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Harpoon ESB | Harpoon Brewery & Beer Hall

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36 Ratings

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.

Bros Score:
User Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 36 |  Reviews: 26
Photo of Botulizard
4/5  rDev +9.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Photo of buzzy
3.5/5  rDev -4.4%

Photo of JTomczak
3/5  rDev -18%

Photo of DerekMorgan
3.25/5  rDev -11.2%

Photo of JoeMarsh
3.75/5  rDev +2.5%

Photo of jongullotti
3/5  rDev -18%

Photo of chrispoint
2/5  rDev -45.4%

Photo of Rochefort10nh
4/5  rDev +9.3%

Photo of doof116
4/5  rDev +9.3%

Photo of wrightst
4.08/5  rDev +11.5%
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.

 826 characters

Photo of rkhaze
4.17/5  rDev +13.9%
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!

 574 characters

Photo of oberon
4.07/5  rDev +11.2%
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.

 467 characters

Photo of beerguy101
3.1/5  rDev -15.3%
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.

 352 characters

Photo of feloniousmonk
3.68/5  rDev +0.5%
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!

 529 characters

Photo of UncleJimbo
3.68/5  rDev +0.5%
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.

 587 characters

Photo of WVbeergeek
3.67/5  rDev +0.3%
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.

 612 characters

Photo of RBorsato
3.33/5  rDev -9%
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

 327 characters

Photo of PhantomVodoo
3.83/5  rDev +4.6%
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.

 362 characters

Photo of OldFrothingSlosh
3.77/5  rDev +3%
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.

 778 characters

Photo of fattyre
3.72/5  rDev +1.6%
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.

 320 characters

Photo of Admiraldinty
4.1/5  rDev +12%
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.

 428 characters

Photo of Thrasher
2.41/5  rDev -34.2%
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.

 1,143 characters

Photo of Bunnyhop
3.83/5  rDev +4.6%
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)

 353 characters

Photo of scottum
3.66/5  rDev 0%
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.

 327 characters

Photo of UmmmOk
3.61/5  rDev -1.4%
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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Harpoon ESB from Harpoon Brewery & Beer Hall
Beer rating: 3.66 out of 5 with 36 ratings
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