Extra Special Bitter or ESB is a style that has it’s origins in the brewing traditions of the United Kingdom. This English pale ale, while sounding like it could be packed with hops, is actually a malt driven beer. The bitterness referred to by the moniker Extra Special Bitter actually is presented as a counter point and balance to the malt base. These brews tend to have a little more oomph in the alcohol department so they were given the “Extra” or sometimes “Strong” tag, differentiating them from Ordinary/Standard and Special/Best/Premium bitters. American interpretations of this classic English ale tend to include more hop flavor and aroma. We are glad to sample any bitter when we come across one as they are a bit of a rarity and it was a nice surprise to find another well made version brewed on Long Island.
Long Ireland’s ESB has a slightly hazy, light copper body with rust colored highlights. A thick, foamy beige head leaves behind copious lacing as it falls, making for a very pretty pour. The aroma is restrained at first, but as the beer warms both the scent and taste open up becoming more bold and layered. Hops and bread accented malt come through in the aroma and neither overshadows the other. Light toffee sweetness glides along the edges presenting a nice interplay of earthy, bitter and sweet.
Upon taking a sip, the malt character appears first revealing notes of toasted bread and sweet chocolate with again some underlying toffee. A bitter citrus hop bite in the end balances the sip and brings you back for more. An American interpretation for sure, this is a brew that would be as welcome on the beach as it would be after a long hike. Long Ireland ESB is crisp, satisfying, flavorful and refreshing.
What Alicia Thinks:
Though this is not a style I typically gravitate towards, I did really enjoy this beer. It was well balanced and the hops were used to compliment the malt rather than overpower the whole beer. I personally tasted some dark fruit and alcohol notes throughout, almost reminding me of a light barley wine. I could see this appealing to a variety of palates since at points it’s both malty and hoppy with neither being predominant.
What Kevin Thinks:
This is a well done American ESB. The malt profile is in harmony with the hops, which are not overly assertive and do not dominate as they tend to in some American ales. Here the hops add some flavor and aroma but mainly they provide a bitter balance beam for the malt to walk along down the palate. Speaking of malt flavors, you will find them varied and covering a spectrum from sweet to savory born of a solid grain bill. This is a beer I could enjoy throughout the year. It has more character than a copper ale or lager and more breweries should be making an ESB. For me overall this is an 8/10.
ABV: 6.5% IBU: 43 Color: Bright Hazy Copper Year: 2014 Brewery: Long Ireland Beer Company
The Brewery Says:
A British style ale that has a malt forward flavor with a pleasant Target Hop finish. its a great beer with a bad name: some refer to it as a British pale ale.