ESB Special Ale
Ska Brewing Co.

ESB Special AleESB Special Ale
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Bitter - English Extra Special / Strong Bitter (ESB)
Ranked #256
Ranked #44,544
3.6 | pDev: 12.78%
Ska Brewing Co.
Colorado, United States
ESB Special AleESB Special Ale
Reviews: 186 | Ratings: 403 | Log in to view all ratings and sort
Reviews by Keepnitrl:
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Keepnitrl from Washington

3.47/5  rDev -3.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Nov 23, 2015
More User Reviews:
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tjsdomer2 from Illinois

4.19/5  rDev +16.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.25

Appearance: Excellent white foam disippates into excellent white lacing on top of the beer. Beer is copper like all good ESBs.

Smell: Fruity molasses and caramel. Very syrupy. Heavy notes of vanilla.

Taste/Mouthfeel: Brown sugar in the head. Some raisins and other dried fruit in the background. Finishes with a spicy sizzle of black pepper. Feels a bit flat, but has enough body.

Overall Drinkability: I didn't expect a whole lot out of this, since ESBs normally don't wow me, but I would drink a few of these with no problem.

Jun 24, 2013
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jazzyjeff13 from England

3.58/5  rDev -0.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

A 355ml can with a BB of Nov 2012, so it's a little out of date. Picked up from Trembling Madness in York a while back and stored in my garage. Hopefully it's still in good condition - I'm interested to see how an ESB made by a US brewer turns out. Lip Up Fatty...

Poured into a tulip pint glass. Can conditioned. A hazy orange-amber hue with medium carbonation and visible sediment. Yields a decent head of creamy white foam that lasts for a few minutes before settling as a surface layer. Aroma of grainy malt with hints of caramel, fruity ale yeast, faint sugar, earthiness and stewed hops. Slightly sweet, with subtle undertones of pine resin.

Tastes of grainy caramel malt with a dry bitter finish. Notes of caramel, mild brown sugar, fruity ale yeast, subtle pine, earthiness, husks and stewed leaves. A restrained bitterness upon swallowing. Mouthfeel is smooth, tingly and slightly spicy, with decent carbonation and nice body. Somewhat astringent, with an aftertaste of caramel malt, ale yeast and faint pine.

A solid brew that goes down nicely. The aroma and flavour are primarily malt-driven, though a hint of hoppy pine makes itself known. The body is lovely and velvety-smooth. It doesn't quite fit the profile of an English ESB - the malt character is less fruity and complex than it should be and the aromatic hops don't match the style either. However, it is certainly very drinkable and well worth sampling if you should come across it.

Feb 03, 2013
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gleemonger from California

4.58/5  rDev +27.2%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Crystal clear organge yellow color with a super effervescent look and a large creamy white head that dissapates quickly, but leaves a small cap of head throughtout and some good lacing.

Grainy and sweet malts, with not much of a hop aroma. Very English from first impression, as it should be with this one. Light and refreshing smelling.

Like the aroma, very light biscuity and grainy malt taste, not as sweet as I thought it would be. Just a touch of some good citrusy malts to balance it out. Very nice for the style.

Light body with moderately heavy carbonation. Very refreshing and makes me want to sit out by the pool with a six pack of these for sure. Very creamy, which is a nice bonus.

I've come to really love this brewery and this was no disappointment at all, given the subdued nature of this style. They totally pulled it off as far as I'm concerned - it tastes very refreshing and very British from start to finish. I could easily drink this one all day given the desire. I don't understand the low marks on this one, frankly, unless people were just expecting something other than an ESB.

Jun 13, 2013
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Jugs_McGhee from Louisiana

2.85/5  rDev -20.8%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.75 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.75

Aluminum can served into a Samuel Smith's conical pint glass in me gaff in low altitude Los Feliz, California. Reviewed live. Expectations are low; I keep trying beers in the style but few impress me.

Served cold. Side-poured with standard vigor as no carbonation issues are anticipated.

A: Pours a one finger beige colour head of fair cream and thickness, and above average retention. Body colour is a clear copper. Translucent. No yeast particles are visible. No bubble show.

Sm: Sweet toasted malts, clean barley, pale malts, diacetyl/buttery notes, and bready grains. An above average strength, appealing aroma.

T: Buttery and sweet, with a nice malt base of pale and light toasted malts. Some fruity character too. Pretty generic for an ESB, but well balanced. Hop bitterness on the back end.

Mf: Smooth and wet. A bit overcarbonated. Too thick. Suits the flavour profile generally well.

Dr: Drinkable but unremarkable. For an ESB, I like it but I doubt I'd get it again. Still, this one of the better Ska beers I've had for the style. Hides its ABV well.


Jan 13, 2013
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Lemke10 from Wisconsin

3.48/5  rDev -3.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

I bought a single can of this from Woodman's in North Aurora, IL for $1.50 in Fall 2010.

Pours a golden amber color as the scent of hops erupt from pouring into a chilled pint glass. Drinking past the decent head there is a semi-mild bitter taste to it. No where near as bitter as an IPA however. A nice hoppy taste that makes this beer fairly decent.

Dec 11, 2010
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quaybr from Colorado

3.78/5  rDev +5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Body is a golden color with a red hue. A bubbly head disappears rather quickly, leaving behind substantial lacing.

Smells of pale malt with hints of grassy hops.

Taste follows suit, only with more flavoring hops present. The flavor is really quite pleasant. Simple and well balanced. Becomes sweeter as it warms up, tasting a bit of corn.

Great carbonation level, carries the ale across the tongue exceptionally well.

This is a good beer, definitely enjoyable.

Feb 09, 2012
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Eriktheipaman from California

4.08/5  rDev +13.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

Pours a clear copper with AMAZING white head and lacing.

The smell is on the malt side but with a good hint of spicy hops.

The taste is equal parts hops and malt. Basically a very balanced English Pale Ale. Spicy hop flavor and bitterness on the front, with a nice bready malt on the back.

Good beer and a great style. I feel the average B rating is partially because craft drinkers expect more than the bitter style delivers. What do I know though...

Aug 22, 2011
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ScrimshawFan from Illinois

2.5/5  rDev -30.6%

Jan 08, 2012
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jharris0624 from Missouri

4.5/5  rDev +25%

Sep 15, 2014
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lawlerj from Nebraska

3.58/5  rDev -0.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Poured from a 12 oz can into SA pint glass.

A. Pours a translucent amber with a nice three finger off white head. Appears to be moderately carbonated.

S. The main thing I get on the nose is buttery and bready malt. There are some hops in the mix as well, but nothing too dominating. The aroma is fairly balanced.

T. More or less follows the nose. Bready malt and a touch of bitter hops throughout.

M. Medium bodied with moderate carbonation.

O. Overall, a solid beer and a nice example of the style. I could throw back a few more of these.

Feb 13, 2012
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beergoot from Colorado

3.68/5  rDev +2.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Solid honey-colored pour; sticky, white head with lacing down the glass. Light, sweet aroma, slightly spicy, slightly fruity. Nicely balanced malt and hop flavor character, closely following what the aroma hints at. Smooth, medium-bodied; clean and dry finish.

A well-balanced, very drinkable beer. Malts and hops mingle well together and offer a delightful, well-rounded beer for those looking for a fuller bodied ale.

Sep 22, 2013
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BMart from Pennsylvania

3/5  rDev -16.7%

Dec 16, 2013
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swgwilt from Tennessee

3.01/5  rDev -16.4%
look: 3.75 | smell: 2.75 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3

Apr 24, 2015
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Brewsed from North Carolina

3.25/5  rDev -9.7%

Apr 26, 2012
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rkarimi from Colorado

3.54/5  rDev -1.7%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.5

Feb 15, 2013
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denver10 from New Mexico

3.67/5  rDev +1.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Pours an orange golden with a nice foamy cream colored head and decent lacing. Aroma is floral, doughy, caramel, light toffee,a little lemon and a kiss of some grassy hops. Flavor is bready and caramel along with some mildly bitter grassiness and maybe a littler herbal. A crisp, somewhat creamy, medium bodied. Overall, surprised I hadn't rated this prior but at least finally getting around to it. Definitely a solid brew by Ska one of my favorite of their regular offerings.

Jun 02, 2013
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DCon from Missouri

3.38/5  rDev -6.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Bought a 12 FLOUID OZ. can of this from Lukas Liquor in Ellisville, MO for $1.99. Poured from the Red Can into my Gilligan's Pub Pint Glass (from Siesta Key, FL) and has a BEST BY 11/3/10 on the bottom ridge of the can.

Aroma- Starts with HUGE spices and a strong hop aroma. Nice caramel aroma as well hanging out.

Appearance- Pours a deep copper body with 2.5 fingers of bubbly/frothy head that has GREAT retention. Lace is sticking like crazy on the sides like nothing I've ever seen!

Flavor- Very malty from the start and has a good sweetness that backs this up. Also has a decent amount of hop but nothing to attribute to the lack of bitterness... Have had many ESB's with a much stronger bitterness.

Mouthfeel- Medium Bodied, Low Carbonation, and leaves malt on the palate. Nothing "special" here.

Overall Impression- Brews from Ska are always above average but this one was right around the average ESB... Nothing really grabbed my attention but wasn't necessarily a bad brew.. I would definitely grab 1 or 2 of these when going on a float trip or camping but would rather have the canned Modus Hoperandi!

Jul 02, 2011
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crobinso from Colorado

3.25/5  rDev -9.7%

Apr 05, 2012
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NCbeerpirate from North Carolina

4/5  rDev +11.1%

Nov 15, 2011
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chicagoabbot from Illinois

3.46/5  rDev -3.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Can into a ESB it's not, but it's a decent beer, better than indicated by the rating. Decent head on it on top of the right color body for the style. However, it's not nearly dry enough or bitter enough. This would be more properly called a pale ale

Mar 16, 2011
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rawfish from California

2.44/5  rDev -32.2%
look: 4 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

Pours a clear dark amber with mild orange highlights when held up to the light. Yellowish head is small and sickly looking and peaks at one finger. Decent retention and lacing on the glass.

Whoa where's the bready malts here, smells more on the sweet side with molasses, toffee and a bit of cocoa on the nose. Add to that some citrus and apples with adjunct grain that gets in the way as well. Odd.

Not a fan of this. Medicinal hop bitterness has no balance and I detect flavors of grape skin, dark fruits and citric acid. The bitterness is rather persistent throughout the drink but the herb and medicinal hops drag on with the tartness. Grape children's tylenol syrup with burnt grains that ends bitter.

Rather well carbonated with a sticky mouthfeel despite being a bit thin. Lots of flavor for the thin body too bad it's not pleasant.

Ugh, the bitterness was there but not accompanied by any balance or pleasant flavors, I would contend that the malt is here due to the color and sweetness but there's no real mesh with the herbal hop flavors and odd citric notes.

May 01, 2011
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larryarms847 from Illinois

3.5/5  rDev -2.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Pours a clear reddish brown with a tight head.

Caramel, toffee, and slight earthy hop aroma.

Biscuits, caramelly malt sweetness, earthy/mild spice hop bitterness.

Light-bodied, low carbonation.

Overall, an easy drinking beer.

May 15, 2016
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afsdan from Colorado

3.5/5  rDev -2.8%

Mar 21, 2014
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blakelive784 from Colorado

2.75/5  rDev -23.6%

Mar 11, 2013
ESB Special Ale from Ska Brewing Co.
Beer rating: 82 out of 100 with 403 ratings