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ESB Special Ale | Ska Brewing Co.

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ESB Special AleESB Special Ale

Brewed by:
Ska Brewing Co.
Colorado, United States

Style: Extra Special / Strong Bitter (ESB)

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 5.70%

Availability: Year-round

Notes / Commercial Description:
No notes at this time.

Added by Bitterbill on 10-26-2003

For Trade:
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Reviews: 182 | Ratings: 398
Photo of chocosushi
4.7/5  rDev +31.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Unibroue Tulip
A ~ Pours a copper-hued Amber. Crystal clear clarity. Cream colored head with great retention & little globs of baby swiss style lacing.

S ~ A melange Roasted Corn, Yeastbreads, Rain-soaked grains...orange zest & other fruits...very floral & enticing.

T ~ Wow. Soft toffee with Crisp apples...mellow Blood & Bitter Orange notes with touches of berries & toast with jam midpalette. .Hops are light with apricot & mild pepper notes...cooked peaches after some warmth...

M ~ Very very balanced. Medium-light body & very light on the palette. Faint spice. Juicy fruit flavors. Carb is fine, but not abundant. Perfect balance for the style.

D ~ Best American ESB I have ever had, HANDS DOWN. Literally could drink this anytime or any where. Supreme Craftsmanship.
Thanks Gawnphishin!!!

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Photo of gleemonger
4.58/5  rDev +27.9%
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.

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Photo of pmcadamis
4.45/5  rDev +24.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

A - A big solid finger of creamy meringue froth rests atop this golden bronze amber brew. In fact, this beer is much the same color as the can when not held to the light. It's more gold when in direct light. The head shows some really nice retention and leaves a good deal of lace on the glass. This is a looker!

S - Sweet as hell in the nose! Brown sugar, maple syrup, mandarin oranges with the syrup and can included in the smell.

T - Again, sweet and syrupy. Brown sugar and maple syrup with some mandarin orange hop tones. Starts out extremely malty with a lot of complexity, and it's really hoppy and fruity on the finish.

M - Medium bodied, pretty dry, and conservatively carbonated. The finish is a work of art! The dry grainy and gritty feel is complimented by the smooth carbonation and round but not quite full body. Awesome!

D - I'm in awe of this brew...and it's in a can! A kick ass session brew, and one of the best ESBs I've ever had! Honestly, this may be my favorite session beer of all time...other than Dead Guy.

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Photo of Grabbin2nd
4.38/5  rDev +22.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

From Notes: 7/1/09
Ska Brewing Co.
ESB Special Ale
5.9% Abv.
12oz. can into Stone Old Guardian Glass (not sure why I picked this glass)

Appearance= Cakey white 1 finger head. Plenty of carbonation. Slightly darker than I would have expected for the style. Orange color. Excellent head retention.

Smell= Bready, citrusy ESB smell.

Taste= Love this beer, seriously! Hoppy, crisp, clean, citrus, biscuit.

Mouthfeel= Perfect for the style! Lively carbonation, thin, refreshing mouthfeel.

Drinkability= Super tasty ESB in a can? Hell yea mang! Love this beer. Extremely drinkable. This is it.

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Photo of ByTor2112
4.3/5  rDev +20.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Poured a nice shade of Orange Blossom Honey with a one finger thick head.
Aroma-clean hoppy nose and this killer whiff of pineapple.
Mouthfeel-Oh yes this is going to be good! Light hoppy flavor with a subtle citrus note and a creamy mouthfeel. Finishes with a sharp bitterness. The malt profile is perfect for an ESB. Not too sweet but its there with a crisp hop bitterness that is not over-bearing. THIS, is Ale! I'm rating this high becuase it smelled and tasted great and is very quaffable! one of the best ESB's I have tried in a good while and Cheers to Ska for canning it!

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Photo of omnigrits
4.3/5  rDev +20.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Poured from the can into a perfect pint glass.

A. A light copper-colour with a moderate head and not too much lace.

S. Primarily sweet nutty malts with some nice hop aroma.

T. Very much like an English ESB - malt is the main player with hops in the background. Sweet, but not too much, and with a little hop bitterness cutting through the malt. Nicely balanced hop flavour against the malts, but malt is the main player here.

M. Medium bodied.

O. Well, I've downed one of them far more quickly than I probably should and I'm about to open another. Very easy to drink.

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Photo of JuicesFlowing
4.25/5  rDev +18.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured into a standard pint glass.

The beer is a nice pure copper color. A frothy creamy head stays afloat or a long, long time and recedes to a nice film. Loads of lacing stick to my glass.

The beer smells malty, hoppy, and slightly sweet.

The taste is exceptionally well balanced. Sweet caramel and bitter hops come together for a perfect sweet-tang.

Moutheel is very bitter, slightly dry.

Overall, a deliciously well balanced brew. Maybe the best brew Ska makes. Maybe ...

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Photo of LittleDon
4.23/5  rDev +18.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

A pint served at Lady Falconburghs's in Durango.

Golden to slightly amber in color. Dense head with good retention and lacing. Aroma is lightly toasted bread with some lactose sweetness. Toasted grain front with light carbonation tingle. Maltly middle with bitter finish. Mouthfeel is a tad chewy, consistent with style. Very drinkable in anything but very hot weather.

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Photo of tjsdomer2
4.19/5  rDev +17%
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.

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Photo of johnyeast
4.18/5  rDev +16.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Pours a hazy amber with an off white, 1/4 inch head. Plenty of carbonation bubbling up. I get the grains right away with a light citrus smell. The taste is also light and very refreshing. An incredibly balanced beer. I could see this easily as a session beer. Very easy to drink. I like this beer. I also like that it is in a can.

Possible a good gateway beer because you have a bit of complexity without the fear (for some) of a heavy, high alcohol, possibly too dark, craft beer, that may turn away your neighbor, wife, long lost friend (fill in the person that you desperately want to share good beer with.)

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Photo of Domingo
4.13/5  rDev +15.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Not sure why I've never bought this before, but I'm glad I did.
Pours a deep gold to amber color. Like their IPA, the head from the can is pretty rocky and does a good job of sticking around.
Smells like graham crackers and toasted grain.
Up front, the graham cracker flavor really carries through. Lots of bready flavor in the middle and a finish that's clean, with just enough earthy hops to keep it from being overly sweet. A little bit of a tea flavor in there adds a little UK authenticity, too.
Mouthfeel is ideal for drinking on a warm day, but not watery in the slightest.
This stuff goes down like water, though...seriously.
Wish I'd bought this earlier. Reminds me of a better Fat Tire moreso than a UK special bitter, but I'm okay with that. I really like this one a lot.
Along with 90 Shilling and Laughing Lab, this is one of the best session brews in the state.

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Photo of NeroFiddled
4.1/5  rDev +14.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Ska's ESB pours a handsome amber robe beneath a short head of creamy off-white foam that holds well and leaves some nice patches of lace at the outset of the glass. It's hoppy and malty in the nose with a bit of caramel and some leafy/grassiness, followed by some very pleasant berry-like fruitiness. I wouldn't be surprised at all if they were using the Fuller's yeast strain (White labs WLP002?). In the mouth it's medium-bodied and lightly crisp with a moderate, fine bubbled carbonation (at around 2.38 volumes CO2). The flavor is round, and very well-balanced between delicate English hops and softly caramelish and biscuity malt. But there's also a delicate note of chocolate that gives it quite a bit of charm. It's moderately bitter, and finishes fairly quick and dry with just a bit of leafy, spicy, floral and grassy hops left behind. Very nicely done, and quite drinkable!

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Photo of rtratzlaff
4.1/5  rDev +14.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

An unfiltered amber body with steady carbonation flowing to support a slightly off white head comprised of very small bubbles. It has a nice look in the tulip glass.

Smells are caramel malt with some slight hop character.

Taste is pretty sweet with caramel, fruit, and a mineral like quality to the hop flavors that cleans things up from the malt and leaves one ready for the next sip.

Mouthfeel is light side of medium with carbonation also on the light side.

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Photo of goodbyeohio
4.1/5  rDev +14.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

super huge thanx to UnionMade for this treat (and Kristi)

brilliantly decorated red can, listing 'love' as a primary ingredient of this beer. ESB in a can. who would've thunk it.

can opens without a sound and the beer pours nice and orange with yellow around the edges, big foamy head that you usually get from vigorously pouring a canned beer. webby lacing. bubbly.

smells very fruity. passionfruit and pineapple here as well as a nice hop addition and slight rindy hint of bitter malt. light mouthfeel and smooth down the throat makes this extremely drinkable, but this beer refuses to suffer from flavor loss.. it's bitter and malty with a very dry, crisp finish. subtler notes of honey and cantaloupe. after drinking, hop oil resin is detected on my cheek walls. the aroma is balanced equally with the flavor as i drink this from an imperial pint. lighter style ESB but that makes this the perfect craft beer for a can. wish i had five more.

looking forward to trying more of these ska beers (and lucky me, i've got a boxfull!)

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Photo of stumac
4.09/5  rDev +14.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

this brew pours up an apricot color with a quickly fading white head. the nose is a total fruit basket composed of overripe peach, pineapple, tangerine, honeydew, kiwi, sweet pale malts, very floral. the taste is fairly sweet, more malt than hops but a subtle hop finish. It needs more hops to be an ESB in my opinion. It tastes more like a traditional English Bitter. medium body, low carbo. Not too shabby

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Photo of kkipple
4.08/5  rDev +14%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

Ahh yes, an ESB -- in a can! This is a first for me. Kudos to Ska brewing for doing something different.

The can pops open with a fizz and some beer leaps out; it can't wait to get into my glass. I oblige it and pour into a pint, and watch as a 2 inch tall frothy head springs up, then dwindles to a manageable half inch of light tan bubbles. The ESB is a hazy light copper that's has a surprising amount of little particles floating in it. Head retention is good and leaves a small amount of sticky lacing as the beer is consumed.

Smells pretty solid, albeit basic. Toasty grain and a metallic hoppiness blend with a solid caramel smell and a little bitter crispness reminiscent of mineral water.

I'm happy to report that the beer was nearly finished before I got around to taking tasting notes. It's a crisp, light, malty brew with a toasty character and just enough hop bitterness to make it palatable. Indeed, it's extremely drinkable, and the light body and fizzy, mildly sweet finish make it wonderfully quenching. I could have another of this, or 5 more... it just goes down like water.

Ska's now holds claim to producing one of the better ESBs I've had, and certainly the finest canned version of the style to date. Recommended for camping trips and hot summer days when a pilsner just won't cut it.

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Photo of Eriktheipaman
4.08/5  rDev +14%
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...

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Photo of jjayjaye
4.04/5  rDev +12.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

The appearance is on the lighter side of pale amber with a shallow loose white foam head that leaves negligible lacing behind. If your a fan of bitters you'll like this one. It's got the classic ultra buttery big rich caramel malt thing going on. The mouth feel is nicely carbonated, smooth yet on the lighter side of a medium bodied. The flavors mirror the sweetness from the nose and linger appropriately. A real nice drinker and very sessionable at 5.7% ABV. Big thanks to Pops for the opportunity!

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Photo of LXIXME
4.03/5  rDev +12.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

I poured this from an inch or so above the glass, I like doing this, in that beers seem to release a better or fuller aroma this way and also it allows me to sit and watch the head settle into it's lacing and with beers that have a nice aroma and look, it's just simply fun to watch and build a little anticipation of whats to come. Anyway, back to this particular beer, it pours a big off white if not slightly tan head that settles nicely into a pretty nice lacing above a clear copper golden colored beer.

The aroma of this beer is a quite nice roasted caramel malt slightly on the sweet side with a slight influence from the hops in a slightly bitter and pine influenced background.

The aroma is transferred very well throughout the drinking of this beer, more sweet roasted caramel malt with some notes of bitter pine to almost citrus hoppiness coming through. This follows through very well in a dryish aftertaste with some caramel notes throughout.

I really enjoyed this beer for some reason, even though I kinda been taught that bottle beer is better, I can honestly argue that with beers like this coming out of a can.

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Photo of woodychandler
4.02/5  rDev +12.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

CAN you believe it? Ska Beer in a CAN!?!

A good aggressive pour resulted in a huge, rocky, off-tan head with good retention. The nose had a light sweetness. The color was a slightly hazy medium-amber. The mouthfeel was medium with a slight bitterness on the tongue. The finish also had a light, pleasant bitterness. There was some lacing evident in the glass at the end. Overall, it was a solid example of an ESB, plus the fact that it was canned made it even more attractive.

A re-review: CAN you believe it?!? A stop-over in CHI-town headed west and I was no longer CANtankerous. I was CANnabalistic on the train and loving it!

More environmental friendliness on the CAN: "Golf - Luge - Recycle - BBQ - Toboggan - Recycle - Fish - Luau - Recycle - Live - Hike - Recycle". Indeed! Time to "Lip Up, Fatty!"

It must have had to do with the altitude as my pours kept producing massive rocky, two-finger heads. This one was ecru. The deep-amber color with its NE-quality clarity put me in mind of BUPGOO. Nose had an earthy, grassy quality. Mouthfeel was medium with a subdued malty sweetness on the tongue. Finish was semi-dry with hops and malt battling it out for supremacy. Special!

Beach/Shore: Bet!

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Photo of dwheeler
4/5  rDev +11.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

What a great beer! Nice looking amber colour, a few more bubbles that you might expect from an ESB but it is US after all, and from a can. I like the can, and hope more brewerys do the same.

Smell, earthy hop goodness, a touch of biscuit malt.

Taste, this is a true american version of an ESB, lots of hop character, but not over the top. A dry beer, but still some malt there to just balance the hops, but this is still a great hoppy beer.

This is super drinkable, wow, really nice. I am hooked, a great US interpretation of an English classic, well done and I enjoy this more than the original style.

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Photo of wnh
4/5  rDev +11.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12 oz. can poured into a pint glass.

Pours a crisp, clear, bright copper with a frothy and slightly sticky ecru head.

Nutty on the nose--walnuts, perhaps--with a touch of earthy and leafy hops and just a hint of yeasty funk. Quite a range of malty subtleties, showing caramel, cocoa powder, biscuits, and more. Mild, but smells promising.

Smooth and subtle-but-rich on the palate. Malt dominates, though particular flavors are hard to pinpoint. Finishes dry with a moderate lingering bitterness hinting at dried leaves.

Eminently quaffable. A great session beer.

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Photo of StoneTSR
4/5  rDev +11.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

APPEARANCE: This is another very good looking beer from Ska. It pours an slightly pale orange-copper and the head on top of my Delirium Tremens tulip glass was about a half an inch thick allowing the 12 oz. can to be poured into the glass for a near perfect fit. The head dissipated very gradually until a thin film remained on top, concentrated in the center of the glass. Some lacing stuck to the top of the ring, but not much else after that.

SMELL: The aroma was noticeable as soon as I poured. The one drawback to cans, in my opinion, is that it can be tough to smell a beer through the top of a can and too often I drink Ska’s beer directly out of the can with no glassware. On the rare occasions I drink a Modus Hoperandi out of a glass I am always reminded that while it is great out of the can once it opens up in a glass, it is a simply outstanding beer. I can already tell the ESB is going to be better out of the glass. The aroma is a fairly strong, sticky pine.

TASTE: Like the nose, this beer is a lot more piney than most other ESBs I’ve had. It also happens to be pretty bitter for the style as well, a rare case of an ESB actually living up to its name, which I like. The pine is followed by a pleasant hoppiness that mellows just before the end of the sip, leaving a little malt and citrus on the tongue. As it warmed I began to pick up a faint hint of caramel as well. Very solid.

MOUTHFEEL: I’ve found that most of Ska’s beer is pretty well carbonated and this one is no different. It is a lively beer that sparkles like crazy and does an excellent job at cleansing the palate. I am eating some Triscuit-like crackers with cheddar and Black Forest Ham and one sip of the ESB is clearing my palate. It is a nice pairing by the way. As for the weight of the ESB, it sits very lightly and at 5.7% would be sessionable for an IPA/Double IPA fan like myself.

OVERALL: This has got to be one of the strongest flagship beers out there. Well, that is, if Modus isn’t now considered their flagship beer. Either way, this is a strong, readily available beer. If I am having a hard time deciding what to get at a bar I almost always go for either the Modus or the ESB, they are excellent beers, particularly for the price point. At $8.99 a 6-pack and usually $5 or less at the bar (in Chicago) you could do a lot worse for your money.

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Photo of bump8628
4/5  rDev +11.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A nice ESB, definitely Americanized with more aggressive hops a less of the subtle malt depth of the British variety. Pours deep Amber with an off-white head. Big herbal hoppiness, grassy with an earthy note. Nice thick caramel and biscuit malt backbone. Bitter edge on the finish. Another good beer from a can at an even better bar. Star Bar Denver, CO.

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Photo of beer2day
4/5  rDev +11.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Orange pour with thin large bubbled carbonation. Thick, light cream 1.5-finger head. Nice retention and thick, but sparse, clouds of lace.

Malty nose with bread and yeast. Slight orange citrus trace sneaks through.

More malt than bitter here. Bread and light orange marmalade combine for a flavorful glass. Not much in the way of bitters, but very mindful of the English style.

Feel is appropriate, slightly chewy.

Very, very easy to drink.

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ESB Special Ale from Ska Brewing Co.
3.58 out of 5 based on 398 ratings.
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