Harpoon ESB | Harpoon Brewery & Beer Hall

26 Reviews

Brewed by:
Harpoon Brewery & Beer Hall
Massachusetts, United States

Style: Extra Special / Strong Bitter (ESB)

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 5.50%

Availability: Rotating

Notes / Commercial Description:
No notes at this time.

Added by BeerAdvocate on 08-13-2001

This beer is retired; no longer brewed.

For Trade:
User Reviews
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Reviews: 26 | Ratings: 36
Photo of wrightst
4.08/5  rDev +10.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

It pours a deep copper, almost a brown ale color.

The aroma is very malty and spicy sweet. It reminded me of some of the winter beers that are my usual favorites, including Harpoon's winter warmer.

The flavor follows with malt in the initial taste, and a sweet spicyness, almost fruity, but that's a subtle designation - this isn't a fruit beer by any stretch. Then the hop follows through to perfectly balance this flavor package with that touch of bitterness. Very nice.

One interesting note is the single hop. They claim a Delta Hop, a "new American variety". I haven't heard of it, which means nothing, but it may be the secret to this beer. I'll have to ask some ESB fans what they think. I liked it, and that's something since during summer, I prefer smoother, maltier beers. Too bad it's not available year round.

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Photo of rkhaze
4.17/5  rDev +13%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

Pours a golden amber with a medium foamy head that didn't last real long but left good lace.
Smells of sweet malt, caramel, some fruit and a bit of spicy hops.
Tastes of toasted malt, buttery caramel and a honey sweetness.
Nice, almost tropical fruit flavors and a mildly bitter, spicy hop finish. The tastes were well balanced.
Light to medium bodied with a rich, full and tingling mouthfeel.
Tasty, balanced, mellow flavors and a good mouthfeel make the drinkability supreme. Quite the sessionable offering.
A great find at the local Grocery Outlet for .50 a bottle!

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Photo of oberon
4.07/5  rDev +10.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Pours a deep copper/amber color with a light head that leaves some decent lacing,an appetizing aroma here malty-fruity with some biscuity hints and even some real light nuttiness.A pretty good tasting brew nice malty not overly sweet beginning with subtle hoppiness near the vinish with the malty biscuit flavors coming back in the finish that lingers well.A real easy drinking ESB with nice qualities I really like the matiness of this beer would get again for sure.

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Photo of beerguy101
3.1/5  rDev -16%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Medium amber gold color. Medium head. Aroma is malty, slightly sweet. A medium bodied bitter. Malts are mild and a touch sweet. Hops are a little spicy. Not very bitter for an ESB. Mild and fairly flavorful. Well balance. Tasty, but more like an amber than an ESB. Mouthfeel is full and round. Finish is clean and smooth. Aftertaste is slightly bitter.

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Photo of feloniousmonk
3.68/5  rDev -0.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Clear, crisp bronze color...thick, fluffy, creamy head.
Aroma comes off coppery and metallic at first, next showing off nutty, caramelesque connotations, and finally revealing a sweet, fruity nature.
Light-bodied, though possessing a a great, bright, lively, well-rounded taste.
Fruity and smooth, richly malted, and untroubled by hops. An easy, easy drink, the flavor unfolded well in the long finish, and was much-appreciated.
I normally pass on ESBs, but enjoyed this one all the way down the glass.
thanks to UncleJimbo!

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Photo of UncleJimbo
3.68/5  rDev -0.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12 oz brown bottle, capped. No date. This bottle might have been a year old, but it had been stored refridgerated.

This ESB poured a clear, dark amber color with off-white foam that settled and left a bit of lace on the glass. The smell was very modest malt. The taste was mostly hops: bitter and floral with hints of grapefruit. There was also malt that almost balanced the hops. The mouthfeel was smooth and creamy and dry, with almost astrigent hoppiness. The body was medium. This was a very drinkable ESB, though it could have benefitted from a bit more malt to balance the hops.

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Photo of WVbeergeek
3.67/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Appears amber brown with a on off white toffee head, and a ring of lace sits around the rime of the glass with each sip. Aroma is caramel malt sweetness wrapped in a sturdy amount of floral slightly pine scented hops. The flavor has bready yeast notes along with a mild sweetness and an assertive hop profile sending bitter notes of pine needles down my palate. The moutfeel to light in body with a very mild carbonation and slightly residual texture making it a smooth characterisic ESB. Very drinkable my only complaint lies in the fact that there could be more balance in the flavor between the malt and hops.

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Photo of RBorsato
3.33/5  rDev -9.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Dark golden with a nice ivory head, decent carbonation and lace. Little-no aroma (traces of malt, biscuity ?, light fruitiness ?). Nice balanced flavor but too average. Nice session beer but does not leave you wanting more. Light-medium bodied and smooth with little aftertaste.

Bottled: 02/20/03 (on neck)
Tasted: 04/30/03

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Photo of PhantomVodoo
3.83/5  rDev +3.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Copper color with an off-white head that left some lace.
Aroma has a fruitiness to it. Caramel malt and hop notes.

Nicely balanced. Malts and hops get equal play. Fruit character to the taste. Finishes well. Not real bold, but smooth and easy-going.

Good mouthfeel.
Very easy to drink.

Overall a good ESB, although certainly not the most flavorful.

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Photo of OldFrothingSlosh
3.77/5  rDev +2.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Appearance: Poured a bright honey/copper color with an initially firm, creamy-white head that quickly lost its mojo and disappeared without a trace.

Smell: Lots of hoppy scents, floral, citrus, even some grassy. Just barely detectable are some sweet aromas as well.

Taste: I expected a lot more bitter (it IS called Harpoon *ESB*) in this beer and felt cheated. Not as bitter as many of the IPA's I've tried. A lot more malty sweetness than I expected. The bitterness (relative) shows up soon thereafter and lasts the entire taste sequence. Finishes only slightly bitter, with a strange semi-sweet tea aftertaste.

Mouthfeel: Very creamy. Medium-bodied with a crisp and clean finish.

Drinkability: Above average. A summer beer, to be had while grilling on the patio.

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Photo of fattyre
3.72/5  rDev +0.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

This beer pours a clear amber color with a large creamy tan head. The mouthfeel is moderate. It has a very rich malty nose that does not completely translate to the smell. The taste has a crisp bitter start, a mild malty roasty middle and an herbal bitter finish. A clean hoppy (perhaps a bit too much for style) bitter.

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Photo of Admiraldinty
4.1/5  rDev +11.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

12 oz. bottle with no freshness date. Poured an orange-amber with a small, frothy, off-white head. Nose is fruity with definite malt, some hops and some bubble-gum I think. Medium-bodied, fruity with some minor hop bitterness. Very sweet maltiness right up front. Ends with kind of a tea-like taste (tannin?). Kind of a flat mouthfeel. Overall, pretty good. A very good easy-drinking beer, although definitely not a typical ESB.

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Photo of Thrasher
2.41/5  rDev -34.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2 | feel: 2 | overall: 3

Ok class, a "bitter" is not necessarily super bitter. It is generally a fraction less bitter than your typical pale ale, the end result being (in this age of super-hopped IPAs and such) not all that bitter. The name "bitter" comes from the two prominent types of English ale: bitter and mild. They are relative terms, and if you think a bitter isn't bitter, boy wait till you try a mild. Ahem, got that off my chest. Darkish amber with some ok lacing. Clean, grassy herbal aroma like a vegetable garden. Sweet caramel malts are the backdrop, they are almost cloying, hints of maple syrup and brown sugar. Hops come into play and bring back that vegetable garden sensation accompanied by an unfortunate soapy quality. A real drawback. Some intriguing black pepper hints. Mouthfeel flat, which I find accurate for the style, but the sugary malts weigh it down and it's less enjoyable for that. Finish is dry and not bad. All in all a disappointment, especially considering my fondness for ESBs. This is one of the worst in the style I have had. Furthermore, I have yet to taste any Harpoon beer that impresses me; this is obviously no exception.

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Photo of Bunnyhop
3.83/5  rDev +3.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

A clear, amber ESB with a large, creamy, tan head. I smell a nuttiness and bubblegum. The taste begins with a slight nutty flavor, followed by mild roasted malt, with a delayed bitter finish. It has a moderate body in my mouth. Overall, I found this smooth and pleasing for an Extra Special Bitter.

(source: Habersham Discount Beverage; Savannah, GA)

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Photo of scottum
3.66/5  rDev -0.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Pours out amber with a nice head. Not very bitter for an esb. This is a good beer, but I'm not overly impressed. No aftertaste to speak of. This goes down easy. I can picture myself handling a few of these quite nicely at a summer bbq. In a way though, I'm glad I only bought one because there are many a better brew out there.

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Photo of UmmmOk
3.61/5  rDev -2.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

The head of the beer was superb and long-lasting. The beer has a fine golden color that definitely got my taste buds anxious and my mouth watering. After that initial impression, the aroma was very pleasant, but not quite strong enough. I enjoyed the over-all qualities of it, but it just did not have enough body or volume to make much of an impact.

The same that was said of the aroma can be said of the taste. There are some really fine flavors present, but the body just feels a little weak on the tongue. There was a nice crispness that comes from both the hoppiness and the well-balanced carbonation of the beer. This left a tingling on the tongue in the aftertaste that 1) made me hungry and 2) made me want to drink more of this beer.

Over-all the beer is very drinkable and I would not mind at all a fridge stocked with it. I think it would go well with red meat or any kind of salty food (my mouth is begging me for pretzels). Definitely worth a try, but not amazingly special.

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Photo of jward
3.5/5  rDev -5.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

The foamy off-white head on this rust-orange beer doesn't stick around too long, or leave much of a trace of its presence. An aroma that is mostly malty and sweet also includes some pungent grassy notes and hints of orange zest. In terms of taste, this bitter is not exactly what I was expecting. Robust malt flavors greet the palate and linger, and they are met only at the end with a hop bitterness that builds (perhaps a bit too much and too quickly) at the finish. This brew also has a slightly steely character. It's is a decent beer, but not one of Harpoon's best.

Note: Harpoon's "Mix Pack" used to include, in addition to the Ale and the IPA, the Pilsner and the Munich Dark. The latter two beers have been replaced in all the Mix Packs that I see these days by the ESB and the Unfiltered Offering (UFO). Alas, I suspect that I preferred the old line-up.

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Photo of Jason
3.9/5  rDev +5.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Presentation: 12 oz brown long neck with an ink jet printed bottled on date above the label.

Appearance: Mildly hazed orange amber in colour with an off white bubbly frothy lace.

Smell: Fruity and rustic ... mild esters, a hint of toasted husk and raw hop. Quite clean to the nose.

Taste: Nice rounded semi chewy malty mouth feel, good dose of sweetness up-front from the malt. A well developed fruitiness with some esters and a balancing spicy earthy hop bitterness cuts into the malt. Lots of malt left in the finish though a faded yet coarse hop flavour, almost tea like, tags along for the rest of the ride.

Notes: A traditional English ESB it is not ... that is not what Mass Bay Brewing intended anyway. More or less an American ESB or American Amber Ale ... you can debate if you want. A good brew to have around as it is easy to drink and balanced very well.

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Photo of francisweizen
3.4/5  rDev -7.9%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

A very good brew from Harpoon. This pours a nice dark red amber, copper colour with a little head that is gone very quickly, I have noticed that most harpoon beers don't have too much of a head retention to them...oh well. This smells very fruity and malty just like an ESB should. This is a very well balanced brew that pairs very well with a big breakfast. This has a nice full mouthfeel and a very big drinkability. The taste is great, and not too bitter, a great ESB from Harpoon, but not as fresh as Fegleys ESB from the BBW. that's a bit better or should I say, a better bitter, but if you can't get that...get this!

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Photo of Gusler
3.42/5  rDev -7.3%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

The beer pours a nice deep amber to burnished copper color, with a modest head and pertinent lace to seal off the glass. Malt dominates the nose, also sweet and clean, quite pleasant to sniff. Top is skimpy in feel, the hops are quite spicy and add much to the beer overall, carbonation adequate and also quite dry. A good beer, not great, but easy to drink and that’s not at all bad.

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Photo of Brent
4.36/5  rDev +18.2%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

O.K., looks like I like this more than the average bear. IMHO, this is one fine beer. Wonderful orange/bronze color. Nice malt with a hint of caramel, well balanced with hops, just a touch of floral and citrus. Very drinkable and easy-going. After trying several different beers in an evening, this one just struck me as having it all together.

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Photo of Todd
3.8/5  rDev +3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Clear orange-y amber beer with a patchy head and decent retention. Aroma is soft, but heavy, fruity and a bit malty.

Nice on the palate, full and creamy. There's some major dryness going on, cut with bitter edge and followed thru by some grain husk in flavour and feel. Bitterness is salty, rind-like. Fairly malty and sweet, with fruit, mineral and paper flavours.

Nice brew, but I'm not too keen on the tannin finish.

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Photo of beernut7
4.25/5  rDev +15.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Easily consumable medium-bodied ale. Not one of teh best I have experienced in the style. Flavors not as bold as some, but definitely will hold its own among the locals. Worth picking up a few for the summer bbqs.

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

The appearance is a copper color with a medium body, with little head. I thought it had a excellent bitter hop balance to it. I also felt a bit of a warming action? Overall a well rounded ESB that is very drinkable.

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Photo of inebrius
4.1/5  rDev +11.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Iced-tea orange, minimal head. Malty, hop floral bouquet. Quality, well balanced bitter that's incredibly drinkable. Would make an excellent session beer. I will buy it again, by the case!

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Harpoon ESB from Harpoon Brewery & Beer Hall
3.69 out of 5 based on 36 ratings.
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