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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:
User Reviews
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Reviews: 183 | Ratings: 399
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 kpoole25
3.1/5  rDev -13.4%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

12 oz can to glass. Orange-copper color, off-white head. Malty nose. Taste wise, it seems to hit the malt and mineral notes of English ESB, but the hops stick out as American style pale ale, it seemed to overpower the mix for me. Fairly drinkable but left thinking there are better alternatives.

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Photo of BedetheVenerable
3.88/5  rDev +8.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Presentation: 12oz bright red can; craft beer in a can! This is one of my first forays into this territory!

Appearance: Nice, slightly hazy dark orange beer, capped with a thick, sticky white collar which soon fades to a thick film.

Smell: Nice mix of bready, freshly-milled grains and (English, perhaps?) hops. This is fairly clean, with not a ton going on, I'm wondering if they perhaps used an American ale yeast versus one from across the pond? As the beer warms, a bit more character emerges, however; now I'm getting some nice toasty/biscuity malt and just a hint of minerality.

Taste: The flavor's more in synch with what I was expecting from this ale; it's got some light, almost crisp, steely caramel malt flavors, supported by a nice light/moderate hop bitterness which is kind of earthy. Also just a hint of butteriness in the background. Not a ton going on, but nice, balanced, and quaffable.

Mouthfeel: On the light side of medium bodied

Drinkability: Pretty high.

Conclusion: Nothing crazy-incredible, but one of the best beers I've ever had out of a can, and a pretty good take on the style to boot.

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Photo of nc41
3.3/5  rDev -7.8%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

I'm not a huge ESB fan but I like SKA products and it was worth a try. I hate breaking it down to the Nth degree, but this is a very solid English style ESB. Looks pretty good, malty nose more so than hops, nicely bitter without stepping up and out of class with the hops. Very drinkable at a sane ABV level, and enjoyable at gatherings where you don't want a mouth slam of hops, and perhaps have to drive and have 3-4 safely. This would make a great beach pool brew IMO. Not being an ESB man I wasn't sure how to rate it at much above average in any category, but I don't believe even beer snobs could really low rate this brew. My preference is for more hops so my prejudice probably shows, perhaps unfairly.

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Photo of JoeyBeerBelly
3.58/5  rDev 0%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

I got this brew from kiltedtxn for winning SNF-Week 11, Thanks Chris!

12oz can served in a standard pint glass.

Hazy copper color with an off-white head that left it's fair share of lacing.
Caramel malt and floral hop is what I smelled.
Malty flavor upfront before a nice shot of bitterness hits leading up to a dry, bitter finish.
Medium bodied with a crisp feel.
Drinkability is just above average.

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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 jacobseyb
3.93/5  rDev +9.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

A=nice copper color little haze, with an off white two and a half finger head that laces enough, but dissipated pretty quickly

S=pine notes initially with some malty sweetness following

T=crisp and piney followed with some roasted malt flavors

M=crisp yet very oily, good carbonation

D=great drinking beer, very enjoyable, not too stout.

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Photo of Monkeyknife
3.5/5  rDev -2.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Poured from the can a clear reddish gold with a thin wet beige head.

The aroma is light with a metallic grain note and just a hint of hops and strawberry.

The taste is also on the lighter side with the same metallic-corn graininess and a touch of strawberry.

Light to medium bodied, wet and clean, with a moderate carbonation.

A decent ESB from Ska but nothing very special IMO.

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Photo of fightingwords
2.29/5  rDev -36%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2 | taste: 2 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

Bought a 6 pack on a recent climbing trip to CO.

A--poured a clean golden copper. Fizzy off-white head about 1 finger strong and it fell to a pretty characteristic esb style barely-there-presence. Looked rather classic to me.

S--very unpleasent corn and cheap grain odor. Picked up some spicy hop odors but nothing like the typical bready full on malt notes and fresh earthy hops I like in this style.

T--very similar to the nose. no real participation from any of the ingredients, just an ethanol and spicy flavor that is miles from the typical buttery smooth biscuity malts and earthy hops.

M--not bad, typical low carbonation and light body. might be a touch heavier than others but not way outside the range you'd find in others. Clean finish.

D-- not very drinkable in my opinion. Just not a beer that excites me.

Way bummed out. At 8.50 a 6 pack I was expecting way more, and I passed over Avery's 14'er for this mess.

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Photo of Beaver13
3.02/5  rDev -15.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

12 oz can. Pours a hazy golden orange with a creamy white head that retain fairly well and laces the glass.

The aroma is sweet corny caramel malts with some fruits and floral and metallic notes.

The flavor is sweet toasted caramel malts with some decent bitterness in the finish. The mouthfeel is medium bodied with smooth carbonation, slightly watery.

Overall, a decent bitter with good balance of sweetness and bitterness. I don't normally care for the toasted/nutty notes but this one was better than I remember.

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Photo of AgentZero
2.19/5  rDev -38.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2 | taste: 1.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

A - It looks like a pretty normal beer, nice gold color with a good head and decent lacing down the sides.

S - I'll be honest, I'm not really sure what is going on here, smell some hops and spice, but this is not what I was expecting from a bitter, which I am a fan of.

T - I find this horrible. Too creamy, not a good take on the style, and the bitterness is lost in some sort of sweet, almost syrupy, taste. I find this to be fairly gross and am not drinking it after a few sips.

M - Good carbonation and goes down smooth.

D - Easy to drink other than it just tastes bad.

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Photo of mikesgroove
3.63/5  rDev +1.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Grabbed this can out of the fridge last night, hadn't seen it around before so it was worth a shot. Served cold and poured into a pint glass, it was consumed on 11/04/2009.
The pour was nice, light golden amber in color with a smooth even white head on top that held on for a good long while, dropping nice amounts of side glass lacing along the way. Aroma was light, hints of citrus hops, a touch of light grassy notes and a noticeable touch of light spice all coming together rather lightly, but pleasantly. Taste was light as well, clean and crisp with a smooth profile. Light touches of hops sprinkled throughout a light bready and grainy base that shone through pretty strongly. Light touches of peaches and pears actually popped up as well as a nice light touch of spice and hops. Quick and clean finish left me a bit dry and looking for a little bit more.
Overall not sure on the style but the effort was there. A solid and nicely session able little ale, would go for this one again.

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Photo of jrallen34
2.16/5  rDev -39.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 1.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2

I drank this from the can into a pint glass.

The beer is medium clear gold with a decent white head, good lacing and retention.

The aroma is light hops.

The taste is really bad, all bitter, like a scotch ale with some very weird aftertastes. Mouthfeel is heavy but not drinkable.

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Photo of oberon
3.98/5  rDev +11.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Had this ay Sticks and Stones last night.Poured a hazed peach-like color with a tight 1/2 finger white head that held well.Aromas of caramel and fruity malt,just a hint herbal,grassy hop.Well rounded on the palate starting out with caramel/biscuit malt with some fruity esters,the hops come through in the finish giving off some citric and herbal qualities.This is very much an American version of the style with a decent hop profile in the finish,very nice.

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Photo of coldmeat23
3.51/5  rDev -2%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

GLASS: Kostritzer Mug
TEMP: Cellared @ approx 50 degrees

My can jumped to life when I pulled the tab. It didn't spray or anything, but it foamed up and over, very quickly. Somewhat like a nitro can.
It pours a medium golden color with hints of orange. Massive, craggy, head forms. Retention is very good and lacing is in large spots and very sticky.

Mild nose. Malty bread-like notes and spicey hop notes. Light hints of caramel and cherries.

Mild notes of hop bitterness, balanced by a touch of malt sweetness. Light hint of sweet fruity breads.

Medium body with good carbonation level. Smooth and slightly thick feeling.

Drinkable, but not really my style.

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Photo of Brewsta
3.2/5  rDev -10.6%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Overall, a good beer to sit back with and enjoy on an overcast, cold Denver afternoon. The bitterness was fitting this style, although it might be pushing the limit for drinkability. The auroma seemed to disapate as the drink warmed in my glass and left a thin head.

I've had this beer in previous years and really liked the smoothness and drinkability. I was a little surprised at the level of hop bitterness that met my mouth, as I have had the impression, in the past, that this beer leaned more towards a English ESB. My mistake.

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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 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 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 bfields4
3.98/5  rDev +11.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Large frothy head slowly fades to a lace above a crystal clear amber body.

Pale malty with light fruity and flowery flavors. Nothing too ostentatious.

Malt stays on balance with the nice pale sweetness to complement the fruity yeast qualities and a light floral hops.

Very balanced and drinkable great session beer. Nothing that will blow the beer world away, but a classic stand by that will appeal to everyone.

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Photo of zeff80
3.97/5  rDev +10.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A - Poured out a clear, copper/amber color with a small, tan head with some big bubbles. It left thin rings of lace on the glass.

S - It smelled of grass, citrus and burnt toast maltiness.

T - It tasted bitter with grassy hops. It had a good burnt toast malt backbone.

M - It was crisp and sharp. A light to medium-bodied brew.

D - This is a pretty good ESB and yet another great canned craft beer.

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Photo of bryanbrick
3.04/5  rDev -15.1%
look: 4 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Got this as an extra from CosmoHopHead, thanks Matt for a killer trade. I'll try and review more beers from the trade soon.

12oz can. No freshness dating.
Going to do the review by letters, my Girlfriend just texted to meet her at a bar after work. A rare occasion.

A-Nice big frothy head, stark white, on a tan hued gold colored beer

S-Not much here, simple aromas of charred malt and some tinny hops. Tinny in tone, not from the can

T-Most flavor is from the English styled malts. The bitter counterpoint doesn't really hold up. Quick to disappear.

M-Nice creamy feel with a sort of slickness to it. Feels almost synthetic, but not unappealing.

D-A beer for any place you want the ease of cans. Camping, Ball games, etc. But there are also a lot better beers in cans these days so?

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Photo of mothman
3.21/5  rDev -10.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Poured into Sam Smith Pint Glass

Pours ½ finger of creamy white head. Color is a slight hazyed golden orange. Decent head retention, leaving some nice lace rings.

Aroma: Caramel and bready malts. Some dull hops are present as well. This reminds me a lot of a pale ale. Nothing special going on here.

Taste: I get a lot more hop bite here than I was expecting. Caramel malts and some citrus zest here. Now, it is reminding me more and more of a pale ale.

Mouthfeel: Some bitterness, but fairly smooth. Medium bodied with a well amount of carbonation. Ends with bready malt aftertaste, very dry.

Overall, not a very big fan of this esp. Reminded me more of a pale ale. Not something I would buy on a regular basis, but not something I would completely ignore.

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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 ThePeskyDingo
3.88/5  rDev +8.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured with a fluffy 2 finger light beige head that dissipated moderately. Color of the beer is of copper orange. Leaves a nice splattered lacing.

Smells initially of bready malts. Then some hops come in to play.

Initial taste is similar to the smell. Bready malts hit the palate first followed by a slightly bitter floral/grassy hop flavor.

Mouthfeel is quite smooth. Slightly light to medium body with a slightly bitter bite to it. Carbonation is somewhat light, and it leaves my mouth dry for the most part while the back end of my tongue remains a bit sticky.

Easy to drink this beer, went down quicker than I expected. This beer is a sessionable one.

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