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Bitter - English Extra Special / Strong Bitter (ESB)
Ranked #4
Ranked #4,386
4.08 | pDev: 10.78%
England, United Kingdom
Notes: Twice named World Champion Beer, Fuller’s ESB is one of the most decorated ales of its time. A winner born and brewed, it’s a strong, full-bodied ale that has delighted drinkers for decades with its smooth, mellow bitterness and superbly satisfying finish.

The ESB that started it all - multi-award winning Fuller’s ESB is acknowledged as one of the world’s finest beers. The unique blend of Northdown, Target, Challenger and Goldings hops balances the rich, malty notes for a smooth, full-bodied beer bursting with marmalade fruitiness throughout.
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Reviews: 1,428 | Ratings: 3,134 | Log in to view all ratings and sort
Photo of RyanK252
RyanK252 from California

4/5  rDev -2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bottle poured into a pub glass

A: Pours crystal clear copper amber with a frothy light kaki head that settles to a light layer and leaves a little spotty lacing.

S: Rich toasty bready malt, plenty of fruity notes, floral, slightly spicy earthy notes, and toffee sweetness.

T: Toasty bready malt, fruity, apricot, peach, plum, raisin, date, pear, and apple, floral and slightly spicy earthy notes, and toffee sweetness.

M: A little on the fuller side of medium body, light to moderate carbonation .

O: Absolute classic British beer.

Sep 15, 2021
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jkblr from Indiana

4.19/5  rDev +2.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

330mL bottle BBE 01 NOV 21 poured into a stemless wine glass at fridge temp 5.9% ABV per label. The beer pours bright light amber with ruby highlights and light khaki colored head. The head recedes to a thin ring and single layer of tiny bubbles. The aroma is toasted malt and earthy hops. The taste is semisweet caramel, toasted bread, grainy & earthy notes with moderate bitterness. The mouthfeel is medium bodied with less than medium carbonation and a mostly dry finish. Overall, very good.

Jul 10, 2021
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oldmankoch from Tennessee

4.34/5  rDev +6.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Rated to style - This is an incredibly delicious has been mentioned, the recent Porter Tasting turned me on to this brewery. I find the ESB to equal in impression their Porter. Will be continuing to pick up both beers in the future. Perfect sweet/bitter element as the malts & hops evolve on the palate with each new sip.

Apr 02, 2021
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BeerBobber from Nevada

4/5  rDev -2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a beautiful copper color with a finger and a half of thick khaki head..

Smell is rich and malty. Getting some caramel on the nose.

Taste is like the nose. Rich and malty. Just a hint of caramel.

Mouth feel is a bit towards the medium side. The finish lingers.

Overall this is a very nice easy drinking malty beverage. The rich malts have a good balance of hops to it as well that really brings this beer out.

Mar 30, 2021
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BubbleBobble from New York

3.77/5  rDev -7.6%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 3.75

Pours from the bottle a light mahogany, small off white head that quickly dissipates to a thin ring. Nose is toast, toffee, some minerality, slight diacetyl. Taste is malt forward with earthy, floral hops leveling out the overall sweetness; as it warms, fruity esters begin to emerge which increases its fullness. Mouthfeel is rich without becoming cloying thanks to small, full carbonation.

Mar 20, 2021
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realJohnnyHobo from Maryland

3.93/5  rDev -3.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Having tried one of the best examples of a Porter from Fuller's I was highly interested in getting my hands on this brew; in fact, I going to begin looking for a local pub that would offer it when I came across a location that had it. 4 pack, 11.2 fl and a bit pricer than what I'd like for what this is, but this beautiful caramel coloured bitter is worth every penny.

A rich 'mature' caramel smell with a small head that even when aggressively poured leaves a small white micro bubbling residue on top of the beverage. Closest American beers in this colour range would be Yuengling and the ESB from Fosters sold now as ' Foster's Premium".

The first taste I find the mouthfeel ultra smooth, thanks to the celebrated soft-water sourced off the the River Thames. The rich malt forward flavor is exquisite from the Crystal Malt blends. Hop character is mild at least in the mid 30s, a bit syrupy in mouthfeel but nothing less than a high quality ale.

Mar 05, 2021
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BJB13 from Maryland

4.27/5  rDev +4.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

330ml bottle poured into a nonic style pint glass.

Pours clear and copper with a two finger creamy white head that leaves lace and hangs around for quite a while. Nice English aroma, woody hops, bread and caramel malt. Taste is no surprise, opening with malty and slightly sweet bread and caramel then drying a bit with moderately bitter woody hop flavor taking over. The finish is rather clean. Body is very smooth and medium-light in weight with enough carbonation to give a crisp bite at the finish. Easy drinking and very enjoyable.

Feb 21, 2021
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imnodoctorbut from Texas

4.1/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

clear amber body pours with a small toasted cream head that has minimal retention and leaves a little lacing as it settles down into a halo

aroma is super malty holiday bread and dark stone fruit.

taste follows up with toffee sweetness along with the nose. honeyed dark fruit, holiday spiced bread, toffee

mouthfeel is moderate carbonation, medium-light body. mild feel between creamy and crisp, with carbo and spice prickles on occasion and a smooth finish

mellow, agreeable, and very flavorful considering the abv. a stones throw from a holiday/brown ale, with very little hop consideration. could easily drink all night if given the opt

Jan 23, 2021
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DannyBoy15347 from Missouri

3.88/5  rDev -4.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 3.75

Ok so giving this another go after not caring for it the 1st go around, and to give it a fair shot I let it warm up a bit since I now know that would be a more appropriate serving temp.

A- poured casually into a pint glass. Little to no head, but there is a thin lacing that remains. Shows a beautiful honey-like amber color, and clarity is nothing short of spectacular.

S- this ones intriguing. I get a sweet malty character, and maybe even some dark fruits. Makes me feel like it's going to be boozy and give you that warm feeling.

T- malt character is definitely there, probably more bready than cracker like, but a really nice balance with bitterness. Hops seem to add that earthy floral note but aren't overpowering.

MF- Feels like what I expected from the style, again now knowing I should expect it to feel slightly less carbonated than an American pale ale. Just very smooth and balanced as advertised.

Overall definitely liked it more this 2nd go around, and definitely much better as it warms up a little. Still not sure its my favorite style, but hits the spot when you want a change up on a cold winter day. Cheers y'all!

Jan 12, 2021
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Treyliff from West Virginia

4.43/5  rDev +8.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

330ml bottle poured into a pint

A- pours a clear amber color with a one-finger creamy white head that has decent retention

S- toasted bready malts and complimented by an array of fruity esters, Undertones of honey, toffee, fruitcake, floral hops, and nutty malts

T- fruity and bright up front with notes of red berries and raisin, followed by sweet malty notes of caramel, honey, brown bread and fruitcake. The finish gives more malty honey notes with fruity/floral hops & toasted bread on the linger

M- medium body with moderate-low carbonation leads to a creamy mouthfeel that continues into the finish, high drinkability

O- a flavorful, well balanced ESB that is so easy to drink

Dec 11, 2020
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Wattie83 from Pennsylvania

4.25/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Poured from bottle into nonic pint. Looks deep amber, clear, still, off white head that falls quickly to a cap, then a collar, then gone. Smell is malty, fruity, with some plum, prune. Taste is sweet on entry with some toffee and caramel flavors, bready malt and hops mix nicely in the middle as the 2 balance each other out. Finish is fruity, clean and pleasant. A bit of sweetness sits behind on the tongue. Feel is medium bodied with low carbonation. Overall, this is a fantastic beer that I'd love to try from a handpulled cask at cellar temperature. A great beer to enjoy in the evening just hanging out.

Oct 31, 2020
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xander10 from England

4.42/5  rDev +8.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Poured slowly (arguably too slow) into a Guinness pint glass.
Look: Pours a dark amber with a small, off white head that dissolved very quick, couldn't get in time to see how the lacing is.
Smell: Sweet and malty with a little bit of hop aroma, much better than london pride.
Taste: Again quite sweet with a malty aftertaste coming in. the light carbonation really helps make it taste so sweet.
feel: Decently bodied, giving a beer that is pretty sessionable while still being interesting, I can see why it has won awards.
Overall: Great beer, sad that they don't serve it at my local fuller's pub since its the best I've had from Fuller's so far. 9/10 beer.

Oct 29, 2020
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officerbill from New York

4.21/5  rDev +3.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

BB 06/21, aggressive pour into a Guinness pint glass

I'm going to forgo the usual categories and just give a description of Fuller's ESB.
This is a great beer.
Dark clear amber with a thin, quickly dissolving head and a mild malty aroma.
The tastes of toffee, caramel, fresh baked biscuits, dates, plums, and maybe a little honey. Just when it's about to become too sweet the hops kick in and bring off a clean, dry finish with a hint of peppery spice.

ESB is full, without being filling, mildly sweet without being cloying, a noticable hop presence without being hoppy.
Almost too easy drinking and, before you realize it, suddenly your on your third or fourth.

Oct 21, 2020
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NCSapiens from Indiana

4.16/5  rDev +2%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

So this is what an ESB is supposed to taste like. Great beer that completely blows away the other examples of the style I’ve had. The aroma is absolutely outstanding. Fresh on tap there is this really distinct, wonderful caramel and toffee flavor, biscuity malts, and a mildly hoppy bitter finish. The balance of the flavors is outstanding. The only quibble I have is with the appearance. The color is a clear amber, which looks ok, but there is no head retention or lacing.

Oct 14, 2020
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Rug from Massachusetts

4.12/5  rDev +1%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Best by 3/1/21

This is my first beer in this style, and it sounds like it'll appeal to me. Especially with the colder months approaching, I grabbed a few of these and other malty beers when I saw them, though I'm breaking into one while it's still warm out

Pours a clear dark amber with 2 fingers of soapy off white head that quickly fades to a cap and leaves patchy lacing

There's a lot of toasted malt in the nose here, dark bread, honey, molasses, vanilla, dates, and peppery hops. Quite a complex aroma and it is very warm and inviting

The front end of the taste is quite sweet, bringing caramel and dark toasted malt to the forefront while being supported by subtle dried fruit and spice, both of which come out stronger in the finish. In addition, the swallow brings bright floral hops to keep this interesting and balanced

A medium body pairs with moderate carbonation to create a crisp beer that goes down easy. However, it is a bit too watery, so I'll have to criticize for that

Other than feeling a but thin, this beer is great stuff. I hope to explore this style more now

Sep 15, 2020
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nick_perry from North Carolina

3.79/5  rDev -7.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

Amber color, minimal head. Bitter, floral aroma and taste. Dry floral notes slightly resembling gin…although it’s odd, because I dislike gin but liked this beer was all right. Good hop/malt balance.

Aug 21, 2020
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sjrider from California

4.02/5  rDev -1.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured from a bottle - clear amber/copper with minimal off white head leaving a minimal ring of tiny bubbles and almost no lacing. Nose is very mild sweet malt. Taste follows with a bit of bread character and more mild sweetness. Finish is quite smooth and not quite dry. Easy drinker.

Jun 27, 2020
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SierraNevallagash from Maine

4.15/5  rDev +1.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

330ml bottle - best before 01 Sept. 2020 - poured into an Allagash 2020 Coolship glass at cooler temp (36-ish°F)

Pours a ruddy deep copper-amber colour, topped with two fingers of khaki head with good retention, leaving some streaky lscing as it recedes. Some effervescence is visible.

Nose: A really wonderful aroma of sweet British malts. This is all toffee, caramel, brown sugar, candied figs, plums, raisins, vanilla, milk chocolate, and just a hint of some very floral hops. Very nutty. Very much a rum-soaked fruitcake aroma. Delightfully sweet and enticing.

Palate: The beer greets the palate with sweet toasty malts, lending some caramel, toffee, and bready notes, as well as a distinctly British ale yeast. There are also sine dark fruit notes with raisin, fig, and plum. Theae sweet English malt notes are quickly dried out by a solid presence of spicy, floral hops. I'm not sure what hops are used, but they're quite floral and spicy, as English hops should be. This imparts a light bitterness, which begins to grow towards the finish with a resinous, almost pine note. The finish itself is surprisingly dry, crisp, resinous, and lightly bitter.

Mouthfeel/Body: This beer is medium-light in body - with some soft, smooth heft from the sweet malts, but a crisp, snappy, bright delivery. Effervescence is lively, but right doen the middle - not super fizzy, and not at all lacking. Some stickiness is left around the lips, but altogether, the beer is light, refreshing, and very drinkable.

Overall: To me, it's almost like a scotch ale with the heft, sweetness, and ABV turned way down, but all the same flavours. There just aren't American beers like this. Insanely crisp and drinkable, with the impression of dessert sweetness, but somehow manages to be dry with a delightful hoppy bitterness. I'm disappointed that I never tried this sooner. Crazy to think this is a cheap British beer. I coyld drink this daily, and I'll likely incorporate this into my regular rotation. For the price, this is a must-try.

Jun 17, 2020
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hopsputin from New Jersey

4.49/5  rDev +10%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

a: clear dark amber color with slight hints of ruby red and mahogany. 1/2 finger solid tan head

s: sweet caramel, figs, and huge doughy notes. big hit of sweet berries and sweet grass. a little floral note at the end. not too complex but very nice

t: sweet caramel and fresh dough. sweet berries and honey. big biscuity note with a nice grainy flavor. very clean. a touch of mild hops at the end. like the aroma, not too complex but very delicious

m: medium mouthfeel with moderate carbonation

o: just an awesome example of the style. sweet and malt, easy to drink yet flavorful

May 14, 2020
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OK_Denise from Oklahoma

4.06/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Hmm, not totally sure how to rate this particular beer. I enjoy the malty taste but I can't really say that anything about it is super special. I don't care for "bitter" beers but this one is not really bitter at all, which is a positive for me. I guess I would say that it is an above average representative of the style and one that I will most likely drink again down the road.

Apr 26, 2020
Photo of Michaelcbyrnes
Michaelcbyrnes from Russian Federation

4.65/5  rDev +14%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Beautiful mahogany reddish brown with nice creamy off white head.
Malty and hop floral
Sweet but not cloy very smooth and pleasant
Wonderful feel, round and full very satisfying
An amazing beer. It comes together perfectly.

Apr 13, 2020
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Hooded from Texas

3.88/5  rDev -4.9%
look: 3 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.75

Notes from 3/14/2020.
Poured from a 16.9oz bottle into a Rastal nucleated Teku glass.
The body is amber with 1/3in of off-white head rapidly receding leaving a small thin island of foam. 3.00
The aroma is medium-low in strength and smells of dark fruit, chocolate, and sweet malt. 3.75
The taste is medium in strength. Once it warmed up, I could taste dark fruit, chocolate, and hops in the moderately bitter finish. 4.00
The feel is thick, moderately creamy, with very low carbonation, and a moderate level of astringency. 4.5
Overall, it's very good and the feel is world class. However, this beer style is something I rarely want. 3.75

Mar 19, 2020
Photo of Anders91
Anders91 from California

3.55/5  rDev -13%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Look: nice light brown color, very little head

Smell: malty, bitter

Taste: light malt, a little bit of bitterness

Feel: very smooth, little carbonation

Jan 08, 2020
Photo of Singlefinpin
Singlefinpin from North Carolina

3.78/5  rDev -7.4%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

After a recent thread on BA about UK beers I broke this out of the fridge.
Poured with force from a 330ml bottle into a pint glass.
Not much head developed, dropped quickly, and lacing is light. Amber color.
Smells malty, bready, sweet.
Tastes malty, sweet with a hoppy bitterness that I really like.
Mouth feel is medium.
Overall, I really like ESBs as a style. This characterizes well, except for the carbonation.
01/01/20 is the date on the bottle, I guess I drank it just in time!

Dec 31, 2019
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woosterbill from Kentucky

3.66/5  rDev -10.3%
look: 3.25 | smell: 2.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 3.5

330ml bottle into a tulip.

L: Crystal clear medium-amber body under a finger of loose off-white head. Even a rather forceful pour didn't yield much life, and retention and lacing are mediocre at best. Lovely color and clarity, but not that great overall.

S: Hoppier than I expected, but in a rather dull earthy/herbaceous way. A touch of citrus is nice, but not enough to outweigh the wet dog and dirt components. Disappointing.

T: Better here, as the lightly sweet, biscuity malt asserts itself more and works with the hops to create a honey and orange marmalade vibe just like the label promised. The finish is clean and moderately bitter, and the aftertaste has just a hint of zesty spice. Really quite good.

F: Soft, silky medium body with ample, velvety carbonation. Strikingly good.

O: This one was a decidedly mixed bag for me - I really disliked the aroma, but very much enjoyed the flavor and feel. I'm sure it's one of the best ESBs on the market, but even with its strong points I don't think I'll be seeking it out in bottles again. A fresh cask could be an entirely different story, of course.

Beers of Fame tick 184/250. Cheers!

Dec 28, 2019
ESB from Fuller's
Beer rating: 91 out of 100 with 3134 ratings