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

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Reviews: 183 | Ratings: 399
Photo of matjack85
3.85/5  rDev +7.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

I found this 12oz aluminum can at the Binny's store in Plainfield, IL for $1.49. They do have a best by date on the bottom rim of the can, but you'll need a magnifying glass to read it. Mine says Best by 12-23-11, so it's plenty fresh. There is also a pair of dancers on the can with the words "Lip up fatty" above them. I have absolutely no idea what that means.

The beer poured a burnt orange/amber/copper color that turned light orange when held to light. The 1-finger white head lasted several minutes and it left tons of lacing.

The beer had a heavy fruit smell along with sweet caramel, malt, and even hops lurking in the background.

The beer was nowhere near as bitter as the name would imply. Instead, it's nicely balanced with sweet malt and caramel on one side, with mild bittering hops on the other. I don't know where all the fruit went that I found in the smell, but it wasn't noticeable in the taste. I liked the balance of flavors in here.

This is a light, spritzy beer with high carbonation. It also leaves a light, lingering bitterness after the swallow.

Very easy to drink with no trace of alcohol. I enjoyed this one.

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Photo of Durtdiggler
3.85/5  rDev +7.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured from can into a Belgian style beer glass. 1 Finger head, minimum amount of lacing. Copper/Amber hue with cloudiness.

The aroma is neutral; no big hop profile mosty sweet malt.

The strong attributes are the tasting and mouth feel.

Malty, sweeter profile upfront with the tasting with a slight bitter finish that ends very clean but not too dry. No grassy notes. I think its well balanced but favors malt.

Mouth feel is very smooth and soft, not too carbonated, flat or syrup. It goes down real easy.

Great every day beer for fall, spring temperatures when you're not in the mood for strong IPA. Really enjoyed it.

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Photo of oriolesfan4
3.85/5  rDev +7.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Part of a mixed 12 pack enjoyed on the beach in the Outer Banks. A nice solid, all around beer. Medium bodied with some caramel notes and malty sweetness, some decent hop presence upfront with a nice clean finish. Not particularly my favorite style, but this one was pretty well done and well balanced and I would try it again for sure.

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Photo of mwa423
3.84/5  rDev +7.3%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Recieved as part of a CAN-tastic trade from woodychandler, I'm a fan of lots of other Ska products, so I figured their ESB was worth a shot.

A - Pours a hazy burnt orange with two fingers of sticky white fluffy head which doesn't seem to be going anywhere fast. The beer isn't nearly as clear as I expected and the color leaves something to be desired.

S - Tiny smells of hops and spice, but pretty much all sweet malt

T - A lighter taste then most ESB, but a very well balanced malt hits the tongue and the tiniest of hop bites chases it down the throat with a pleasant malty aftertaste.

M/D - Mouthfeel is a moderate thickness with the perfect level of carbonation for style. The easy drinking flavor of this beer really is the highlight. This is a perfect beer when you want a simple and solid beer that is good tasting and you can keep enjoying over and over again.

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Photo of merlin48
3.83/5  rDev +7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Twelve ounce can pours a hazed honey amber body with a small offwhite head. The head has some staying power and leaves some attractive patchy lace.

Aroma is subtle, with faint notes of toasted biscuit, caramel, and spicy hops.

Medium body is nicely carbonated.

Taste has a dominant spicy and earthy hop bitterness. Toasted caramel malt and a vague hint of ripe pear provide a nice balance.

Nicely put together and spot on for style. Very sessionable.

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Photo of plaid75
3.83/5  rDev +7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Poured a medium copper hue with a three finger creamy white head. There was good retention and lacing.

The smell featured a forward herbal hop with a soft doughy malt.

The taste consisted of a soft malt, some metal and a dry herbal hop.

The mouthfeel was toward the thinner side of the style.

Overall a tasty and certainly hop forward ESB.

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Photo of cbutova
3.83/5  rDev +7%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

Full notes taken to my phone at Morefield Campground, Mesa Verde National Park, CO.

A- The second ever canned microbrew is poured into a goblet with a fairly clear golden orange body. A frothy white head builds on the beer to a finger. Head retention is decent and a foamy ring stays behind. Lacing is a mix of spots and streaks.

S- Malty overall but the hop presence certainly makes itself known. Toasted, toffee and light caramel malts. Hops lend herbal, grassy and spicy qualities.

T- Lacks the sweetness I find in many ESBs but still packs malt flavors of caramel, toasted nuts, toffee, sweets and cereal. Notes of light fruits, slight raisin and bread throughout. Hops on the back end bringing grassy, spicy and earthy notes. Overall balanced between all of the above with each aspect taking precedence at times.

MF- Fairly light end bodied with a moderately high carbonation. The overall texture is creamy, just a bit chewy and foamy. Finishes with medium bitterness.

Malty but plenty of hops to balance it and at times the hops take over. A nice interpretation of the style with ample malt flavor lacking an overriding sweetness.

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Photo of jwc215
3.83/5  rDev +7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Pours amber with a thick head that slowly descends to a thin cover. Some lacing sticks to glass.

The smell is of caramelish sweetness with earthy, buttery, floral/fruity notes.

The taste is of caramel and vanilla sweetness upfront. Earthy, almost woody, bitter hops balance the sweetness. Mildly buttery. Pineapple-ish fruitiness comes forth as drink progresses. Sweet, though restrained by bitterness, esp. in the finish. I was between two scores, but gave it the higher because of the pleasant taste, though I don't know if I would recommend it if someone asked for a good example of the style.

The body is a bit thin, but holds up well enough.

Well, although it didn't shine forth as a great example of the style, there is something about it I found enjoyable.

Thanks to bitterbill for including this one!

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Photo of bark
3.83/5  rDev +7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

The smell is mildly sweet with quite a lot of bitterness. Sweet bread, some fruits and hints of grass, flowers and touches of alcohol and butter.

The colour is amber with a touch of red (25 ECB). The liquid is clear. The warm beige head is finger thick and compact. It sinks slowly leaving some lacing.

The taste is a bit bitterer than I am used to from British ESBs. Otherwise, I recall all the flavours from the “originals”: Some caramel, butter, sweet fruits, hay and flowers, some passing alcohol. Medium to full body. The aftertaste got bread-like flavours, some alcohol, fruits and bitter herbs and notes of dandelions and buttercups. The lingering aftertaste got malty flavours of French loaf.

The carbonation is strong but rather short-lasting with lots of very small bubbles. The liquid is semi-smooth.

A splendid British ESB with an very gentle American twist!

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Photo of ClockworkOrange
3.83/5  rDev +7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Poured from a 12oz. can into my nonic pint glass. Appears a beautiful golden amber color with about two fingers of off-white foam. The head leaves a small amount of lacing on the glass. Smells of sweet caramel malts, followed by biscuit and fruit (apple) notes. Taste is malty at first, followed by a nice dose of hops, more malts, and maybe some tropical fruit. Medium in both body and carbonation. Thanks to limesmut for this fine beer. It's not too often you see an ESB in a can. I would certainly drink this one again if I have the chance.

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Photo of Ego
3.83/5  rDev +7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

picked up some down in the obx...

2 fingers of slightly off white foam, caramel/burnt orange hue, carbonation is active, head retention is good... lacing is spotty, pretty nice looking, you'd bang her... but you're not sure you would date her long term.

almost a little of that euro-heineken stank to it, brown herbal hops, the malt is there but is a touch less sweeter than I expect from this style, some old orange rind smell in there also. interesting but nothing to woo me or boo me.

taste etc...
Fuller's ESB was one of my first loves, and many times I am disappointed by what american brewers do to this style, usually they go over the hop top (while I love mad hops this is not the style to hammer imo), this is an exception, this is an extremely friendly beer for session-ing, it is light without being watery, it has that buttery/caramel hop finish with just some bitterness much like it's english counterparts, this really drinks easy.

if this was on tap at the local pub I would have it, it isn't the greatest beer in the world but man sitting around shootin the shite drinking this and BSing with buds ? this works.

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Photo of joshuadlight
3.81/5  rDev +6.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

This is the first beer I've had from Ska Brewing.
Good color that is a shade under orange, with a chunky head that leaves intermittent lacing. More floral hops in the nose than there are in the taste. It set me up for a hoppy brew that turned out to be malt dominated. Bready and sweet notes throughout, with a roasted malt type of residual aftertaste. Its good though. Carbonation leads to a silky smooth mouthfeel that I really enjoyed. Drinkable enough, I like the style and thought this was a good representation. Pick it up if you get a chance.

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Photo of MrMcGibblets
3.8/5  rDev +6.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

brillantly clear copper poured into a nonic. creamy, quickly dimishing white head. subtle aromas of toffee, buttered bread, and a hint of vague fruit and nuts. taste was spot-on for an esb with a bit of caramel sweetness and a moderate bitterness. creamy, light-bodied, with a drying finish. not too watery but still just a bit thin, but fine for the style. quite sessionable.

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Photo of surfnebr
3.79/5  rDev +5.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Clear, dark amber color with a reasonable white head. The head is maintained fairly well.

The nose is maltier than I would expect for an ESB. The hops are present, roasted caramel, light yeast, with a subtle floral bouquet.

The taste is smooth, crisp and refreshing. The balance of the malt is more than most ESB's but it is not so much as to take away from the hoppy bitterness. Apple, bread, and brown sugar are complimented by the nice bitter, kinda boozy finish.

The mouthfeel is what I would expect from the genre. Full but not so much as to be a distraction from the flavors. This is an easy beer to sit for a session with.

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Photo of Halcyondays
3.79/5  rDev +5.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

12 oz. can,

A: Pours dark gold/light amber with a soft finger of white head, spots of lace.

S: Very malty, English nose, hint of spearmint from the hops.

T: Strong malt flavour upfront which is then attacked by a lot of American hops. Mint again comes back with some citrus rind, lemon.

M: Soft carbonation, easily quaffable which is good in this style.

D: A solid bitter, pretty much an American Red Ale, OK, but not approaching Fuller's.

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Photo of quaybr
3.78/5  rDev +5.6%
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.

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Photo of rwdkosak
3.77/5  rDev +5.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured into tulip out of the fridge produced a shortlived small head over clouded gold color. Smell was hop, mild malt maybe a bit of citrus in the end. Taste was similar, bitterness came toward the later third of the tasting, not overpowering, decently balanced. Overall mouthfeel was good and at a lower ABV, it's quite drinkable. Maybe not my favorite but would have it again.

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Photo of JMC_TM
3.75/5  rDev +4.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Had this brew poured from a 12oz can at the Flying Saucer in Charlotte

This solid ESB from Ska Brewing pours a nice amber with a nice cap of creamy off-white foam that leaves a nice amount of lace. The nose has some caramel sweetness along with some light grassy hop aromas. As you sip this there is a big upfront bitterness that is followed by a strong caramel and roasted backbone. This beer drinks really easily and is nice and sessionable with a respectable 5.8% abv.

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Photo of rowew
3.75/5  rDev +4.7%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

Presentation: 12 oz can, no date or abv.

Appearance: Orange with a hint of brown, lighter than I expected for an ESB. Average head and retention.

Smell: Fairly subdued - bready malt, just a bit of spicy hops.

Taste: Nice amount of hop flavor, with some malt sweetness to balance it out. very drinkable.

Overall impression: This is a nice camping beer - plenty drinkable, available in cans, but enough flavor to keep it from being boring.

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Photo of Rayek
3.75/5  rDev +4.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Poured into a Nonic.

A: Medium amber with nice clarity and mild carbonation. A dense eggshell head slowly settles to a pillow of foam. Leaves a fair amount of lace.

S: The beer's strong suit. Sweet biscuits and black tea do most of the work. A light amount of diacetyl comes across as being about right for this style.

T: A toasted bread flavor starts things out. A well balanced pepper and black tea bitterness comes on quickly. The beer gets metallic late and finishes with lingering pepper and tea flavors.

M: The medium-light body is slightly dry and slightly over-carbonated.

D: This is a nice beer overall. Not the best ESB out there, but a very easy drinking beer that was quite refreshing after a long mountain hike.

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Photo of khiasmus
3.74/5  rDev +4.5%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 4.5

Thanks to Kkipple for the can.

A- Pours a hazy amber with a finger of white head that drops to a ring in moments.

S- Balanced towards hops, but with a good malt backbone that supports well, with hints of caramel and a very light breadiness. Somewhat faint aroma, but enjoyable.

T- Tastes like light hop-juice with just a hint of caramel thrown in. Hop flavor dominates, but the faint biscuity tone and caramel malt make it quite well balanced.

M- Medium-light body... perhaps a bit too light. Carbonation is medium-low, and a decent astringency is left behind on the tongue.

D- Quite quaffable. You could drink a LOT of this and still enjoy it. An above average ESB that's recommended. There are much better ESB's out there, but few that are this drinkable.

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Photo of BretSikkink
3.73/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

Lightly tanned, frothy head over top of a clear amber-gold color. Decent lacing. The nose is quite floral, mostly on the hoppy side, with a hint of sweet malt. Lots of fruit here.

The flavor is similarly light and pleasant. Sweet overall with enough berry and citric fruit to make it interesting. Good use of a British yeast to add a little complexity, but overall it's pretty middle of the road. Not a bad session beer.

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Photo of Suds
3.72/5  rDev +3.9%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

From a can, t his is a pale amber with a very thin, quickly dissipating head. The smell is a nice balance of malt and herbal hops. I love the malt backbone of most ESB's, and this one has a solid malt flavor, but the aroma could be better. The hops form a great balance, and the beer is of medium body. Nice, but not great.

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Photo of BarryMFBurton
3.71/5  rDev +3.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

Craft in a can: the unskunkable beer. Unfortunately, there’s no birthdate on this beer, so I’m still not sure this one is in perfect condition; at any rate, it’s good to see a can of Ska in Indiana.

A: Crystal clear golden-orange, kissed by the light no matter the angle. A rush of fizz produces a meager head of tan bubbles, which disappears almost entirely in a matter of seconds; globs of lacing all the way around.

S: Sweet malts give off a candy-like aroma; with notes of caramel, candy corn, butterscotch, and the unmistakable toffee aroma of Maris Otter all acting in harmonious intensity, there’s no denying that this is a malty, malty beer. Complementing the heavier syrup flavors are some hops: cherry and lemon-lime, adding to the candy character.

T: A strong base of toasted malt, oak, and butter-brown sugar, all reminiscent of autumn food and drink – a distinction cemented by allspice and toffee flavors. This palate is unapologetically malt-forward, relishing in the thick sweetness of such a low alcohol beer. After a fading transition of crisp cereal grain and biting vanilla liqueur, a dry spell comes on, with hops tasting of astringent black tea and catty lemon peel. Finishes in that subtly dry state, but with an air of burnt toast aftertaste.

M: Considering the ABV and the packaging, this has a relatively full texture. While it’s by no means as creamy as a many ESBs, it’s certainly not watery. Low carbonation.

O: An enjoyable can of English-style ale, packing a ton of flavor into just 12 oz. of low-alcohol product. If getting a six-pack didn’t involve crossing state lines, I’d have no qualms about buying a good bit of this.

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Photo of Stinkypuss
3.7/5  rDev +3.4%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

Pours a light copper color with a white cap. Aroma of stewed hops, mineral and wet dog. In the taste, toffee, herbal hops, butterscotch. Mild but persuasive bitterness adds a good character to the taste. Medium to light bodied, medium carbonation with good retention. Overall, this is a nice little esb, that actually packs more of a punch than most.

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ESB Special Ale from Ska Brewing Co.
3.58 out of 5 based on 399 ratings.
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