Fuller's ESB | Fuller Smith & Turner PLC

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Fuller's ESBFuller's ESB
3,045 Ratings
Fuller's ESBFuller's ESB

Brewed by:
Fuller Smith & Turner PLC
England, United Kingdom

Style: English Extra Special / Strong Bitter (ESB)

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 5.90%

Availability: Year-round

Notes / Commercial Description:
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.

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Ratings: 3,045 |  Reviews: 1,387
Reviews by ChrisCage:
Photo of ChrisCage
4.38/5  rDev +7.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

A- I had this in my favorite pint mug and was happy to see a rich coppery/slight reddish liquid pour out of the prominent bottle. The foamy head was nice to see as well, about an inch thick, that lasted for a couple of minutes before settling slowly. So far, the sign of a great beer in my opinion!

S- I rated this just slightly better than average, as it does have a pleasant malty aroma with hints of toffee/caramel. However, the aroma itself is more mild than I was expecting, but this is a minor problem for me.

T- Wow! This has a great upfront sweetness to it, reminiscent of molasses with tones of brown sugar, cocoa and bittersweet chocolate....nice complexity! I also really loved the pronounced bitterness on the finish which stays on the palate for several minutes afterward!

M- Again, this gets full marks as it's full bodied and doesn't back down in the mouth. With a moderately buttery texture and low carbonation, it's a pleasure to let this ale sit in the mouth momentarily before enjoying the next mouthful.

D- An excellent session beer, this is great on it's own and would be great with a meal. With it's full flavors and rich texture, I would fill up on this beer so I probably wouldn't have more than a couple but other than that, this one definately ranks up there....one of my faves for sure!

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More User Reviews:
Photo of Jonleonbass
5/5  rDev +23.2%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

One of the top 5 beers in the world IMO. I have spent many a night in Fullers Pubs in London drinking this beer on cask......which is the best way to experience it. It should not be too cold and just cool to room temp as drank.
The Old Packhorse in Chiswick is one of my Fave pubs. I have toured the Fullers brewery and it is a special place and this recipe is just divine.
If you like Hops meeting a Caramel malt with bitter notes and strong flavor and presence , this is the great one.
The singer from Iron Maiden, Bruce Dickinson has been known to run off stage to catch last call just to drink a couple of ESB's.....many englishmen know it's almost hallucinogenic properties and covet it's special flavor and feel.
Only for the true beer drinker. If you are a pussy that drinks merlot and lager beer you will spit it out and cry......but that is okay. Go home hippie. You cannot handle this beer.
Look-Amber godlike hue.
Smell-Beautiful floral hops and sweet malts.
Taste-Strong hops with bitter bite finished by a nice caramel malt that is perfectly balanced.
Feel-On Cask might be the best mouthfeel of any beer in the world. Nothing like it. Finished perfect. One of the greats.

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Photo of FreshYeti
4.27/5  rDev +5.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Gorgeous, clear copper-amber color. As expected, it appears to be less effervescent than most American beers. I just bought a new beer fridge and it seems to be running way too cold, so I’ll need to wait a bit and let this guy warm up.

Personally I’m a huge fan of noble hops - they lend a drier, earthier bitterness, as opposed to the citrusy, juicy hops we grow around here. But they’re often showcased in German-style brews and pilsners. ESB is probably my favorite style of beer because it combines these great hop flavors with the perfect malt profile for my taste. As flavorful as you can get while still remaining quaffable.

Alright, I’m done waiting for this to warm up. The nose suggests tangerine and preserved fruits. Not getting much of that noble hop at this point.

The taste starts where the nose left off - orange, jam, rose petals, balanced with biscuity malt. Then the noble hops come to clean up the palate, narrowly saving this beer from becoming too sweet. There is a lightly toasted note on the aftertaste, but it’s pretty tucked away under orange flavors. I find myself wanting to say it’s too sweet and fruity, but after each sip the palate gets cleaned up and dried out by those hops.

This is a must try for anyone seeking the definition of balance. Americans commonly hear the term “special” or “strong” bitter, and then criticize brews like this for not being particularly bitter at all. You have to think of “bitter” as the British term for pale ale, but before the west coast hop craze happened. And special/strong just refers to the ABV, which you can expect to be a percent or two higher than a standard pub ale. With that in mind, this is the canonical representation of the style, and it’s now one of my favorites.

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Photo of RoyalT
4.65/5  rDev +14.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Appearance – The body is a slightly hazy brown with a nice orange tint. The head is off-white and full, made up of beautiful tiny bubbles that showed good retention and left a bit of lacing.

Smell – Oh, yeah, this is an English ESB. This is THE English ESB. The malt is remarkable in its clarity. The light grassy hops round things out and there is indeed a bit of caramel afloat, but the huge malt base makes up the bulk of this nose. It is both generous and wonderful.

Taste – Oh, man. I’m actually laughing at how this beer tastes. It is so good, and so true to form, that it’s funny.

The malts are encased in wood and eek a sense of maturity not found in any other beer that I’ve had to date. I don’t know where they get this flavor from, but it is delicious and quite amazing.

The caramel and toffee notes are the best I’ve ever had. There is nothing cheap about this beer. When I think of English ESB this is what comes to mind. This is the standard; no question about it.

Mouthfeel – Perfect. So smooth, so well-blended, and so thoughtful, this beer was made with the mouthfeel in mind. Talk about your “happy place”.

Drinkability – To answer all those stupid, “If you were stuck on a desert island with only one beer . . .” questions, this would have to be it. On-tap this has to be a “5”. This is THE standard for English ESBs (or any ESBs for that matter).

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Photo of Immortale25
4.21/5  rDev +3.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Poured into a Duvel tulip. Back label says Best Before 01 JAN 17.

A- Pours a dark amber color with a 1/4 inch light tan head that retains a bit before becoming a thin ring around the edge of the glass and some wisps of surface foam. Semi-resilient lacing leaves large clots behind.

S- Biscuity malt but not very sweet with a vegetal hop aroma.

T- Balanced flavor of herbal, slightly spicy hops and more biscuity malt that now shows a bit of sweetness. There's also more of that vegetal hop character which is actually quite pleasant.

M- Somewhat slick with medium carbonation and a body leaning toward the lighter side.

O- Right where you want a session beer to be. The flavors are interesting and well-integrated but not so assertive that you can only take so much. Also, the ABV is above that of a true session beer...which makes it more my kind of session beer, thank you.

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Photo of MNAle
4.4/5  rDev +8.4%

Amber color. Pleasing malty aroma. Light carbonation. Slight hop bitterness is present, but this is dominated by the slightly sweet malts. Excellent body. Wonderful bitter, even considering this was the USA import version rather than the cask version. Very nice malty finish with some hops presence. Interesting fact: English Bitter, despite the name, is not particularly bitter. All of the American bitters I have tasted thus far are too hoppy to be a true English-style bitter.

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Photo of sjccmd
4.54/5  rDev +11.8%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

Pours clear deep orangey amber. Small off-white head that fades quickly. Some lacing. Fairly low carbonation.

Rich malt in the aroma with significant fruity esters. Loads of caramel and toast. Some spicy and fruity hops, but those are in the background. A hint of diacetyl, but within appropriate range.

Caramel and apricot in the flavor. Finishing with toasty nutty malt. Medium bitterness and some fruity spicy English hop character. Sweet and fruity upfront finishing quite dry.

Rich and filling mouthfeel with low carbonation but not chewy. Dry bitter finish with malt lingering on the palate.

Rich and refreshing ESB. Definitely a classic example if that even needs to be stated.

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Photo of Rukeli76
4.41/5  rDev +8.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

500ml can served at cellar temp in a nonic pint.

Nice amber colour. Only a half inch or so of head, and it dissipates almost immediately.

The aroma is dominated by floral hops which for me are somewhat reminiscent of bergamot or Earl Grey tea.

I get a nice little bite of hop bitterness up front. There's something about the depth and complexity of flavour I get in this beer that's hard to describe. There's no real comparison. It's satisfyingly malty and hoppy in a way that you usually only get from bigger, boozier, more liberally-hopped beers, but at the same time it's crisp and thirst-quenching in a way you'd never in million years expect from a room-temperature pint of bitter.

Not a ton of carbonation in this canned version. The mouthfeel is unfortunately pretty light and nondescript. too. This is definitely the kind of beer you'd much rather have on cask at a pub somewhere in East London.

This is an all-around world-class beer. I think of it as the ur-bitter against which all others must be judged.

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Photo of markjknowles
5/5  rDev +23.2%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

This is one of those beers that is why craft beer exists. For many of us, American beers were awful and exemplary of a cultural norm we didn't identify with. We looked to exports and found a world that just didn't exist for us at home. A handful of those exports drove s to create more. To do better. This is one of those defining beers for me. A master class in subtlety and balance, this is how one harmonizes the components that make up beer. Simply perfection.

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Photo of Ferb
4.4/5  rDev +8.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

This is a British ale in the truest sense. It pours a beautiful light copper color and builds a light and thin eggshell head that quickly retreats into a thin ring that slides down the glass as you drink it.

The aroma is generally clean with a bit of freshly cut grass and a faint citrus, but hardly a strong impression. The medium texture glides over the tongue gently and leaves a nice fizzy memory .

The taste is grassy and dry, with a gentle malt that balances with a hop finish that is so subtle, I can't tell which one wins. There is a slight metallic taste (nothing like a Boddington's foundry of iron on the tongue), but as it seems hard to get fresh British ale in the Midwest, my samples are a month past their "best by" date.

This is a refreshing ale that comforts me the way a meatloaf and mashed potatoes does. It is an ale designed to be consumed in quantity with friends and one that I will buy again.

Edit on February 22, 2017
I wanted to boost my numbers on this ale after having what I believe to be a fresher batch than in my original review. This one had a fuller, more persistent head, tasted less grassy, seemed more balanced and had a whisper of caramel. I want this in my fridge always. Fuller's has on of the best Porters I have had as well!

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Photo of davidperez
4.21/5  rDev +3.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Served in a hefeweizen glass, it pours a beautifully clear copper color, with a myriad tiny bubbles surfacing constantly. It forms a three-finger head, sudsy and creamy, ecru, with good retention.
Very nice lacing.

Nice bouquet.
Toasted malts, caramel, a slight butterscotch hint, fruity as in plums, and herbal hops resembling pine resin.

What a beer, a prime example of an elegant and balanced beverage.
What seemed a huge carbonation from the bubbles right after pouring, became very subtle on the palate, and you can tell that its carbonation is actually low.
The flavor follows the nose, with the toasted malts being the most prominent flavor, and you can taste some wood, a tea-like note and nuts as well.
Its bitterness is slightly more assertive than its sweetness, and it gets more pronounced as it approaches the aftertaste.
The finish is long and semi-dry, and it has a very nice tobacco note.

Definitely my favorite ESB thus far.

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Photo of oberon
4.23/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

One of the most satisfying beers I have ever had.Great rich color,great malty taste with good hop ending.Maybe the standard for an English ESB with it's fruity maltiness and subtle hops in the finish.A mellow sessionable beer that I need to try on cask.

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Photo of DanGeo
3.75/5  rDev -7.6%

Photo of JonnoWillsteed
3.99/5  rDev -1.7%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Photo of tectactoe
3.83/5  rDev -5.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

This is supposedly the quintessential ESB, right? Maybe I should have started with this one to have a better benchmark for the style. Pours an amber-copper hybrid with nice clarity and a quality of pureness to it. Beige-ish head, sticks around for a bit but doesn't really do much. Nose is kind of weak and hard to pick up specific notes. Certainly malty and full of bread and yeast; dry and woody, nutty with a bit of caramel/toffee to it. The taste follows right along, hitting with some caramel malts that slowly sink into a sea of sweet, woody flavors. Floral notes are abundant but not overpowering, some fruity sweetness and mild citrus flavors come alive a bit more when the beer gets warmer. It still retains a sharpness to it that is hard to explain, but relevant to the character of the brew. Still very woody and a touch nutty all the way through. Surprisingly not that bitter, especially for an ES"B". Thin-medium body, medium carbonation.

I'm not a super-huge fan of ESB's, but I haven't really had enough to make a judgement call. I will say, however, this is one of the best of the bunch. I wish I would have tried this one before all the others, to get more acquainted with the style. This one goes down smooth and quick, high drinkability. It probably wont be in my regular rotation, but it's still pretty good.

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Photo of boston2bburg
4.43/5  rDev +9.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Super clear copper body with lots of carbonation, and a pillowy large head that really holds together well.

Aroma is pretty standard but pleasant, caramel malt with sweet, earthy UK hops.

I don't think I've tasted one of these since I first started really appreciating good beer four or five years ago. I was impressed then and remain so now. The balance and fullness of flavor are unparalleled for the style. Big caramel malts provide a sturdy base for the earthy hop bitterness. Finish is dry and sits well. Great beer.

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Photo of JudgeRoughneck
4.01/5  rDev -1.2%
look: 2.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

I never thought this beer was much to look at really, and this bottle seems no different. A plainly bronze colored beer with thin, foamy, fading, white head reminds me beer is ultimately there to drink, not look pretty. It all winds up the same color in the end right?

The nose is delicious. Very fresh malt with a slight sweetness and big bubbles of fresh fruit waft up. The taste is classically british. Very soft, subtle, flavors of sweet light malt and ale (or hop?) fruitiness play quietly off of eachother until a quick snap of hop bitter in the finish.

The mouthfeel is almost thick, and very smooth and creamy. If it was more affordable, I'd drink gallons of this.

A note about food pairing... This seems like a natural choice for fish and chips. When I had them together, I don't know why, but the beer took on a very boozy character that was almost overpowering. I'll definately go for something else next time.

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Photo of wesbrownyeah
4.33/5  rDev +6.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Fuller's ESB pour into German Becker glass... Had to use two ll.2 oz. glasses to fill the 20oz glass so I went all the way on this one.

A- Beer pours a amber red color fluid that produces a nice one inch head that falls slowly to an excellent froth leaving patchy lacing relentlessly sticking to the glass.

S- Scents of metal upfront... iron? Then a soft but fresh smell of bitter citrus and carmel malts come out.

T-M- The taste for an English Bitter is dead on. Tangy hops dominate the palate with the mix of citrus, grassy noles, mild hop oil and a bitchin' bitter bite following. Not to bitter, but a bite that leaves you begging for more... on top of that saying "please". Finishes with a pronounced malt backbone of caramel and burnt barley. Mouthfeel is excellent due to the complexity of the beer smooth, slightly creamy and refreshing on the buds.

D- This beer is empressively drinkable with little to deter you from drinking pint after pint in a pub... cheers!

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Photo of tbryan5
4/5  rDev -1.5%

Photo of Shakerman
5/5  rDev +23.2%

Photo of SIRIUS2
4.05/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A: Darker clear amber in color, minimal light colored head, good lacing.

S: Very faint caramel malt. Not very aromatic.

T: Smooth full balanced flavors combine with boldness on the tongue. The complex heavier flavors are complimented nicely with fine but persistent carbonation. Clean finish.

M&D: Full mouthfeel, deceptively heavy for the clear color. Filling and satisfying.

This beverage just has 'classy' all over it. For a brew this full it sure does go down easy. This is the first time I've tried this and I'm really liking it. The flavors stay solid throughout the experience and it just seems to get better with every pull. So far I haven't been disappointed with a Fuller's product.

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Photo of otvomadeut
4/5  rDev -1.5%

Photo of skybluewater
3.88/5  rDev -4.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Best by date: Dec. 13, 04. Pours an orangish-amber color. Nice rocky head, very little lacing. Caramely, malty smell, but there's also a nice frutiness. Tastes biscuity, malty, fruity, but with a pleasent bitterness...very nice. I'd love another pint, but this is my only one...

One suggestion: Drink warm.

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Photo of Imaster
3.75/5  rDev -7.6%

Photo of bulldogg915
3/5  rDev -26.1%

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Fuller's ESB from Fuller Smith & Turner PLC
Beer rating: 4.06 out of 5 with 3,045 ratings