hoppy flavor that just sits and settles and dries as I swallow. A good 5 minute finish.

I’m not sure if this beer tastes better because we are reviewing it from the brewery, but I like it. I also like that the manager introduced herself to us and keeps telling us stories about their beers. She’s fun. This brewery is fun. This beer… Is fun! I hope the next two are as good as this one. Cheers!

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Photo of harrymel
3.75/5  rDev -3.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

Bottled: unk
Pours a nice amber ale with some surface foam and a spotty lace. Smells of amber malts, some metal, some herbal hops, some hints of herbs. Really, overall nose is inoffensive and approachable with a hint of sweetness - as I believe an ESB should be, fine work Dick. Flavor hits with well steeped black tea, some sweet and English malts and a bit of herbal hops sans bitterness. Nice ESB flavor. Medium bodied with reserved carb and a semi wet finish. Nice beer. ESB's are one to feel good drinking and drinking and drinking...This has that. Unobtrusive and approachable - not the most unique, but that's what makes it good!

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Photo of kingcrowing
3.97/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

On tap poured into a sampling glass.

Pours a red/amber with almost no head but some light smooth lacing. Nose is a bit sweet, hard to get a lot from this glass but I can tell it's nice.

Wow, easily and one of the best ESBs i've ever had, very sweet and creamy a nice hopbite to balance it all out. Overall very tasty and super drinkable!

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Photo of Mora2000
4/5  rDev +2.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Thanks to 5000 for sending me this bottle.

The beer pours a hazy orange-amber color with a white head. The aroma is heavy on the papaya with some biscuit malt and grassy hops mixed in. The flavor is full of hop flavor. I get a lot of juicy orange notes, but the bitterness from the hops is negated by the biscuit and toffee malt. Overall, the bitterness is pretty low. There is also a little bit of grass from the hops. Medium mouthfeel and medium carbonation. A very well balanced ESB. Very nice.

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Photo of DaftCaskBC
3.95/5  rDev +1.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

On tap at Elysian Fields in Seattle Washington.

A: 1/2" cream coloured head over cloudy dark amber liquid.

S: Floral hops, malt, and yeast.

T: The initial taste is floral hops and I was left with a bitter aftertaste.

M: Rather thin viscosity, with quite a low level of carbonation.

O: This is a smooth ESB that could benefit from a better mouthfeel.

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Photo of biboergosum
3.66/5  rDev -6.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

On-tap at the Capitol Hill location.

This beer appears a cloudy dark golden amber colour, with a thin cap of fizzy off-white head (due more to the right-to-the-top pour than anything), which leaves a skewed spiderweb pattern of lace around the glass as things drop away. It smells of faint grapefruit and orange, supplemented by some mild biscuit malt. The taste is bitter earthy and pine needle aura hops, caramel cream, and more subtle biscuit malt. The carbonation is moderate, the body slightly edgy, but inoffensive on the whole, coming withing a chip shot of smooth. It finishes clean, the malty character lording over a now relatively subdued floral hoppiness.

The ramped up hops are nice, sure, but an ESB needs a corresponding strong biscuit malt, which is lacking here. Good beer, just a little too off-style.

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Photo of OBeerMeGreatOne
3.93/5  rDev +0.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Poured from a 22oz into a giant stein. Pours out burnt orange, slight amber tone. Starts with a fat two inch head, moderate lacing gets left behind. Pretty nice upon inspection.
The smell is very floral with a bit of sweet breat (not sweetbreads) following it up.
I'm glad to say that the taste is a little bit more complex. Caramel right up front with a country white bread sweetness following up. The hops are mostly floral with a tiny, tiny bit of earth and citrus. It has a slightly fizzy, moderate body. Very easy going down. I paired this lady with some Nathan's Hot Dogs with a spicy horseradish mustard. Good choice for cutting the spice. I'm not always down for the ESB, but tonight I was and this hit the spot.

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Photo of greenmonstah
3.43/5  rDev -12.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

22 oz bottle into a big mug!

A - Pours a beautiful amber with the most active carbonation I've seen this side of a Duvel. Four fingers of massive creamy white head. Wow, I've never seen such a head, though it might be because of the glassware I'm using.

S - Malty, bready, a bit sweet. Biscuity. Not a very strong nose.

T - First a bit of sweet and bready malt. Then some fruity sweetness kicks in. Not very bitter, mostly just sweet. Almost too sweet. Extra Sweet Bitter, this time.

M - Medium body with lots of carbonation. Not much of an after-effect, it is neither cloying or dry in the finish.

D - The sweetness is a bit too much. I don't know the bottling date, but I imagine it is a bit old, since when I picked it off the shelf it was dusty and the label a bit wrinkled. I think it'd be better if fresher, as the bitterness would be more present than the sweetness.

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Photo of flagmantho
3.88/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured from 22oz bomber into a pint glass.

Appearance: rich amber-brown hue with a fair bit of haze. Head is one finger of frothy ivory foam with a bit of an orange cast. A nice looking ESB, if a bit cloudy. Quite a nice lace is left on the glass as I drink.

Smell: biscuity, nutty malt and earthy hop characters are clearly present. On top of this is an interesting, bright fruity flavor that has got to be a product of the yeast. It's hard for me to describe; the aroma is somewhere between citrus and banana. Not bad or good really: just interesting. Overall I like it, although they could tone down the biscuit.

Taste: absolutely everything you'd expect based on the aroma. Flavor starts of somewhat sweet but then dries out quick with the biscuit and hop bitterness coming through. Flavors are kind of muddled at the beginning but the finish is crisp and refreshing. I quite like it, actually.

Mouthfeel: surprisingly creamy for an ESB. Body has a medium consistency and is chock full of well-integrated carbonation. Good stuff.

Drinkability: at first, I thought the biscuitiness in the aroma was going to make this low on my list of ESBs, but in the end that characteristic melds well with a crisp, strong bitterness and a well-balanced flavor profile. I could quaff a good deal of this brew.

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Photo of jorg2619
4/5  rDev +2.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

The wise pours a dull brown with amber notes cloudy which is a plus.
S: I detect only a mild smell of distant grain the possibility of maybe some hops
T: oh yeah the esb
True to form not to much smell but what a intense earthy hop taste! I am impressed gor an esb.
M: nothing to really note here good mouth feel nothing special.
D: I would drink this beer again in fact next time I get to that bottle shop I am getting another bottle.

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Photo of Haybeerman
3.71/5  rDev -4.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

A: Dark copper/amber color. Poured a 2 finger foamy off-white head with fair retention. Broken lacing..

S: Floral hops; citrus and grapefruit. Sweet bready notes as well. All muted.

T: Sweet bready flavors up front. Wet grains in the middle. Sharp bitter builds throughout a dry finish with some floral hop character lingering.

M: Light to medium body. Ample (and then some) carbonation; stings the tongue. Sharp bitter lingers.

D: An aggressive pour in an over-sized glass may be a good idea. ABV is manageable. Not much in the nose, but good malty flavors and a little more floral character than many ESB's.

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Photo of philbertk
3.29/5  rDev -15.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

The Wise ESB 1999 12 oz. Bottle. 6.00% ABV. (4.5 / 5.0) Hazy rich copper golden color. Light sediment adds to rich lacy head. Malty hoppy light floral front. Smooth rich ESB doughy sweet caramel biscuit body. Floral hops flash in smooth spicy finish. Sampled 12/25/1999.

2000 22 oz. Bottle. 6.00% ABV. (4.0 / 5.0) Clear rich copper bronze color. Smooth floral toasted hop front. Crisp ESB toasted fruit malt body with a touch of doughiness. Mild light hop finish. Very clean smooth mild ESB flavor. Sampled 12/14/2000.

2004-B 22 oz. Bottle Extra Special Bitter--Athena Goddess of Wisdom Graphic. 5.90% ABV--45 IBU's.? (4.5 / 5.0) Mild lacy head. Clear rich deep amber color. Mild toasted malty earty floral hop front. Crisp creamy malty sweet earthy toasted caramel body. Clean dry crusty hop spice mild citrus end. Classic! Sampled 12/9/2004.

2004 Great American Beer Festival Gold Medal Winner Sticker 22 oz. Bottle. 6.13% ABV--45 IBU's.? (4.5 / 5.0) Rich lacy head. Clear garnet amber red color .Malty mild hop toasted malty front. Sweet smooth creamy toasted doughy caramel mild earthy fruit body. Rich clean earthy bitter creamy hop end. Tasty. Sampled 8/15/2004.

2008 ELYSIAN 22 oz. Bottle. 5.90% ABV--39 IBU's. (4.25 / 5.0) Rich dense lacy head. Cold hazed rich bright copper red amber color. Mild toasted malty mild hop front. Light sediment. Creamy mild earthy rich malty mild toasted caramel toffee mild sweet fruit hint smooth body. Cloying malt smooth balanced mild hop spice end. Sampled 7/2/2008. 4 @ $3.33 Each.

Elysian Brewing Company, Inc.--ELYSIAN The Wise ESB--2010 22 oz. Bottle. 5.90% ABV. 39 IBU's. (3.5 / 5.0) Thin mild lace off white head. Slightly hazy bright rich dark amber ruby color. Lightly toasted mild hop front. Crisp light toasted caramel biscuit earthy hint medium ESB body. Dry mildly bitter light hop spice end. Smooth refreshing but dead taste buds bland. Sampled 8/27/2010. 2 @ $3.99.

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Photo of katan
3.2/5  rDev -17.9%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

22 oz into a pint

A - A hefty carbonation is present. Filled my glass almost to the top with 2" head on a relatively careful pour. The amount of escaping CO2 on opening would seem to support the strong carbonation. Lots of bubbling. Deep brown in color.

S - Very light nose - just a hair of floral and grapefruit hopping. Some light yeast bread notes are present. Hard to pull much else out.

T - Starts off with a lightly sweet note, somewhat bready. Gets more grainy, but not really malty mid-stream. Very dry. Hopping comes through lightly. Finishes with a combination of floral hop notes and some almost oxidized fruity notes.

M - Very carbonated. Extremely stinging to the tongue. Light and airy at times. A strong bitter film sticks to the tongue.

D - Way too carbonated for sessioning. ABV is solid, but manageable (listed as lower on my bottle @ 5.9%). Extremely filling.

I fear this beer may have aged too long to be worthwhile. It just wasn't right all the way around. I brought it back from ID 2 months ago, which makes me wonder about its history before then. It hurts to knock a beer w/ this great of credentials so badly, but based on the beer in front of me, I have to.

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Photo of Soonami
4.18/5  rDev +7.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

I finished a bomber tonight while playing cards with friends. This is a very nice ESB with molasses and toasty malt and jammy fruit flavors augmented with pungent and assertive hops. The Wise ESB was definitely malt forward, but with enough hop balance. It's a very good example of the style and judging from the GABF awards the label brags about it's been a good beer for a very long time. Delicious

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Photo of Docer
3.83/5  rDev -1.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Well the bottle certainly has changed since the last posted here...

- Nice copper and dark amber color... mostly clear at the start. Poured from a 22 oz. into a pint glass. Nice finger of off-white head... leaves a little around and a ring.

- Malty sweet and grainy scent with some bitter pine and sweet notes.

- Zesty and bitter hops certainly present... and a silky grainy malt base, caramel, sweet... roasty grains... and even more bitter pine hops.

- Overall medium and rather creamy thick. Carbonated well.... slightly sticky but zesty enough to keep the mouth watering.

- Overall really true to the style... and not bad for a style I really don't care that much for. I love bitter hops... but even more so in an IPA. Style preference doesn't affect my judging. I think this is an excellent ESB... though I am not a fan of brews that use an excessive amount of different malts.

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Photo of Pinto21
4.17/5  rDev +6.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A: solid amber color, just right for an ESB. Not a lot of head, <finger, but lacing.

S: Balance of citrusy hop and sweet malt. touch of biscuit too.

T: Very tasty. Very balanced. Even malt and hops. sweet biscuit followed by hops that taste as the smell. Balanced all the way through. An American ESB for sure.

MD: Both on for an bottled esb. Could use a touch less carbonation, but i just feel an esb should have less than an APA.

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Photo of philbe311
3.54/5  rDev -9.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

A - A finger plus of slightly rocky, tightly compact, creamy light tan colored head that displays stellar retention... A pleasant medium to dark copperish amber color with a distinctive orange hue... Loaded with small moderately paced carbonation that rises throughout... Full rings of lace cling to the sides of the glass...

S - Simple, subdued, and quite basic all the way around... Malt forward and loaded with the aroma of fresh baked bread... Also present are mild undertones of caramel and toffee...

T - Oyster crackers... Grainy... The hops are much more pronounced on the palette and rise at finish and linger as part of the aftertaste...

M - Medium bodied... Subtle carbonation... Ultra Smooth... Ultra Creamy... Clean... Crisp... Dynamic... Even and consistent... An ever so slightly puckering finish...

D - A solid ESB... One that I would gladly enjoy in the future... The mouthfeel alone makes this one to seek out an enjoy...

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Photo of bum732
4.1/5  rDev +5.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Pours a darkish red, decent bubbly head. Smells of citrus hops, caramel malt, apple, some toffee. Tastes of caramel like malt, nice moderate citrus hoppy backbone. Nice lemon rind like bitterness. Touch of tropical fruits near the finish, mostly pineapple. Decent carbonation and mouthfeel.

A solid American version of an ESB, i like the addition of American citrus hops to compliment the caramel like malt. Nice balanced flavors, solid.

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Photo of Redrover
4/5  rDev +2.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

I had this at the Tap House Grill in Seattle. It was one of the 160 beers they offer on tap!

Served in a standard pint glass, the beer is a dark garnet with a thickish beige head. Great lacing.

Nose of caramel malts, soft green hops and mild pine resin.

Nice combo of pine and caramel. Balanced with a lingering finish. Biscuits and gradually amped-up hops later.

A soft creamy mouth adds to the enjoyment.

Very easy drinker. Well done!

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Photo of SeanRedd
3.9/5  rDev 0%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

The US teaches the foreign breweries how to brew their own styles once again. Deep copper and clear as expected, stanky danky resinous hops in the nose and sweet syrupy malt. Take a loaf of Italian dessert bread, cover it in maple syrup, add a touch of nutmeg, stuff the center with bittering hops, sprinkle some nutmeg, then simmer with shredded 2x4. The yeast is clean to show off the hops, not the moldy ESB yeast decaying English breweries are known for. One is enough though, too wet for the belly, could use bit more attenuation.

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Photo of JRed
4/5  rDev +2.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Transparent reddish-brown in body with bubbly white head. The sweet aroma lifts from the drink: sweet malt, molasses, caramel, toffee, and butterscotch. Flavors of butterscotch, molasses, sweet malt, some hop bitterness towards the finish that turns into mint tobacco. Light in body but carries a slick mouthfeel. A flavorful session that hits the ESB style on the head. A great interpretation.

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Photo of thecarster1
3.82/5  rDev -2.1%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

a- bomber poured into a pint, minimal head that fades fast to a bubbly layer of lace, amber with highlights of burgandy and tawny yellow.

s- very clean, loads of malt, fairly fruity - raspberry almost.

t- nice amount of fruity/floral hops, caramel malt upfront, slight bit of roast in the malt, well balanced, another little hint of faint raspberry - orr maybe i'm dreaming it!

m- light to medium bodied.

d- very drinkable esb, it's a departure to the hops i've been drinking nonstop lately, this esb is more floral, fruity than others i've had which is a nice change of pace, good one elysian.

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Photo of spencerw
4.15/5  rDev +6.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A: Great deep murky amber with 1 inch head that left quickly. Very weak appearance and left little to no lacing. Does look "easy-drinking" though and clean.

S: Slight malt sense with a nice floral, citrus hop bite shining through. Hops are blatantly present.

T: A very good ESB and the second good beer I've had from Elysian. It is very clean and refreshing and has a moderately powerful hoppiness in the mid drift and finish of the beer. Excellent brew.

M: Medium body and very smooth. Aftertaste is sweet and hoppy and coats your mouth.

D: Very refreshing and drinkable. This beer would make a great session beer and I will definitely pick up a few more.

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Photo of DrScotch
3.85/5  rDev -1.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

I used to drink (fairly often, always enjoyably) at Elysian when I lived in Seattle, just found a bottle of The Wise locally.

Nice looking ale - pours well, good tight head, coppery/red colour.

Malty sweet smell matched by the first sip which is followed by a light bitterness and slight hop flavour leaving a nicely balanced aftertaste.

Enjoyable American version of an ESB, I will certainly keep a couple in the cellar (i.e. garage)

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The Wise ESB from Elysian Brewing Company
3.9 out of 5 based on 207 ratings.
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