Don't be scared off by the word "bitter" here. This ESB is a seductive, honey-sweet brew with just enough of a bitter edge to keep things interesting. It's a classic British ale and for a good reason: it's just that good.
Beer Details: Fuller's ESB (Extra Special Bitter) from Fuller's, Smith and Turner, London, England (Extra Special Bitter, 5.9% ABV)
Appearance: Clear honey brown bordering on bronze. Nice head of glossy foam, initially quite thick, but then settling down to a thin, but persistant!, cap.
Aroma: Toffee candy, brown sugar, a touch of lemon (just a touch), and a metallic twinge (think: copper pennies)
Taste: I love this one. You can taste each distinct layer: sweet wildflower honey malts in the middle, bitter lemon rind on either side, an overly of herbal and woody earthiness. There's a touch of prickly carbonation when the beer first hits your tongue, but then this gentles into a smooth and mellow ride. The bitterness lingers on and on and on — but it's a different kind of bitterness than we expect from American pale ales and IPAs. Less "in your face."
This is an intriguing and very balanced beer. I felt like there was something new to taste with every sip. It was also as good on its own as it was with food.
Food Pairings: If you're planning your first cookout of the season, make sure to have this beer in the fridge. It's earthy and caramelly notes would be a great accompaniment to everything from grilled kebabs to flame-charred burgers.
Have you ever had this beer? What do you think of it?
(Images: Emma Christensen)