Monday, May 17, 2010

Research: E.S.B

In the process of fine tuning my recipe for the Emerson’s brew I sampled a number of E.S.B.’s in order to confirm in my mind what I wanted from my interpretation of the style (As if I don’t drink them regularly anyway!). Extra Special Bitter is a style that sits in the gap between session beers and strong beers. While in the alcohol fuelled world of New World craft brewing between 5 and 6%abv often gets classified as session beer in reality beers of this strength are not designed to be drunk all night by the pint. However they are also not strong enough to wow with huge alcohol supported flavours and aromas that stronger beers might provide. The style does provide the opportunity to present a lot of character in a reasonably drinkable format. The reason I chose my E.S.B. recipe to brew on a larger scale rather than one of my lower strength session beer recipes was that it has more chance of presenting well from the keg where as I think it’s a lot harder to get a bitter or best bitter show its character chilled and fizzy.

Here are the E.S.B’s I tried over the last 2 months

Founders God Knows Best ... Bitter
A very malt accented interpretation of the E.S.B. style. Aroma features complex cara/munich malt characters with bready, light cocoa biscuity notes and a very clean neutral fermentation profile. In the mouth the beer is rich and malty with more light cocoa, sweet caramel and a touch of fruity hop character before a finely balanced finish. Over all a decent beer, would love to try it fermented with a characterful English yeast.

Titanic Captain Smiths
A great strong bitter with a very firm bitter finish. Aromas of caramel malt, dark fruit (plum), and earthy hops. In the mouth the beer presents a big crystal malt character with toffee and caramel which is more than balanced by a big earthy fruity hop flavour and a lasting bitterness which demands another sip. Good beer.

Charles Wells Bombardier
Aroma features burnt sugar, dark toffee, a hint of dried fruit and a hint of zesty earthy hops. In the mouth the dark toffee burnt sugar character is pronounced with a mid palate flash of hop flavour and a dry toffee bitter finish. Decent beer but somewhat one dimensional.

Fullers E.S.B.
A complex aroma of bright fruity hops with some citrus and berry fruit notes, the trademark Fuller yeast note of Marmalade and warm malt. In the mouth the beer has a rich complex malt profile with nutty caramel and toffee, bright citrus, ginger cake, bight hop notes and a perfectly ballanced finish that displays hop bitterness lingering malt in unison.


The Beer Nut said...

It never ceases to amuse me that "ESB" is considered an entire genre of British beer, rather than just one beer by Fuller's. The BJCP's list of what constitutes English ESB is a laugh riot. Can you see the common ground between Bishop's Finger and Summer Lightning, for instance?

Kieran Haslett-Moore said...

As I typed this I knew someone would make this call. While the style may be limited to a few examples in the UK there can be little doubt that it is a bona fide style in US. As for BJCP yes their style guide is extremly broad and one Im not that fond of. I prefer the World Beer Cup guideline below :

56. Extra Special Bitter or Strong Bitter
Extra special bitter possesses medium to strong hop qualities in aroma, flavor, and bitterness. English hop
varieties or others that approximate their resulting character are used in this subcategory. The residual malt and
defining sweetness of this richly flavored, full-bodied bitter is more pronounced than in other bitters. It is light
amber to copper colored with medium to medium-high bitterness. Mild carbonation traditionally characterizes
draft-cask versions, but in bottled versions, a slight increase in carbon dioxide content is acceptable. Fruity-ester
character is acceptable in aroma and flavor. Diacetyl (butterscotch character) is acceptable and characteristic
when at very low levels; the absence of diacetyl is also acceptable. Chill haze is allowable at cold temperatures.
Original Gravity (ºPlato): 1.046-1.060 (11.5-15 ºPlato) ● Apparent Extract/Final Gravity (ºPlato):
1.010-1.016 (2.5-4 ºPlato) ● Alcohol by

The Beer Nut said...

24 medals awarded over 14 years; 23 to North American beers and one to Fuller's ESB :)