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ESB Quest

My first ESB was Foster’s, now called Premium Ale. I love that bready taste!

Being that they are considered a subpar brewery I’ve been looking for ESB’s with a similar biscuity, slightly nutty taste. I’ve had Fuller’s and Speckled Hen which were very good, and Full Sail’s pale, which seems very ESB-like to me.

But the majority of the ones I’ve tried were very ho hum, and one, from a co-op brew pub in Austin, was the most overly bitter beer I’ve ever had. SWMBO and I had to take turns sipping on it as we hate just wasting beer.

So with the 3 beers mentioned what else should I keep an eye out for?

And not only am I looking for commercial beers to enjoy, but also recipes that would be similar. I have a rough draft recipe for what I think I might like, but lacking any experience with an ESB, I’d enjoy some things to consider.

Redhook makes a decent ESB. I drink Empyrian’s ESB because it’s local, cheaper, and better. I doubt it’s in Austin.

Red Hook is the ESB in my fridge currently and, in comparison, I find it rather ho hum.

There are plenty of locally made ones around the country…a few decent ones and a lot of ‘not so great ones’. I agree that Redhook is a pretty decent and widely available ESB. It’s actually quite nicely balanced.

Even though hard core beer geeks always looked down of Foster’s, I used to like their Special Bitter. But ever since Miller started brewing the Foster’s brands in Texas and North Carolina (changing both the name of the Special Bitter, and pretty obviously the recipe as well) it’s a non-starter for me…I don’t mind beers that show some restraint, but the USA made Foster’s ale is downright bland.

Here in NJ, Flying Fish makes a very nice ESB that is very reminiscent of Fuller’s (which is still my #1 favorite ESB). The FF ESB taste is somewhere in between the Fuller’s draught ESB (as served in the UK) and the slightly sweeter (and evidently slightly stronger) ESB that Fuller’s exports to the USA in both bottles and kegs.

I don’t expect that Flying Fish is sold in TX, but if you ever do see it (or if you ever have visitors coming from NY/PA/NJ who can bring some for you) do give it a try. Can’t say I’m very fond of most of the small breweries here in NJ, but Flying Fish is certainly one of the very small handful of truly good ones.
I’d bet that they would hold their own quite well in wider distribution.

It’s fairly representative of the ESB style. The ESB generally isn’t wild and in your face.

I actually go up to Belmar from time to time, and my aunt comes down to visit often. I’ll have to file this! Thanks!

I’m OK with the many various ESB’s for the most part, but once I tasted that biscuity flavor I was stuck on it. I like things that stand out from the rest.

Fullers ESB is probably the hallmark of the style, and is one of my favorites. But even better (IMO) is Timothy Taylor Landlord, if you can find it. The yeast character is incredible.

It may seem a bit gimmicky, but Iron Maiden has a new beer out called the Trooper that is actually a decent ESB.

As far as recipes go, nothing beats a simple ESB. Here’s my basic recipe, which will get you in the ballpark of a Fullers:

93% Maris Otter
7% Dark English Crystal (Absolutely must be a good quality English crystal malt. US crystal just doesn’t taste the same)

45 IBU at 60 minutes of whatever bittering hops you like
2-3 oz of hops at flameout. At least 1 oz must be EKG’s. And again, no substitutes. Nothing will replace proper East Kent Goldings. The rest can be any English hop, or something that at least tastes English.

1-2 ounces of dry hops would be fine if you like. At least half should be EKG’s if you do.

WLP002/WY1968 fermented at 68F is my preferred yeast choice, but if you like bready then S-04 dry yeast may be what you’d prefer.

Have not seen the Iron Maiden beer in my area yet. I’ll have to snag some if I see any. Long time fan.

Steve Harris recently had his house for sale for a few million pounds. I was shy the few million pounds or I’d try to get it.

Fullers is OK but it is kind of fruity for my tastes. Of course thats to style, just not to my palate. My personal favorite is Sam Smiths Organic Pale Ale, its less fruity and has a cracker/caramel malt flavor that is perfect I tell you. Even though they call it a pale ale the bitterness is just firm the hop flavor/aroma is muted, its all about the malt. Its also why I like the West Yorkshire yeast to brew bitters which are about my favorite beer style. Can’t beat the flavor of Maris Otter malt and a little British crystal.

I drank another Red Hook last night and it didn’t seem to me to be as plain Jane amberish as I had thought prior. Guess I’ll just have to drink again tonight for further test results!

I suppose I just prefer things that stand out a bit more. It’s probably why I seem to prefer IPA’s and ambers to stouts.

Thanks for the input fellas!

Probably already been said but be sure and drink an ESB at 55F or a little warmer, it really lets the malt shine.

I didn’t know that. I’ve drank them straight out of the fridge.

I suppose setting in onto the counter for 10-15 mins ought to get me close enough to start.

Thanks for the tip!

My rough draft recipe looks like this:

4 lbs golden light LME (FO)
5 lbs Marris Otter
1/4 lb Victory
1/2 lb Special Roast
1/4 lb crystal 20
1/2 lb crystal 60
3 oz Carapils
1 oz Northern Brewer & 0.4 oz EKG @ 60 mins
1.3 oz EKG @ 20/5 mins

10* L
31 IBU’s
5.4% ABV
6 gal yield

I wasn’t aware ESB’s would be dry hopped.

I hadn’t known British crystal would be significantly different. I usually buy my grains locally, but I don’t see any British crystal available. Maybe I’d have to buy 1 lb of 50/60 from my usual online source if it turns out they don’t have any British crystal.

You’ll mash the Maris Otter or is it the new LME product? I don’t know that you’d want the Special Roast, its a little tangy and I’m not sure you’d want this kind of flavor. I like it more in a brown ale. The Victory is appropriate for more of the bready/cracker character. Don’t think I’d use EKG at 60min, save it for late additions. I generally don’t dry-hop my ESB but it is a nice touch. I keep my IBUs at around 30 to let the malt have center stage while still providing a decent balance.

As for British crystal, I’ve found it to have quite a bit more character than Briess and I think its worth sourcing some.

I actually like S04 yeast, it works fast and drops like a rock leaving a mildly sweet beer. Control your ferm temps below 70F.

I will be doing a partial mash with the MO. I’m doing BIAB.

What I read about Special Roast is: “Gives a biscuit flavor to English Ales.”

I wanted more EKG for my late additions, but still wanted a little more for the bittering so I went in that direction. Using it wouldn’t impart something I’d regret would it? I assume you stated you wouldn’t use it for that just because it’s more of a late addition type hop and not really used for bittering.

I’ve seen honey malts used for an ESB as well, which sounds interesting.

I’ll have a look see on those British crystals. Wouldn’t a pound be a bit much for a 6 gal batch? Or do you think I could get away with it?

In my limited experience with special roast (used 1/2lb in my last IPA), I got a very pronounced biscuit flavor from it. I LOVE the flavor of this beer and the special roast was definitely the star of the show as far as the malt goes. I did however notice a slightly “tangy” aroma (not sure if it was from the malt or not) before I dry-hopped it. 3 ounces of dry-hops took care of that :slight_smile:

Well heck now I have t try Special Roast in my next bitter. Don’t want to get in a rut.

EKG is fine for bittering, just not real high AA% and its so good as a late hop that I don’t want to “waste” it. I have a lot of bittering hops in the freezer though.

I generally go with no more than about 10% of my AG batch as crystal. So a pound would be about right on a 10lb grain bill for a 1.050-ish beer.

50/60 seems a little high. I wanted to use a little 20 to lighten the color and the flavor profile. I’ve really come to like the idea of melding crystal malts together as I figure it makes a more complex flavor than using a single mid color crystal.

They carry Muttons crystal 60 at the LHBS. Would it be “bad” to use 1/2-3/4 lb of the British 60 with a 1/4 lb of Briess 20? Or would you just use 3/4-1 lb of the British 60?

All of this talk about ESB’s has me trying to clean my pallet of the taste of cashews so I can crack one open after I allow it to warm up a bit!

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