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 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 Teleweizen2
3.48/5  rDev -2.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

A - the beer pours from the can a smooth deep amber color almost mohogonay, but turns to a bright clear orange when backlit. there is about 2 fingers worth of snow white foam on top but lacks for retention.

S - the aroma is mild, but there is a ton of chocolate from the dark malts, a bit of red fruit, some licorice, and a hint of earthy hops.

T - a light sweetness from the malts up front as well a decent amount of chocolate that seems to completely coat the tounge. there is a nice herbal hop complement to the chocolate flavor in the middle. smooth finish with a lingering bit of hop bitterness.

M - decent amount of carbonation, could be a little bit smoother. otherwise has a nice creamy texture.

D - this British inspired ale would be just the thing on a cool Fall evening. has enough flavor to be an interesting beer but has a low enough alcohol content to enjoy more than one.

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

I poured a 12 oz can into a tulip glass (it was the only clean one I had)...

The beer was a copper color with a thin off-white, soapy looking head. It smells a bit sour with hints of lemon and caramel. The taste has a lemony bitterness up front followed by a sweetness that is washed over by a biscuit flavor. There is a pleasant lingering bitterness in the aftertaste. It feels a little watery, the carbonation's ok and the finish is dry. This is an easy drinking beer with lots of flavor. I enjoyed it and would drink it again, it's well balanced and very drinkable.

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Photo of wmtxbb
3.32/5  rDev -7.3%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Can poured into a pint glass

Appearance: light level of lacing on top of a caramel colored brew. Nothing amazing.

Smell: Crunchy amber malts, sweet malts, light phenols and floral hop aroma.

Taste: Aggressive bitterness up front, followed by a caramel fruity malt flavor, the floral hops, biscuit, and a lemon zing. Interesting combination: the bitter character is stronger that usual for the style, but it suits this particular beer.

Drinkable, but not something I'm going to search for in the future, not because this beer is off-putting, but because ESBs are not a beer I typically enjoy. This particular ESB is moderately above average for an ESB; while it fits the style, it doesn't offer any new take and it doesn't distinguish itself from the others.

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Photo of chicagoabbot
3.46/5  rDev -3.4%
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

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Photo of u2carew
2.9/5  rDev -19%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

12 oz can.
A) Pours with a finger thick head then settles quickly leaving a thin layer of foam on top. A hazy, amber body with thin lacing on the drink down.
S) Citrus notes - orange and some lemon. Floral tones with a pleasant earthy aroma.
T) Starts with a mild malt sweetness then moves a hop bite that is quite bitter in the finish. Subtle caramel. Some alcohol in the mix - which is odd for a 5.7%.
M) Fizzy up front. Medium body. Thick tannin feel. A little bit syrupy.
D) An alright brew. I don't think I'd have another one.

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Photo of mikereaser
3.03/5  rDev -15.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

A - Pours an amber color with a good 2 inches of foam that quickly faded leaving a little bit of lacing but not much down the glass
S - faint pine hops and caramel malt, but not alot in terms of aroma
T - caramel malts with a piney hop bitterness in the middle, almost a burnt aftertaste to it that leaves me not wanting more, finishing with a bit of a lemon and orange but not very noticable
M/D - light to medium bodied with some nice carbonation. Its still not the most exciting flavor and the burnt taste just makes this one hard to finish. Overall an ok beer but not one i'll search out.

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Photo of alli4051
3.56/5  rDev -0.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Poured from a 12oz can into a SA perfect pint.

Pours dark burnt orange with a slightly off-white head. Head is average sized but dissipates slowly and leaves some chunky lacing. Scent, honestly, there's not a whole lot there, some murky malts but that's all I'm getting. Taste is nicely balanced, pleasantly subtle is how I would describe it. Earthy malt profile with some nice citrusy hop tones up front. On the light side of medium with a clean finish. ESB was a style I never understood, and then it clicked today as to what exactly it was supposed to be and I felt stupid. With my new found understanding of the style this seems to be a good example. Goes down easy and I'm happy to keep throwing them back. Got this in a variety pack and definitely could have gone for more than the four that were in there.

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Photo of jeffaz02t
3.3/5  rDev -7.8%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

A: Amber, with an off-white head. Head poured thick, bit dissipated quickly into about a quarter inch of lace. Glass was very clean, but very little lacing.

S: a little pine from hops, and caramel. I have noticed that a lot of their brews have a similar vibe in the malt profile. This is a good thing as it is pretty tasty and provides a good contrast to the hops.

T: The hops come across right away, though not nearly as strong as the smell might suggest. This fades into a caramel sweetness and then into a copper/penny type of aftertaste.

M: On the thin end of medium. Thought it would be a little fuller.

D: Could drink many due to its relative thinness for its style.

Notes: Would buy again in a single can, not in a 6er. Not bad, but not in my top picks in its style.

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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 Lemke10
3.48/5  rDev -2.8%
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.

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Photo of thagr81us
3.65/5  rDev +2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Thanks to tr4nc3d for this one as an extra in a past trade. Served from can into a Dogfish Head Signature glass. Poured hazy yellow orange with a minimal white head. Maintained excellent lacing throughout the glass. The aroma was comprised of sweet malt, hops, and a slightly nutty note. The flavor was of only sweet malt and hops. It had a light feel on the palate with mild carbonation. Overall this was a pretty nice ESB. Had a very well balanced flavor and nice aroma. However I feel the flavor and aroma was a little simple and not very complex. If there would have been more complexity to this one it could have been something quite special. Still a nice brew that I am glad I got the opportunity to try.

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

A - pours a clear copper color with a billowing white head

S - smells of piney hops and loads of caramel hops. Spot on for the style with a little more hop presence than normal

T - Some caramel and bready malts are followed by a piney hoppy bitterness. I was hoping the smell would translate to the palette a little better (this is way more malt than hop forward), but oh well - this is still very good.

M - big and full and goes down smoothly...nice

D - this is a pretty good ESB. I don't know if I would particularly seek this one out, but I know I will buy it again at some point.

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Photo of dirtylou
3.36/5  rDev -6.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

12oz can, mixed 12 pack from Binny's in Schaumburg

appearance: another great pour from a Ska can into an imperial pint - cloudy copper body, fluffy full white head with strong retention

smell: fresh cut flowers, toasted grain, light hops, lemon zest

taste: kind of a flat flavor profile - flowers, sweet malts, grain, lemon, taffy.

mouthfeel: a little dry, medium-light

drinkability: fine

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Photo of Bizz88
3.36/5  rDev -6.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

This "Four Corners" brew poured a clear medium amber from a 12oz can with a two fingered off white head with some light lacing. Aromas of malt and grains with a touch of hops. A malty citrus on the palette with a bitter metallic finish, good carbonation in a medium body that paired well with a smoked trout pate on whole wheat toast. Yeah right! Decent enuf brew for more than one.

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

12oz can with 1/20/2011 Best Buy date.

A - Amber/Brown color with about an inch of Head that fades leaving a light film.

S - Smell of Caramel, Roses, Lemon, Grass, and much more like Champagne than an ESB.

T - Tastes of dried fruits, Grapefruit, Celery, and Bourbon as it warms up. It tastes more like an Amber but less malty.

M - Medium body, good carbonation, and crisp mouthfeel.

D - A good drinkable beer and glad it is in cans. Good Pairing with saltier foods.

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Photo of eclaycamp
3.38/5  rDev -5.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Having come away thoroughly impressed with Ska's Modus Hoperandi, I figured I'd try out what I can only assume is their flagship beer in the ESB Special Ale. I appreciate that Ska cans their beers, as I think it's one of the next big trends in craft brewing.

Pours a light caramel color with a crowing head and good clarity. Medium to lightly carbonated. Grainy smell with a mild earthiness. Reminds me of crunchy snack food, like corn nuts or sunflower seeds. Some light lemony hop character is also present in the aroma. Mouthfeel is lightly carbonated and slightly watery. Makes the beer very easy to drink. Taste is primarily toffee malt with some hop bitterness finishing the whole thing. The body of the beer doesn't stand up to the flavor profile. You start drinking the beer and there's this big time rush of malt, but everything sort of caves in on itself and you're left with hop bitterness and not much else. Has a weird sort of mineral and metallic finish.

While this isn't the most mind-blowing ESB I've ever had, it's certainly serviceable and gets bonus points for being canned. If you're determined to try one of Ska's beers, I'd point you towards the Modus Hoperandi, though you could certainly do worse than this beer. It won't blow your socks off by any stretch of the imagination, but it's a serviceable entry into the ESB category.

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Photo of tone77
3.53/5  rDev -1.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Thanks to woodychandler for the trade.Poured from a 12 oz. can. Has a caramel color with a 1/2 inch head. Smell is of hops and grains. Taste is a good balance of malts and hops, some grains. Feels medium bodied in the mouth and has good drinkability. Overall this makes for a good quality beer.

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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 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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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 Tone
3.67/5  rDev +2.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Pours a clear, copper color. 3/4 inch head of an off-white color. Good retention and good lacing. Smells of pale malt, pale hops, citrus hops, slight sweet malt, hint of wheat, and hint of spice. Fits the style of an Extra Special / Strong Bitter. Mouth feel is smooth and crisp, with an average carbonation level. Tastes of pale hops, citrus hops, sweet malt, pale malt, and hint of wheat. Overall, good complexity and blend.

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Photo of Mora2000
3.68/5  rDev +2.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Thanks to blutt59 for sharing this can.

The beer pours a yellow color with a white head. Not quite what I was expecting from an ESB. The flavor is toffee malt with some earthy hops mixed in. The flavor is grassy hops, earthy hops and some bready malt. Medium mouthfeel and medium carbonation.

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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 morimech
3.35/5  rDev -6.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

Pours a clear amber with two fingers of white head that had good retention. Not as dark as I would associate with an ESB. The head settles to a thick cap. Heavy lacing is left on the glass. The first thing I noticed about the aroma is the mint. I did not know Galena hops had that characteristic. I also noted some earthiness, citrus, and caramel as well. The flavor is really earthy and bitter. The malt does not give enough input into the flavor. Any sweetness is quickly overpowered by the hops. Not that good of a flavor for an ESB. Not a fan of the single hop profile here either. Good body and a nice soft carbonation that seems really good for the style. This beer nees some tweaking to take into the good category. Still worth a try plus it comes in cans.

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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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