ESB | Harpoon Brewery & Beer Hall

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36 Ratings

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

Style: English 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.

User Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 36 |  Reviews: 26
Reviews by Bunnyhop:
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)

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More User Reviews:
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.

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Photo of Todd
3.8/5  rDev +3.8%
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 Jason
3.9/5  rDev +6.6%
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 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Photo of pbrian
3.76/5  rDev +2.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

I really like this beer. Nice bitterness in the backside.

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Photo of buzzy
3.5/5  rDev -4.4%

Photo of Brent
4.36/5  rDev +19.1%
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 Gusler
3.42/5  rDev -6.6%
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 DerekMorgan
3.25/5  rDev -11.2%

Photo of JTomczak
3/5  rDev -18%

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

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Photo of xXTequila
4.06/5  rDev +10.9%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Just when the malt starts to become almost to sweet the hops start to clean things up....
This is'nt what i would call bitter at all. It's more like a Octoberfest.

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Photo of chrispoint
2/5  rDev -45.4%

Photo of doof116
4/5  rDev +9.3%

Photo of Botulizard
4/5  rDev +9.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

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.

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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.

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Photo of beernut7
4.25/5  rDev +16.1%
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 jward
3.5/5  rDev -4.4%
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 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!

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ESB from Harpoon Brewery & Beer Hall
Beer rating: 3.66 out of 5 with 36 ratings