Saranac ESB
Matt Brewing Company / Saranac Brewery

Saranac ESBSaranac ESB
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English Extra Special / Strong Bitter (ESB)
Ranked #310
Ranked #45,638
3.34 | pDev: 14.97%
Matt Brewing Company / Saranac Brewery
New York, United States
Saranac ESBSaranac ESB
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Reviews: 102 | Ratings: 138
Photo of mikesgroove
2.94/5  rDev -12%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

i have been assembling full lineups from breweries and randomly doin these horizontal tastings with my family. The saranac one from a couple weeks ago was more then epic as it took months to gather all of these, but it was a hell of a fun night! Big thanks to Alex for pulling through on the bulk of these

There was alot of carbonation visible streaming up from the bottom of the glass to replenish what little head there was. Decent side glass lace as well.

I really had to search for this one to be able to find any hint of anything really. It just came off way to light. When I was able to find an aroma it was most very light grain and wheat with a slight hint of earthy grass. This was your average ESB. And I mean average. The flavor was rather bland and non descript with really no defining characteristic to it. Some light cereal grain, and a touch of earthy grass again, but nothing really sticking out in any way. Almost forgotten as soon as it was sipped. It had a very nice amount of carbonation which was the only thing really keeping my intrest at that point

Overall this will be easily forgotten and I would not seek it out again. It was just way too average for me with nothing really sticking out or being different in any way.

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Photo of jmbranum
4.25/5  rDev +27.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

This beer is aged for about a year, brought back from a trip to the Northeast.

Rich malty aroma. Taste is very malty yet dry, with lots of citrusy hops. Reminds me a lot of an ipa with more malt. Fair amount of balance.

I think the hoppyness was more pronounced when I had it before. The aging mellowed it out just right.

I like this beer. Would love to have it aged again.

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Photo of RonfromJersey
3.46/5  rDev +3.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Medium-plus copper body with exceptional clarity. Two fingers of level slightly off-white foam.

Mild hay/grass aroma, pleasant and unassertive. A bit of bakery in the background.

Taste begins with semi-weet malt down the tongue with real depth to it. Toasty, earthy hops emerge from the sides. Small chocolate note at the swallow. The malt holds its ground throughout.

Smooth medium mouthfeel. Nicely rounded.

Sessionable drinkability.

Not quite as special as Fullers, but a nice take on the style.

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Photo of armock
3.25/5  rDev -2.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

A - Poured a copper color with a tan head that fades pretty quickly

S - Is mostly of caramel malt

T - Not very bitter for an esb theres more malt than bitter not really much bitter anything going on

M - This beer kinda has a thin body with lighter carbonation to it

D - This beer fell short of what I like in an ESB it wasn't horrible it just wasn't any better than most

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Photo of goblue3509
3.7/5  rDev +10.8%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

One of my favorite Saranacs. Pours a copper color that is very clear. The mouthfeel is dry not a lot of carbination. The taste was dry i didn't think it was overly bitter and not hoppy but citriusy. The beer had a very smooth taste. It is a beer that you can drink over and over, it is not heavy. Would be good for someone not looking for something as hoppy as an ipa.

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Photo of superdedooperboy
3.68/5  rDev +10.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A moderately gentle pour raises a gorgeous two fingers of cream-tinged creamy-yet-rocky foam that recedes slowly to a nice, sticky cap that hugs the walls of the glass and leaves behind thick bands of lacing. Color is a deep copper with a rather striking clarity.

Slightly herbal and floral hop notes appear in the nose, with a touch of orange-like citrus; malt aroma is underplayed and difficult to pinpoint. Some slight fruity esters are also apparent.

A medium, moderately-carbonated body shows mildly bitter, herbal and resinous hops in the foreground, with a smooth caramel-and-faintly nutty malt and mildly estery underbody that really shines just before the dry, herbal hop flourish that draws things to a close.

Nicely drinkable, yet the esters on the palate serve to make the malt character border on cloying as the beer warms. Overall, though, a good interpretation of the style.

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Photo of CrellMoset
3.26/5  rDev -2.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Bottle courtesy of dkachur, poured into a traditional American pint glass.

Appearance: Pours a transparent and pleasantly-hued - sort of a deep reddish amber brown, full of very fine-bubbled, average speed effervescence - body, capped by one-finger of relatively sticky, slightly off white head.

Aroma: Faint glassy, toasty malts, dry, without much character, yet ever so grainy dominate. Faint yeasty fruit esters bring up the rear, accompanied by an equally faint grassy, leafy hop notes. A very "far away" and on the whole not too pleasant aroma.

Taste: See aroma. Highlight, ctrl-c, ctrl-v. Seriously though, this is one is toasty malts, faintly sweet but relatively dry and crisp, a handful of stray yeast esters, and a very faint backing hop bitterness and accompanying hop notes. It's ESB-like, but like many things Saranac, it only comes close to approximating what a good ____ should taste like.

Mouthfeel: Big bubbles in a thin body, though again still very even. It would work - better - if the flavors were a little more authentic, so I can't knock it too much for not working with the flavor profile, as it would work with a more appropriate flavor profile.

Drinkability: 5.5%? Sure. That enjoyable a beer? Not really. It's not bad, but it's not great - a solid, decently drinkable effort, though not a go-to beer for me, neither as an exemplar of the style nor generally.

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Photo of dogfishandi
2.74/5  rDev -18%
look: 4 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

pours a clear dark copper color with little head that faded immediately to a ring of foam. decent lacing. the aroma is that of grassy, musty, earthy smell. a little bit of hops as well. not a lot of malt. the taste is kind of ruined by the high carbonation which really bites your tongue. really earthy, citrusy hop flavor. some grains. finishs with a noticeable hop taste. medium to light bodied. i would drink this again if given to me, but i would definately not buy this one again. to me its not even a real ESB. an ESB is supposed to get the bitterness from the malts, not the hops. this one is the other way around and is not very true to the style at all. but still somewhat of a drinkable beer.

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Photo of philbe311
3.33/5  rDev -0.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A - Rusty copper colored ale... Two fingers of batter-like white foam... Appealing lace... Moderate carbonation... Fully translucent...

S - Malt... Butter... Toffee... Slightly musky... Oddly, the scent seems to fade as the beer warms...

T - Saltine crackers... Weak malts... Grassiness... A faint spiciness... English hops...

M - Medium bodied... Slightly creamy texture... Bitter follow through... A little rough around the ages (in a good way)...

D - A respectable ESB, but far from best in class... Easy drinking, but not one I would seek out in the future...

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Photo of eporter66
3.68/5  rDev +10.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12oz bottle into a pint glass

If the description of a ESB on this site is what we should go by, then Saranac has made a fine ESB - balance is the key. Never having an ESB before, my expectation (from the name alone) was it would be a very hop heavy bitter beer - this is a nice malty rich flavor

A - Copper, brown, 1 finger head and average lacing

S - A heavy Malt aroma with roasted scents

T - A good balance of malt, with some backend hops. There is a little burn in the back of the throat, warming the area - good on a cold winters night

M - Dryness on the tongue and mouth, but the malt gives it a richer upfront feel

D - I really enjoyed this beer, it was well balanced, nothing that stands out as an overpowering flavor, but that seems to be the name of the game. Maybe it should be an Extra Special Balance instead of bitter.

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Photo of Clydesdale
3.33/5  rDev -0.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

A: Poured a copper-amber color with some fine carbonation visible. A fairly large, dense and frothy off-white head bubbles up with solid retention and some attractive lacing.

S: Some toasted grain and faint caramel maltiness up front. Hop aroma is leafy and floral. Some slight earthy and metallic notes at times also.

T: Toasty graininess up front. Very subdued caramel flavor. Hops suggest some leafy and floral flavor, but mostly they just add a dash of bitterness. Some touches of bland fruitiness are available. Again, an earthy and metallic twang into the finish.

M: Medium bodied with average carbonation. A drying, astringent and puckering feel at the finish that lingers into the aftertaste.

D: Most of the way through the Saranac winter pack, I'm detecting a trend. The beers look nice and drink pretty easily, but in terms of taste, they're rather average. This is no different - a solid but forgettable ESB.

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Photo of TheManiacalOne
2.61/5  rDev -21.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

Poured from a 12oz bottle into a US tumbler pint glass.

A: The beer is a bright reddish amber color with a medium foamy off-white head that fades slowly and leaves a thick lace on the glass.

S: The aroma is of pungent caramelized malts, nuts, some spice and some hops.

T: The taste is malty up front with flavors of caramel, spices and nuts, but bland overall. There's a decent hops presence that tries to balance things out. The after-taste is slightly bready.

M: Crisp but not very smooth, medium body, medium carbonation, clean finish.

D: Not very tasty, goes down ok, not too filling, mild kick, not the best representation of style, yet another lacking beer from Matt Brewing, there are definitely several other ESB's that I'd prefer to drink over this one.

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Photo of jwc215
3.53/5  rDev +5.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Part of winter variety pack:

Pours copper amber with an off-white head that leaves lacing.

The smell is biscuity, caramelish and nutty. It has an "English"character to it, though more towards a standard "bitter" I would say.

The taste is malty - not complex, but toffee-ish. Malt is a bit light but holds together. Hops come through to give a bitter touch, though in a somewhat metallic way. It goes towards an ESB. It grows on me as it progresses. The metallic fades to a leafy bitterness, though it remains more malty sweet in character. I would like more balance, but this seems to work well enough as it progresses to stay on as a sweeter, maltier interpretation of the style.

The feel, while on the light side, does have a body that fits well enough (and not the lightest of the style that I've had).

Not a bad stab at the style. Pretty quaffable. First couple of sips didn't sell me on it, but improved quickly after that.

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Photo of JamesS
2.31/5  rDev -30.8%
look: 3 | smell: 2 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2

Nice dark copper color, with almost no head, but a tiny bit of lacing. Almost no scent at all, very little malt and almost no hop aroma. There is some nice hoppiness in the taste, although the hops seem to compete, rather than compliment each other; hints of both American and English hops, bits of floral citrus and beef jerky both; hints of a peppery spice as well. Goes down fine, if not great, just a little roughness in the back of the throat. Not Saranac's best.

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Photo of puboflyons
2.94/5  rDev -12%
look: 2 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Sampled on Super Bowl Sunday 2009 from the 12 fl. oz. bottle no. 2678-U801. No expiration date listed. Got a good deal on an end of season Saranac mixed 12-pack for $8.99.

Appearance - The pour is kind of a copper-orange and not what I expect from an ESB. There is absolutely no head or lacing. It looked flat.

Smell - Malts and grains and mildly spiced. It was nothing outstanding but reasonably inviting.

Mouthfeel - Pretty average, Not watered down but not very bold.

Taste - It starts out malty and ends weakly with bitter hops. The finish is kind of dry. It was drinkable but a somewhat dull experience.

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Photo of treehugger02010
3.53/5  rDev +5.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

I was given this bottle by a buddy of mine and poured it into a flared pint glass.
Appearance: The body is a transparent ruby amber color. The head is about one finger tall, light tan with ok retention and cool lacing.
Smell: The aroma is mostly made up of earthy hop sents with a caramel malt backbone.
Taste: The taste is mostly toffy with a large bit of roasted coffee.
Mouthfeel: The mouthfeel is very crisp.
Drinkability: This brew has good to great drinkability.
Don't drink and review.

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Photo of DavoleBomb
2.44/5  rDev -26.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 2 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2

Poured into a pint glass. I have no doubt that this beer is going to suck, as just about everything Saranac makes does, but let's see.

4.5 A: Looks great. Nearly three fingers of thick frothy head. Great retention and plenty of lacing.

3.0 S: Barely anything at all. A bit of floral hops, but that's about it.

2.0 T: Where the hell is everything? There's barely any taste at all. Worst of all is that the hop characteristics barely show up....and IN AN ESB!

2.5 M: Light body. Smooth because nothing's going on. Terrible.

2.0 D: I'd drink this over BMC, but that's about it.

This beer is neither extra special or bitter. Once again Saranac has produced a great looking shitty beer.

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Photo of saradad
4/5  rDev +19.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured into a glass and formed a 1" very light tan head over a dark amber body the scent is bread and hints of fruit (raisins, pears, avacados? what the F*&% do I know I don't run the produce counter!!!) The taste is sweet and bread-y with a touch of caramel and a bitter hops aftertaste that seems to be mostly nutty and earthy and some citrus --am assuming that would be the result of using English rather than American hops -- decent balance of flavors without a lot of fanfare, nicely carbonated and hell it feels like a brew to me. I hereby declare this beer to be pretty darned good on the drinkability scale. Hell, Yeah

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Photo of yelterdow
2.43/5  rDev -27.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 2 | feel: 3 | overall: 2

Thanks to Suzin and Dave for bringing a 12-pack of assorted beers over the house from Saranac... I'm about to become familiar with several of their brews. Served in an English pint glass at just over fridge temperature.

Appearance- A gorgeous glowing orange, this pours crystal clear with a three finger off-white head. It's creamy and quite appetizing, like four or five of these should be lined up right now.

Smell- I'll let this beer come to temperature for a few minutes... I'm getting plenty of malt (almost like Vienna, similar to an Oktoberfest style malt) along with bread and light English hops. Ten minutes later, it hasn't changed much at all.

Taste- I'm not sure where this beer is headed, but it certainly isn't a great example of the style. Rugged and confused, the flavors are simply not integrated at all... they clash and bang together, leaving behind an uncharacteristic wicked bitterness at the back of the tongue. In addition, the actual flavors from the malt and hops are so short-lived that they've disappeared before they even manifest.

Mouthfeel/Drinkability- The tongue is a pin-cushion for the needles attacking from all sides. With a good mouthful of beer, I swish and it becomes more tame, more slick. Still raw, the finishing bitterness is out of place for the style. It seems as if the brewery just threw together this beer for variety, as opposed to really going for it and succeeding.

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Photo of righthereisay
2.2/5  rDev -34.1%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 2 | feel: 1 | overall: 2

Well, I made the unwise decision of purchasing a Saranac variety pack. I'm sure you all have done something stupid like this. I was in the store, looking at the Penn Dark (which I know I love) but wanting to try something different. I never heard of Saranac, but saw a nice variety pack that included a Stout (which sucked) and some seasonal beer.

Let me first start off by saying that I am a fan of fresh, full bodied beer. This was not one. The flavor, was nothing special. Almost like the corporate headquarters said "we need 1 more for the variety pack" and some other dude said "let's just mix some of the other crappy beers together, and put a nice label on it."

This was anything but extra special. I wouldn't recommend. Anyone purchasing a case of this likes to throw away money.

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Photo of ATPete
3.31/5  rDev -0.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

12oz bottle

Pours a rusty red/brown color with a medium sized strong peachy white head that leaves some sticking. Sweet, almost smokey roasted malt in the nose, mild bitter hops, candy sugar and notes of slightly sour green apple. Muddy malt character to the tongue, tingly mouth feel and a bitter finish into the aftertaste. Good drinkability but a poor overall execution.

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Photo of dananabanana
3.43/5  rDev +2.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

A: Pours a nice brown, almost ruby red. Translucent. Light tan head is thick at first, but recedes very quickly to just a ring around the edge of the glass. Some lacing, foam leaves a spot pattern.

S: Smell isn't too strong. Darkly sweet, almost like raisins.

T: Hops hit immediately. Leaves a vaguely spicy aftertaste. Only a slight malt flavor.

M: Well-balanced carbonation.

D: Could drink one or two. Drink later in the night, so the bitterness won't spoil the tastebuds.

Overall, a very traditional example of an ESB, nothing funky going on here. Solid, but not a standout.

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Photo of bluejacket74
3.63/5  rDev +8.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

12 ounce bottle, part of Saranac's "12 Beers of Winter" sample pack. Served in a Sam Adams BL glass, the beer pours a dark amber color with an inch off-white head. Lacing and head retention are both good. The aroma is bready malt, nuts, and some butterscotch. It tastes like bready/biscuity malt, nuts, caramel, and a bit of fruit, and spicy and floral hops. There's also a slight bitter finish. Mouthfeel/body is medium, it's a little bit creamy and slick with moderate carbonation. Drinkability is good, it's smooth and easy to drink. Not a bad choice as a session brew. I like this beer, it's enjoyable to drink and I would buy this again. It's not the best ESB I've had, but it's good enough for me.

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Photo of sjohansen
3.09/5  rDev -7.5%
look: 2.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

This selection pours an amber color, with a slightly off white top. The one finger thickness quickly dissolves leaving a thin coating on the top of the brew. Light carbonation is shown as a handful of bubbles consistently meander to the top. There is very little lacing through the session; just a couple spots here and there.

Smells of dark malts, tame floral hops.

Smooth and sweet on the front of the palate. Great balance in the end as it finishes with a biting, hoppy finish. There is a slight soapiness to the hops that affects the aftertaste a little bit. Caramel notes from the malts come through in the aftertaste. They are more clear as it warms.

Body is light to medium. A little watery without the hops. Carbonation is pretty good. Finishes a little wet.

Not great. I turn down very little, and wouldn't turn this down either, but there are other bitters to try.

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Photo of maddogruss
3.8/5  rDev +13.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured a bottle of this into a pint glass.

A: Pours a deep, amber hue body with a small, white head but with pretty good retention and lacing.

S: A nice, earthy, malt smell with some slightly bitter notes.

T: An interesting, roasted toffee malt taste with some balancing bitterness. There was some additional roasted toffee notes in the aftertaste that was nice.

M: A medium-bodied and fairly refreshing beer with a mouthfeel that was also smooth on the palette.

D: A nice mouthfeel and taste combination that resulted in a nice ESB. The Matt Brewing company, despite some adversity earlier in the year, continues to produce great beers.

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Saranac ESB from Matt Brewing Company / Saranac Brewery
Beer rating: 77 out of 100 with 138 ratings