Extra Special Bitter (ESB)
Fuller Smith & Turner PLC – London, England
One of my greatest travel regrets is spending a week in England in the summer of ’08 and not taking full advantage of the pubs and breweries, and/or not taking note of the experiences I did have. As such, my foray into British beers when studying for the Certified Cicerone exam was eye-opening, only strengthening the regret that I already felt about that trip. (Disclaimer: Had a GREAT time, otherwise) Fuller’s ESB, the stronger version of a traditional English bitter, is sublime, the perfect pint to quaff on a hot day or to put away next to a warm fire.
Fuller’s version of the ESB is very traditional, pouring a copper color with high clarity, and an attractive foam stand with very high retention. You’ll have a beer mustache if you aren’t patient. Toasty toffee, floral hops with a slight bite, and a very slight impression of peat come through on the nose. Taste-wise, there’s a strong presence of light caramel and toast, incredibly smooth, with a touch of fruity esters, apples and pears. Floral hops come through on the second wave, and bitterness is strong but a counter-balance for the maltiness. The finish carries for a long time. This beer is sudsy, high in carbonation, thick and full on the tongue.
I like to pour this beer fairly cold, 40 degree or so, into a traditional English dimpled pint, though a nonic pint and really even a shaker pint will be fine.
Fuller’s ESB and other traditional ESBs and bitters will match well with pork chops or tenderloin, roasted chicken and turkey, and other savory dishes with an element of roasting or caramelization. Because of this, these beers can be a perfect match for your traditional Christmas dinner, as they will pair well with multiple foods on the table without having the ability to overpower them.
Fuller’s beers should be found in any store that carries a decent export / British section, and there are many others from this brewery that are well-known and worth trying. Fuller’s London Pride is a traditional English pale ale, and London Porter is (you guessed it) an excellent English porter. Their Vintage Ale is a highly regarded Old Ale, and they also produce 1845, an English strong ale, an IPA, and Fuller’s Chiswick Bitter, an traditional (more mild than ESB) bitter.
Note: My descriptors above, especially related to mouthfeel, refer to the exported bottled version of this beer.
JAB – 12/21/15