ESB Special Ale | Ska Brewing Co.

ESB Special AleESB Special Ale
Liked This Beer
3.58 w/ 401 ratings
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

User Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 401 |  Reviews: 184
Photo of Mtnbeerman
4/5  rDev +11.7%

Photo of kjkinsey
4/5  rDev +11.7%

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

A- clear amber with very little head

S- Malty, not much hop presence noted but some brew sugers are coming though for me.

T- smooth and flavorful. some candy notes like candy corn tasted. big malt and a small hops aftertaste

M-clean and clear. goes down well without coating the mouth at all.

O- Good example of a english esb. but others are better. i recommend trying if you like the syle. 5.7% abv hides good. good price too at $8 a sixer. Another solid offer from ska brewing.

 483 characters

Photo of barnzy78
3/5  rDev -16.2%

Photo of TheSquire23
4/5  rDev +11.7%

Photo of Rick0685
4/5  rDev +11.7%

Photo of Rckmo10
4/5  rDev +11.7%

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 NCbeerpirate
4/5  rDev +11.7%

Photo of TheRealDBCooper
4/5  rDev +11.7%

Photo of ZenAgnostic
3.43/5  rDev -4.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

12oz can poured into a pint glass. Bottom rim of can stamped BEST BY 03/16/11.

Appearance - Cloudy amber body. Pours two finger offwhite head with decent stick and good retention.

Smell - Spicy hops. Orange. Vaguely floral. Mild bodied.

Taste - Bitter. Mild to moderate body. Hoppy with zesty citrus overtones. Mild maltiness. Somewhat metallic.

Mouthfeel - Astringent. Medium bodied. Somewhat syrupy/sticky. Not refreshing, in other words. Lacks effervescence.

Overall Drinkability - Middle of the road. Doesn't shine. Off-characters aren't dominating, but are definitely annoying.

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Photo of mastodonj
3.92/5  rDev +9.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

A 12 oz can poured into a diconic glass.

A nice dark amber, reddish hued ale. Just minimal to medium
lacing that does not last. Slightly beige head.

Caramel, spice and rye?.

Of course, there is plenty of bitterness with a good tingling sensation on the tongue and a great clean finish.

 289 characters

Photo of SirLicksalot
2.99/5  rDev -16.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 2 | overall: 3

Poured from a 12-oz can into a Winnie the Pooh and Piglet tumbler.
Amber to orange color with light head that disappears quickly.
Those are the high points of ale. I was eager to really enjoy this beer, perhaps too eager. I love a good ESB, and what’s not to like about Ska? With a musical style that is exciting enough to inspire Basset hounds to Jack Russell terrier behavior, I just expected more.
The smell was a little lacking for an ESB. There was a bit of malt, a trace of hops, and if you have a human nose, I’m not sure you could even pick up the faint citrus aromas.
Taste was perhaps the biggest disappointment. In a word- weak. This was neither extra special, nor strong bitter. Nicely carbonated, maybe even refreshing, but not at all bold. This ale would not pair well with the exotic gaminess of a freshly caught squirrel, but could serve as an adequate thirst quencher after an unsuccessful squirrel hunt. This was not a bad beer, just a bad ESB.
Oh, bother.

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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.

 1,130 characters

Photo of ONUMello
3.48/5  rDev -2.8%
look: 3 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

12oz can poured into a pint glass
A: Orange color and a 1/2 finger head that quickly dissipates.
S: Muted; some grain, caramel and not much else.
T: Rich, with toasted grains, a dose of bitters and a toffee/caramel note.
M: Medium-bodied with a long finish.
O: Solid beer, that didn't impress me at first, but the longer I sip it the more I like it.

 349 characters

Photo of beeragent
3.33/5  rDev -7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Poured into a pint glass from a 12oz can.

A - Pours a medium gold, forming a thin white head that quickly fades. Medium spot of lace on the glass.

S - Light malt aroma on the nose, but nothing else is really noticeable.

T - Again, the malt takes the front with a light bready taste. Not much in the way of a hop profile. Kind of a let down.

M - Medium bodied. Low carbonation and clean finish.

D - Not being a real fan of ESB's to begin with, I found that I enjoyed this one more than most. Having said that, the hops just didnt seem to be present in this one, tasting more like an amber ale than anything. I'll have to come back to this as I explore the style more.

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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 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.

 2,358 characters

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.

 1,141 characters

Photo of OttoPeeWee
3.46/5  rDev -3.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Second tasting of the day from Ska. Overall this is a decent brewry (the other beer was the motis hop...). They seem spot on with their own take on this ESB and the american IPA. The look is pretty standard ESB golden brown with creamy head that dissapates. The smell is grainy funky although I prefer more fruit in the ESB's (yes a flaw!). There is also a faint whiff of alcohol. I'm not sure why at this ABV. The taste is malt butter with a different hoppiness than an ESB like Fullers. Not bad. Great value for the 12 pack I bought. I don't mind the cans, but check out PBR and go back to the drawing board on the graphics.

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Photo of mltobin
3.33/5  rDev -7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Can, which was poured into a pint glass.

Appearance is amber with a one finger beige head. The smell has bread, caramel, malts, and faint hops. Ska`s esb tastes fairly sweet, with more of that caramel from the nose, also some light tropical fruit. Its` bitterness is fairly subdued, and a body that leans towards thin. This is a decent ESB and it would quench you thirst on a summer day.

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Photo of DCon
3.38/5  rDev -5.6%
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!

 1,116 characters

Photo of rawfish
2.44/5  rDev -31.8%
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.

 1,072 characters

Photo of Beerandraiderfan
3.53/5  rDev -1.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A little darker than most esb's I've had this one came in a hybrid orange and dark amber. Caramel and a tiny amount of hops in the aroma.

Taste, pretty good, some bitter and hops, really couldn't differentiate this between an esp and a pale ale. Citrus hop, pale and caramel malt flavor, seems like a pale to me. Very well carbonated. A decent brew, nothing groundbreaking, maybe not dry enough to be a true esb, but I've always found esb's to be like pales with less hops.

 474 characters

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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ESB Special Ale from Ska Brewing Co.
Beer rating: 40.4% out of 100 with 401 ratings
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