Weekly Beer Geek: Fuller’s Extra-Special Bitter
- Written by Luke G
- May 17, 2012
Fuller’s Extra-Special Bitter
Griffin Brewery, Chiswick
$2.79/11.2 oz Bottle
The Beginning: This isn’t the first time I’ve encountered one of Fuller’s imports out of Britain. Back on a rainy day in June, I was quite pleased by Fuller’s London Porter. So in the midst of a rainy MAY day, I grabbed another of their unfortunately undersized bottles ( will quit bitching about this when Europe starts sending me more beer for my bottle) and gave it a whirl. I have a vague memory of my ex-roommate and her boyfriend drinking an ESB, but God help me if I can remember what it tasted like. And we’re off!
The Brewer’s Pitch: ESB started its life as a Winter Seasonal, before gaining popularity as part of Britain’s Campaign for Real Ale in the 70’s and going full-time. Coming in just under 6% it’s tilting toward the strong side, and has flavor to match. A full mahogany body blends peppery hops with citrus character, with a biscuit-toffee flavor from the blend of malt. The nose carries a tart blend of citrus and cherry mellowed by a malt that carries over to the flavor. Awesomely, the web site provides a video guide to tasting from one of the brewers. It’s a nice little guide on how to fully experience a beer, with notes on the key features for the ESB. It's a nice touch, really.
The Beer: Fuller’s ESB is a LOT lighter in color than the brewer indicated, a pale amber tinging toward gold where they sold me on a deep mahogany. There’s about a half-finger of dull white lingering head and the nose is a faint, lightly toasted bread aroma with a subtle citrus-zest twinge. The beer is surprisingly light and peppery at first blush. Under an almost herbal pop lies a slightly crispy toasted malt, a very flaky biscuit taste. This fades into a very smoothly hopped finish that coats the entire mouth with a mild bitter pucker. It tingles on the back of the tongue nicely and lingers as a ghost of itself along the top of the tongue.
The Breakdown: I really was expecting a bolder taste from this beer, but what I got isn’t half bad. It’s a very refreshingly bitter brew without being overpowering or unpleasant, and the pepper taste complements the hops quite nicely. It’s mild enough to be a session beer and could get lethal if you start drinking them and let the alcohol sneak up on you. Unfortunately it's gets a bit pricey if you have more than one, though. I’d drink it again, but I doubt I’d make a point of seeking it out - and that might be the most meaningful judgment I can make on it.
The Bottom Line: One of the beer-taste-movie lady’s tips was “The bitterness receptors are on the very back of your tongue, so to get the bitter taste you have to swallow the beer.” Thanks, lady, I PLANNED on swallowing my beer. What am I, some sort of booze-spitting French wine monkey?