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 usualpulp
4.35/5  rDev +7.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Pours a nice deep amber color, with an off white head that laces down the glass as the beer is consumed.

Lots of roasted malt smell is present, as well as a nice helping of hops. There is an almost caramel like smell to the beer.

This beer tastes wonderful, very sweet, and bitter, the best of both worlds. The malt balances well with the hop, nothing outdoes anything else. There is a slightly fruity taste that lingers on the tongue, but isnt very powerful.

Overall this is one smooth easy drinking beer, great taste, very refreshing. Definately worth a try.

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

A dark amber brew with a nice white head of foam. Aromas are of juicy hops, SWEET malts, and more. The taste is a very balanced one, that leans towards the sweeter side of the spectrum. This stuff is very malty but the hop balance is there as well. The mouthfeel is creamy and good and the drinkability is classic. I find the bottled versions of this beer, and the London Pride, to be much sweeter than their cask cousins. This is a beer that needs to be served at cellar temperature as well! When this stuff is cold, it is really too damn sweet!

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Photo of Hunter
4.17/5  rDev +2.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

Freshness date on the label said "Best before 24 March 2005". I think I'm safe.

Beer is golden-red in color, crystal clear with scant carbonation. A two-finger head of thick off-white foam forms on the pour, and it hangs for a while. Doesn't revive with agitation, but the lacing effect is lovely. Nice.

Aroma is all about the malt. There's a hint of candied apple in there too, reminding me of those ones you get at the fair that are drowned in a caramel you can see the crystalized sugar in. (drool) Oh, and I think even some hops as well! So far, so good...

The hops make a stronger appearance as the brew hits the palate, but the malt takes over pretty quickly. Yeah, it's got more bite than your basic English ale, but I've always wondered if it deserves the name "bitter". Maybe I've drunk too much Sierra Nevada.

The hops really come out in the aftertaste as the malt departs, however. Astringent, bready aftertaste, but clean. Mouthfeel is a little rough but it's not disagreeable.

This is a solid, no frills beer. US microbrewers have made strides, but the Brits still rule when it comes to quality ales.

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Photo of koolk
4.2/5  rDev +3.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

Pours a darker than usual amber colour with very little head. Good steady carbonation.

Nose is sweet malt - flavours range from toffee and maple to white fruits. Some slightly deeper roast flavours, but on the whole it is sweet and fresh.

Palate is again sweet, but in a well refined way that is an absolute joy to drown. Flavours are fruity - pineapple mainly, plus other 'tropical' falvours and a tough malt backbone. Bitterness isn't over dominant or over powering, again adding to the ease of which this goes down.

So simple, yet brooding in its refined style makes this an extremely drinkable beer. Look forward to many more of these.

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Photo of thinkbreakfast
2.9/5  rDev -28.6%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

App: This beer poured a standard dark amber color with a standard head.

Smell: One whiff of this brew revealed what I found to be its underlying theme: Maple syrup smelling malt.

Taste: Thick syrup/malt up front. Slight bittering into the middle and end. I did not find this particularly enjoyable, however I haven't been overly impressed with the ESB style in general.

Mouthfeel was a bit on the thick side, which hurt the drinkability.

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Photo of jimdkc
4.15/5  rDev +2.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Poured a coppery clear amber with a medium sized off-white head. Toasty malt smell with a light hop aroma. It's the taste, though, that is the focal point of this beer. Very clean tasting toasted malt flavor with a little nutty taste. Finish is nicely bitter to balance the malts, but the bitterness does not linger in the aftertaste. Very clean finish. Smooth mouthfeel with just-right carbonation. Very drinkable. My first experience with an English bitter, and it turned out to be a very good one! An excellent beer that I'll be buying again!

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Photo of pheurton
4.14/5  rDev +2%
look: 5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

crimson copper, clear as a bell, topped with a tight and creamy slightly off white head, which manages to maintain at 1/4" for the whole pint...awesome. crystal malt and complex estery aroma detected if inhaled deeply. sturdy medium body, light on the carbonation. textured and deeply malty, dose of caramel sweetness and huge ale-ish fruit flavors dominate. sweet and supple, noble hops come in at the end to finish this beauty off. quite quaffable for a beer of this much sheer flavor. complex yet comes across as simple. an amazing feat and an amazing beer. wow.

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Photo of kfoss99
4.09/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12oz brown bottle poured into a pint glass.

Appearance -Clear amber color with a small white head leaving a nice lace.
Smell - Smell of yeast and faint hops. I love the smell of yeast, it's like walking by a bakery.
Mouthfeel - Mouthfeel is nicely mild in carbonation and slightly thick.
Taste - Tastes a caramel sweetness and bitter at the same time with a smoky finish
Drinkability - A nice tasting and very drinkable ale.

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Photo of Dukeofearl
4.12/5  rDev +1.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Pours a medium copper-brown with some carbonation of big bubbles and a thin head that barely covers the beer. Aroma- malty, toasty, smooth. No sweet aroma or any hop notes. Flavor- nice, sweet up front, creamy mouthfeel around toasted grain, slight alcohol, and a sharp (but not overpowering) bitter bite at the end. Lovely. The flavor mix is fairly simple, not complex, but thoroughly enjoyable. The alcohol sneaks up and delivers a bigger kick than expected. I have tried this on many occasions, and I really enjoy it as one of Fuller's better products.

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Photo of Ellbert
3.67/5  rDev -9.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Appearance: A nice ruby color with a slighty off white head. This head slowly fades to a nice sticky lace.

Smell: Some nice hops are in the aroma with a slightly sweet smell.

Taste: Taste is pretty good. There is malty sweetness upfront with hops to balance it out. The hops aren't out there but make a very balanced brew.

Overall a very drinable brew that I will have again.

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Photo of ecoboy
3.94/5  rDev -3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A malt fan's dream.

Big malt nose and a surprisingly light amber hue. Very fine carbonation gives the malt characteristics a chance to step right to the forefront, both in flavor and mouthfeel.

The malt approaches maple candy in flavor, when compared to an American ES, this is very sweet. Bready, biscuity, touch of smoke and a woodsy note is in there, too. Brief hops on the back of the tongue and that's about it.

Alcohol presence, that anticipated warmth from an ESB not all that prevalent for this New Englander.

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Photo of cypressbob
4.27/5  rDev +5.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

500ml bottle

Pours with a deep amber hue. Puffy foamy head, not overly thick but its there

Smell, hops right in the face, nice fruity esters , but the primary aroma is flowery, lavender hops

Taste is dry and hoppy. Full of flavour. Very similar to their 1845 ale which is a classic, not quite as dry and musky however. Buttery mouthfeel, some lasting creaminess

A very nice little bitter, fantastic example of an english ale

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Photo of RedBaron
4.58/5  rDev +12.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Disclaimer: Certain pleasant memories in life, like taking a taxi ride to Heathrow Airport from your hotel in central London only to pass a world famous brewery (Fuller's) on your way there, and remembering how freshly good their brews tasted on your trip, invariably makes one biased, even during a stateside tasting long after the trip was made. This one is no exception.

Appearance: garnet-colored body; translucent; appropriate carbonation for a British ale; nice tannish color, too.
Smell: A great balance of aromatic hops (Fuggles or Kent Goldings, probably) mixed with a the fruity aromatics of well-attenuated malts.
Taste: The pinnacle and definition of a classic British ESB. It's got the immediacy of a bittering hop presence up top, a nice, slightly roasty malt character in the middle, followed by a finishing dosage of dry hop bitterness. My God.
Mouthfeel: Well-balanced, and medium-bodied.. Rides a fine line between being a beer that you could easily put back several pints of (if you were so inclined), or resting comfortably with just one bottle, a book and hearth on a cool, damp evening.
Drinkability: Nearly perfect. Again, this is the quintessential British ESB--a fresh sample will yield the finest of British hops and malts (and probably a great, healthy yeast culture). Highly recommended.

Cheers, mate.

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Photo of GeoffFromSJ
4.55/5  rDev +12.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

There is a complexity in this beer which is satisfying, but I found the bottled version to be more complex than on-tap for some reason. Maybe it depends on freshness, etc. It has a beautiful amber color with wonderful head retention. The lace stays and stays after the head goes down. When the beer get warmer more flavors come out. It has nice caramel notes with a nice hops flavor at the end. This is an incredibly drinkable beer. You may be able to find a better ESB, but I would be hard-pressed to name it. I would also love to try this in Britain in order to give this a definitive review.

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

Was very excited to try this one after reading a few excellent reviews and finding it available in a small gourmet shop in town that has a very good selection of beers.

This one pours a dark beautiful amber color, which is very clear. It put off a one finger orangish, tan frothy head. From top of the glass to bottom, the lace lingers and clings strongly to the glass. The classic bitter taste lingers at the top of the mouth. It has both a spicy and wine like character with a nice hoppiness in the mouthfeel.

Very good beer. I could drink several of these and I think I will. Finishes strong with a flavor that never falters.

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Photo of mschofield
4.82/5  rDev +18.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Pours a red-gold with a 2-3 finger creamy red tinged tan head, laces in thick rings, the head never goes below 1 finger in height.
Good malty aroma, biscuit balanced with earthy and herbal hops.
Toffee, bready malt, floral, herb, butterscotch and a milk/cream note. Nicely bittered.
Creamy full feel, very nice bitter aftertaste. Quaffable session beer, it goes down very easy and I couldn't tell the ABV is almost 6, felt more like 4%.

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Photo of TheLongBeachBum
4.38/5  rDev +7.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

I recently visited the UK and had the chance to drink the Fuller’s ESB, London Pride and reacquaint myself with the rarer Chiswick Bitter on Cask. Upon my return I realized that I have never reviewed the Fullers ESB from the Bottle, so I decided to right that wrong when I spotted it yesterday on a visit to a local Beer Store.

Presentation: I dearly love the thought and effort that Fuller’s put into their bottles. It reminds me of what days long gone must have been like, with the Empire, great Engineering feats and at the height of the Royalty; for this instantly sends me back into the old Victorian era such is the solid nature of the bottle itself. Not only is it reasonably heavy, it is a distinctive high bodied small thin neck design, and it contains 1 Pint 2.6 fl.oz which fits nicely complete a decent head when carefully poured into an Imperial Pint Glass. The oval black label with the red Fuller’s logo has the infamous letters ESB in red and gold. Above and below the main label the bottle has the words ‘Independent – Family Brewers’ raised and embossed into the bottle. The small neck paper label is also black & gold with the Fuller’s Griffin looking proud next to the words ‘Imported from Britain’ just above a similar embossed symbol on the bottles shoulder. Back label lists this at 5.9% and states Best Before 15-May-04 (!!Just in time!!). I note a slight difference on my bottle from that of the BA picture, the front label has completely black background on my bottle and has no white on it. Extremely High Quality presentation.

Appearance: This looks so great when carefully poured into an Imperial Pint Glass. The light tan head smoothly forms a slightly crusty covering that sits, collar, like just below the brim of my Glass once the last of the 1 Pint 2.6 fl.oz. is extracted from the bottle. The body has a mouth-watering copper body that just says “ESB”. Thin spider web lacing that sticks to the Glass. Perfect carbonation.

Nose: Rich thick malts carpet the nose at first, followed by a light hoppiness that sits behind a Nut Brown character that is found throughout, but predominantly malty. Has a light toffee butter odor that I never found on Cask.

Taste: Oh wow! Fantastic smooth luscious malts effortlessly glide over the tongue; they pause for a short while, and mix well with the late arriving Goldings, Challenger, Northdown and Target hops to infuse a very Extra Special sensation in the oral cavity. The finish is bitter, with a nutty feel, and is cleanly astringent with lovely lingering trace malts to balance the after taste. Lots of lingering flavors after the swallow. You can truly savor this one for extended periods between mouthfuls. Quite Excellent!!

Mouthfeel: How do Fuller’s continue to pull off that “perfect” mouthfeel? It simply has everything that you would expect of a beer from Fuller’s, yet the ESB has just that bit extra. Malty body, smooth, creamy and a little nut and grain thrown in at times. Astringent mouth after the swallow.

Drinkability: It’s 11am and I cracked this one open on the nail. Damn fine beer. If it wasn’t $2.99 a bottle I may stock up with this more frequently. Even so, I may stock up on it anyway. Drink just the one, or (whilst admittedly not the best strength for a Session beer), just drink as many as you like. I could never get bored with this one!

Overall: You have to give credit where it is due. Fuller’s do not tend to ride on the coat tales of branding here. Whilst the ESB may have been the first, and therefore has an enviable brand name, they haven’t merely “stuck this in a bottle” for sale to dumb foreigners (the bottles are rarely seen or drunk in the UK). They understand their beer and want the best for the drinker. Cleverly they have upped the strength 0.4% to 5.9% Alc. By Vol. to account for the known variations that do exists between putting the same beer in Cask and Bottle. I like that.

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Photo of BadBadger
4.72/5  rDev +16.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

WOW this was a pleasure to drink. Pours a nice amber color. There is a nice head which lasted the duration. The taste was truely Extra Special: a malty sweetness with hints of caramel which are finished off by a wonderful dry bitterness. Definitely worth trying, you should not be disappointed.

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


Had just about the last half from the cask, a lovely caramel amber that still came out with a high fluffy head. My first impulse was to say was, Wow, this is complex. Tastes predominately of caramel, with an intriguing touch of phenol. And at the base a fruitiness like fresh-squeezed apple juice like you can only get for a few weeks in the fall.

It gives a lingering dry finish to another productive evening.

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Photo of watermelonman
4.25/5  rDev +4.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

This poured to a very solid copper color with hints of red. The head was modest and faded to a thin layer. It left a great speckled lace behind.

It's relatively bitter but in a balanced way. Alcohol is somewhat evident in the smell, but not in the taste. The taste has plenty of depth in caramel malts. Well-blended hops clean up the finish.

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

Had this on Tap at the British Beer Company.

Nice carmel coloring with a frothy head that would stick to the glass.

A fruity smell almost of apples.

A slightly sweet taste of apples in the background as well. Nice bitters taste, not overpowering at all, very mellow almost as an after thought. Almost too smooth.

Drinkable, a session beer for sure, you can drink many of these easily.

I would drink this again, but am more interested in fuller's other offerings. A great example of an ESB

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Photo of palma
4.22/5  rDev +3.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Clear amber body with a very nice tan head that fades fairly quickly. Aroma was great as soon as I popped the cap. Very sweet malt aroma. I love it. Taste is very good with a great fullbodied malt flavor, sufficient hoppy bite, and a wonderful lip smacking bitterness. Some mild acidity in the finish. Medium/high carbonation. Good full mouthfeel. Surprisingly easy drinking. I imagine this beer from the cask would be absolutely amazing. Its already so good from the bottle.

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Photo of oggg
4.6/5  rDev +13.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Sampled on tap at Shakespeare's Pub and Grill in San Diego.

The beer pours a gorgeous ruby red with a modest off white head. The aroma of noble hops is evident but not overpowering. I would've liked more here. The taste is intensely malty with a great infusion of caramel and maybe biscuit. The hops are present but allow the malt to take center stage. Less bitter and more malty than the London Pride. The body is medium, alcohol is subtle. Immensely drinkable. I can see why this is the gold standard.

well, now that I'm a hophead, my tongue is quite different. I had this ESB on cask and it tasted like sweet water. On the other hand, after a hop vacation, I could taste some really subtle malt nuances going on, though the beer no longer tantalizes me. I will leave my scoring as is.

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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 ism
3.85/5  rDev -5.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Foamy white head, moderate size, on top of a light amber body that is fairly clear, leaves nice lacing in rings half of the way. Sweet aroma mostly of crystal malts, sugary caramel, and a slight citrus hop twinge. Medium body with a nice carbonation and gentle hoppy bite. Malts the majority with a nutty fruityness, enhanced by moderate hops. The hops reveal themselves as Kent in the finish, just a bit dominated by citrus sweetness and a bit of cocoa. Clean finish. A well-balanced ESB with complex flavors.

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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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