Fuller's ESB | Fuller Smith & Turner PLC

1,353 Reviews
Fuller's ESBFuller's ESB

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

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 kbub6f on 07-08-2001

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Reviews: 1,353 | Ratings: 2,917
Photo of Sammy
3.87/5  rDev -4.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Initially the bitterness I was looking for, but then seems malted out and wasn't so drinkable and refreshing as I wanted. Nice amber colour. Some toffee carmel nut. On cask it's one of the best cask beers, mellow and delightful citrus hops with great fruity aroma, and I have kept the rating that way.
On cask december 2007 it was fine above-average.

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Photo of UCLABrewN84
4.3/5  rDev +5.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Pours a clear orange color with a small 1/2 inch light beige head that fades to a thin film. Nice latticework of lacing forms on the sides of the glass on the drink down. Smells of biscuit-like malt and citrus zest hops. Taste is of biscuit-like malt, honey, and a very nice citrus and citrus zest hop flavor. A slightly acidic citrus aftertaste lingers after each sip. This beer has a good level of carbonation with a crisp and clean mouthfeel. Overall, this is a very good and easy drinking beer. I am very impressed with this one from Fuller.

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Photo of StonedTrippin
3.84/5  rDev -5.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

really interesting to have this one side by side with the one from breckenridge here in colorado. they are so different, but yet so similar, and as the label says, this is indeed the esb by which all others are measured. honestly i like this one a little less. its not quite as rich in the malt build, this is a maris heavy version, and although its awesome beer, it doesnt quite have the grain depth as the breck one does. that said, i like the yeast better here, its more traditional and it speaks louder in the overall reverberation of the beer. that is to say its more flavorful, and it takes me to england the way the breck one never could. its also well balanced with a healthy hopping for the style, much more bitter and bright in the hops than others, with just the right amount of caramelization to balance it in the boil. carbonation is also high for an enlgish pub ale type, it feels so much more alive than some of the crusty old ales of england old. i like this a whole lot, and when its fresh, it truly does set the standard for the style coming out of europe. also, definitely one of, if not my single favorite of the fullers beers.

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Photo of Knapp85
3.83/5  rDev -5.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

This beer poured out as copper color with a thick looking white head on it. The lacing was nice on the glass. The smell of the beer was malty, not much else really but had plenty of malts and some other fresh grains. The taste of the beer was sweet and had a nice caramel like flavor with a slight bitterness at the end. The mouthfeel is very smooth and easy to drink. Overall it's one of the better ESB's I've had over the years. Worth a try.

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Photo of metter98
4.08/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A: It poured clear light amber in color with a moderately sized head that gradually settled down into lacey patterns. A moderate level of carbonation is visible.
S: There is a light malty and somewhat sweet aroma.
T: The taste creates an interesting seesaw between malty sweetness and hop bitterness on your taste buds. The malt flavors taste lightly toasted and buttery with some hints of caramel, while the hops are subdued but create a little bitterness, particularly in the finish.
M: It feels light- to medium-bodied on the palate and very smooth.
D: This beer is very easy to drink and goes down smoothly.

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Photo of oriolesfan4
1.8/5  rDev -55.7%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 1 | feel: 3 | overall: 1

Bought a 16 oz single of this for $0.99

I wanted to like this, I really did. But, this was one of the worst tasting beers I've had. It smelled and looked alright, but the taste was so bitter and rough. I actually couldn't take more than a few sips and I had to pour it, I was actually gagging. I tried another bottle a few days later and got the same result. I hope I just bought some bad bottles because this seems like a well respected historic beer.

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Photo of BEERchitect
4.3/5  rDev +5.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Undoubtedly a true Godfather of hoppy English Pales. Though I doubt if I have ever had this beer fresh, as the brewery intends, I always have room in my pint glass for this masterful beer.

A floral, spicy, and earthy nobility rises from the solid copper / light ruby-brown hue. Lightly pungent and aromatic with a deep flowery hop character that blends seamlessly with the classic fruity English yeasts. Bready to taste, much like fruitcake only in lower tones. A non-descript fruity flavor offers a complexity, smoothness, roundness, and character that is lacing from American varieties. The beer has many subtle flavors and each one comes to life as the beer warms and the carbonation escapes, seemingly to alternate with each sip.

Both elegant and gentlemanly with its attention to detail, non-flashy demeanor and with enough strength to withstand mediocracy. Balances supurgly well not to let the malts nor hops to take precidency, the beer allows just enough caramel sweetness to linger into a dry finish to keep me wanting more.

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Photo of biboergosum
4.12/5  rDev +1.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

500ml bottle. Had this many times on tap around town in the various English and Irish pubs. Time to get down to business.

This beer pours a medium golden amber hue, with two fingers of tightly foamy, somewhat bubbly off-white head, which leaves a random pattern of upshot speckled lace around the glass as things evenly abate.

It smells of biscuity, crackery pale malt, with a decent addition of caramel sweetness, some middling black pepper spiciness, over-steeped black tea, and a crisp, fresh hay, wild grass hoppiness. The taste is semi-sweet pale malt, an earthy citrus sweetness, further floral and grassy hops, and a subtle musty mineral essence - nothing worthy of overt concern, really.

The carbonation comes off as supportive, and mostly frothy, if in an understated sense, the body a decently rendered medium weight, with a muted floral, rather sedated hoppy finish.

This would (and indeed does, for me, at least) make quite a fine session ale, in those places where hoppy North American offerings aren't featured by design. Anyways, it's sure nice to enjoy this beyond early-day Euro Cup game times around these parts.

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Photo of brentk56
4.05/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Appearance: Pours a clear amber color with a beige foamy head that dapples the glass with lace

Smell: Caramel malt with some earthy hop elements

Taste: Starts with a toasted fruit and nut caramel flavor that betrays a touch of alcohol, mid-palate; after the swallow, an earthy, but spicy bitterness comes in to balance out the elements; just a touch of diacetyl and vanilla on the finish which is not inappropriate

Mouthfeel: Gloriously smooth, with a medium body and moderate carbonation

Drinkability: Just a superb example of an ESB; a standard for the English style

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Photo of largadeer
4.03/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

16.9 oz bottle into a nonic, Fuller's ESB pours a bright, clear amber, and rests in the glass with a dark caramel color topped by thick off-white head, which retains impressively well. The nose brings to mind butterscotch, dark honey and light esters. There's a touch of floral, earthy hoppiness, but it's buried beneath the malt. The taste is neither as rich nor sweet as the aroma implies. It's amply malty, but balanced by a big hop bitterness. There's a hint of buttery diacetyl up front, but it's quickly overwhelmed by flavors of roasted malt, earthy hops, toasted nuts and fruitcake. Very flavorful, almost heavy beer for its modest 5.9% ABV. Flavors of grapefruit and toffee linger on in the long, bitter finish. Very enjoyable stuff, I'd love to try this on handpump.

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Photo of Phyl21ca
3/5  rDev -26.1%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Tap: Poured a clear light brown colored ale with a small creamy head with standard retention. Aroma is quite weak with only light roasted malt being noticeable. Taste is quite refreshing but again a bit weak on taste with some roasted malts and light dry finish. I was quite disappointed by the strong watery finish and I’m wondering if this one wasn’t shot through nitro before falling into my glass. Anyway, I still persist with my belief that Fullers beers should only be drank from cask.

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Photo of zeff80
4.23/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

500ml bottle
Date: 23 May 08

A - Poured out an orange/amber color with a good deal of carbonation. It had a bubbly, tan, three-finger head that left nice rings of lace.

S - It smelled of mild hops and grassiness. There was a light malt aroma and some grain smells.

T - It tasted of caramel malts and mild bitter hops. Well balanced and quite good.

M - It was smooth and soft. A medium-bodied beer.

D - It really is one of the best ESB's around. Just great flavor and it is easy drinking.

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Photo of Thorpe429
3.8/5  rDev -6.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A: Brownish copper with a decent white head. Pretty good lacing.

S: Tasted malt with a bit of caramel going on.

T: Medium malt with some sweetness to go along with a bit of bitterness. Something in the full package just doesn't fit perfectly for me.

M: Medium body and fairly smooth.

D: Pretty drinkable, although something is missing. All around, a quite good, readily-available beer.

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Photo of superspak
4.1/5  rDev +1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

500 ml bottle into pint glass, best before 5/5/2013. Pours fairly crystal clear orange amber color with a 1 finger fairly dense white head with good retention, that reduces to a thin cap that lingers. Light spotty soapy lacing clings down the glass. Aromas of raisin, apple, caramel, biscuit, toffee, brown sugar, light nuttiness, and light floral hops. Damn nice aromas with good balance and complexity of malt and fruity ester notes; with solid strength. Taste of golden raisin, caramel, biscuit, toffee, apple, brown sugar, light nuttiness, and floral hops. Lingering notes of caramel, biscuit, light fruit, toffee, brown sugar, and light floral on the the finish for a short bit. Very nice balance and complexity of malt flavors with moderate fruitiness; good robustness and zero cloying flavors present after the finish. Light carbonation and medium bodied; with a smooth and moderately creamy mouthfeel that is nice. Alcohol is very well hidden with nearly zero warming present after the finish. Overall this is an excellent ESB. Very nice balance, robustness, and complexity of malt flavors; and extremely smooth to drink. A very enjoyable offering.

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Photo of nickfl
4.15/5  rDev +2.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A - One finger white head with good retention. The body is amber colored with good clarity.

S - Fruity aroma with noticeable caramel and notes of sweet plum.

T - Biscuity and very malty with hints of caramel and some chocolate. No hop flavor but enough bitterness to balance.

M - Medium body and moderately low carbonation.

D - A very drinkable, classic example of the style. The malt character is particularly enjoyable.

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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 chinchill
3.58/5  rDev -11.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

11.2 oz bottle about 5 months past date. Frothed up past lip upon opening, and a light pour into a pint glass only permitted about 1/3 of the bottle before the glass was full to the rim with a foamy head. Light tan head dies down soon enough.

S - rather strong aroma, mainly malt but also detectable hops and some fruitiness and hints of alcohol and bread dough.

T - Rich toasted malt flavor, with a malty and bitter, but not hoppy, finish.

M - Medium body; unusually smooth.

O - Disappoints as the sometimes "gold standard" for ESB.

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Photo of NeroFiddled
4.45/5  rDev +9.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

A classic English ale! It's slightly hazy and deep amber/copper in color. The ivory head drops quickly but keeps a decent creamy collar and light surface covering. The Fuller's yeast is quite clear in the aroma that expresses a mineral/iron note, a touch of diacetyl, some light fruit and very mild hops over a distinctly caramel maltiness. The body is medium, and combines with an exceptionally fine (very tiny bubbles), low level carbonation to create an astonishingly smooth and lightly creamy mouthfeel. Very nice. The flavor starts with light soft fruit and a mild mineral / iron component (ie. not nearly as "bloody" as Bateman's XXXB) atop it's rich caramel maltiness and then slowly falls away to a dry, bitter and hoppy finish that showcases the earthy, grassy, and leafy hop character that runs throughout. A very bold beer with lots of sweet caramel malt and lots of brash bitter hops; and yet it's incredibly balanced and rather easy to drink!

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Photo of TheManiacalOne
4.1/5  rDev +1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

On-tap 4/10/08 at British Beer Company in Walpole, MA, served in a US tumbler pint glass.

A: The beer is a medium brown color, with a short off-white head that fades slowly and leaves a thick lace on the glass.

S: The aroma is of caramelized malts, roasted nuts and good amount of hops.

T: The taste is well balanced with flavors of nuts and caramel up front and then a mild but complimentary hops presence comes in quickly to balance things out. The malt character is hearty and on-target for the style. The after-taste is bready and slightly sweet.

M: Crisp and smooth, medium body, medium carbonation, finish is clean.

D: Tasty, goes down very easily, not too filling, decent kick, very good representation of style, this is style that has been steadily growing on me and this beer is a nice one that I could drink for a long time.

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Photo of dbrauneis
4.1/5  rDev +1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A: Pours a crystal clear amber to dark amber in color with some very light visible carbonation. The beer has a finger tall light beige head that reduces to a thin and patchy layer over the entire surface of the beer with a much thicker ring at the edges of the glass. Moderate to significant lacing is observed.

S: The aroma is dominated by the caramel malt sweetness, with some lighter hints of toffee. There is a subtle almost grassy hint and just a touch of bitterness.

T: There is a really nice sweet malty body upfront with this beer, including caramel and toffee notes (including some almost butterscotch like hints as well). The beer has a nice light bitterness in the finish but it is not intense/aggressive or over the top.

M: Medium bodied with light amounts of carbonation. The carbonation is very gentle on the palate.

O: This beer is extremely easy to drink and very enjoyable. I remember putting down quite a few of these while I was watching some Premier League in a pub in London (quite a fond memory for me). The beer has enough complexity to not be a one note kind of and a very nice balance. Happy to have many of these in session and will have to get some of this again... Hopefully in London and on tap :)

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Photo of Rifugium
3.38/5  rDev -16.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

First had: on tap at Elephant & Castle, Chicago, IL

Pretty good stuff. Nothing like a good ESB when you don't know what you're in the mood for. Poured clear amber, with a nice white head that receded rather quickly. Smooth malts and nuts on the nose. Malty taste with some toasted bread and mild bitterness. Finishes pretty dry. Light-medium mouthfeel, and drinkable. Not too memorable, but nice.

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Photo of ChainGangGuy
4.13/5  rDev +1.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

(Best Before: 30/APR/07) Hey! Hey, wait a minute. Hasn't Fuller's switched the label from Black/Red to Blue/Gold? This is nothing but Black and Red... good grief.

Appearance: Pours out a dark amber body with a foamy, off-white head.

Smell: Pleasing aroma of bread dough, honey, and caramel, with a few fruity notes as well.

Taste: Essentially malty, with flavors of caramel, burnt sugar, and, to a lesser degree, golden raisins. Exceptionally light citrus hop flavor with an equally light hop bittneress that comes and goes fairly quickly. Ultimately, this beer finishes fairly sweet.

Mouthfeel: Medium-bodied, with a curiously flat mouthfeel.

Drinkability: An enjoyable, eminently drinkable ESB.

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Photo of BuckeyeNation
3.58/5  rDev -11.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

This is it, the gold standard for ESBs (or so I'm told). I wanted to try Fuller's version now so that I could compare all future ESBs to the supposed benchmark.

Absolutely clear coppery orange; looks a little like an IPA. The head is dark cream in color, average in size, and leaves speckles and spatters of lace on the glass. The lid eventually falls to a thick film and leaves chunky sheets of lace. Very nice. The nose isn't all that hoppy, which surprises me. It's of caramel malt with undercurrents of earthy-herbal hops. It's also pretty subdued; I had to almost dip my nose to appreciate much.

The flavor is an improvement on the nose, but still isn't a world-beater. It isn't even particularly bitter. More malty than hoppy with elements of toasted caramel malt, earthy-herbal hops and a wee bit of alcohol lurking in the background. In reminds me of a weak Old Ale in some respects. The mouthfeel is solid; smooth, but not quite creamy.

It's obvious by the appearance and the mouthfeel that this is quality beer, but the flavor didn't impress me as I'd hoped it might. I'd like to believe that there are better versions out there, because if Fuller's is the epitome, then ESBs won't be one of my favorite styles. Perhaps, as with IPAs, I'll much prefer what the U.S. brewers have to offer.

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Photo of mdaschaf
4/5  rDev -1.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A: Pours an extremely clear amber color with an off-white head, about one finger in height. Retention was ok, with sticky lacing left behind.

S: Caramelized malt, a some citrus, and a bit of roasted nuts.

T: Upfront there is some caramel and nuts with a light hop/grassy presence in the middle. The finish has a little bit of bready malt and a nice sweetness at the very end.

M: Medium bodied with moderate carbonation. A little thicker than expected.

O: Pretty good beer. Have not had too many ESBs, but this one is near the top. Just doesn't really do it for me though, even though I do like the drinkability.

O: This is fairly well balanced, maybe on the sweet side for me. That could just be my American palate that's used to being slammed with hops (not that there's anything wrong with that, mind you). I certainly enjoyed the experience, and if I ever am fortunate enough to find my self in London I will absolutely pop into a pub to try a pint off the cask. Otherwise, I think I prefer the American interpretation of "bitter".

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Photo of russpowell
3.44/5  rDev -15.3%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

BBD 30 sep 06, aint scared that it's 4 days past it's prime...

Pours amber/ruby red with a 4 fingers white head. No lacing & minimal head retention

S: Deep fruittyness & a hint of wet cardboard

T: Fruittyness& herbal hops up front. Hints of caramel follow. A slight grapeskin flavor also surfaces. Bakers choclate & cardboard surface. Finishes fruitty with caramel & a slight bitterness

MF: Medium bodied. lightly carbonated & no real balance

Okay drinkablilty, but not near as good as the cask version which IMO would rate a minimum of 4.8 across the board. This was a dissapointment. This happens too often here in the middle of the continent with Imports IMO

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Fuller's ESB from Fuller Smith & Turner PLC
4.06 out of 5 based on 2,917 ratings.
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