Fuller’s ESB Review

My first experience with Fuller’s ESB was when a beer buddy, Ryan — who helped with this review – and I sneaked it into a movie and drank it straight from the bottle like a pair of snobby back-row theater-hobos. Not ideal conditions, but a fun memory.

To be honest, Fuller’s ESB intimidates me. It hails from a brewery that’s existed in one form or another for 350 years, and it’s been winning awards since before I was born. What gives me the right to grade it? Well, I displayed a bit of hubris in “renaming” myself Beer Einstein. Might as well run with it.

Brewery: Fuller’s
Style: Extra Special Bitter (ESB)
ABV: 5.9%
IBU: 35
Glassware: Pint Glass
Serving Temp: 50°F
Price Range: $2-$3 per 12 oz. bottle


This time I use a glass. Fuller’s ESB escapes its bottle like a bronze cloud, a haze of rubies with an off-white head. After you pour, you’ll probably feel the urge to mutter, “That’s a gorgeous beer!” (or something less generic, like “Consider me flabbergasted by this pulchritudinous libation!” … or perhaps generic is OK sometimes.)

The smell complements the color. A hard malt edge of cherries, honey, and caramel assaults your sniffer. Its aromas make you yearn to drink it, so I pick the easy road and take a sip. British brewers must love irony, because their “bitters,” even the extra special ones, rarely live up to their name (at least, not by American hop-maniac standards). When making a bitter, brewers usually strive for balance.

So how’s it taste? In one word, smooth. Fuller’s ESB presents a complex, satisfying array of flavors – fruit, caramel, and earthy, roasted malt – but each sits politely next to its brothers, refusing to outshine them or overwhelm the drinker. Don’t misunderstand me; flavors are buried in there, waiting to be excavated. Dark fruit hits right away, and then melts into liquid sugar. Finally it slides into a bitter, earthy finish. It’s a bit like biting into a ripe plum – you can almost feel the rich, juicy flavors rolling down your chin (especially if you’re a sloppy drinker).

I feel as though I should be complaining that no flavors jump out at you, that the beer isn’t bold or complex enough, but this beer’s subtlety is what makes it so damn tasty. It’s a great session ale, perfect for days when you’re in the mood to down an entire six pack. The flavors tempt you to drink all you have as quickly as possible, but the low ABV will preserve your sobriety; the medium body will leave room in your stomach, and the crisp carbonation will maintain the palate.

Enjoyable, accessible, drinkable — these are this ESB’s main draws. A fantastic brew for drinkers of all experience levels. And now, the score (with newly added .25 intervals)!

Food Pairing:

Ah, another something new! To accompany Fuller’s ESB at your dinner table, I would suggest some barbecued pork or chicken, or perhaps a hearty steak with potatoes. The rich yet subtle maltiness of the beer will enhance the meat’s flavors and cleanse the palate.

8 Responses to “Fuller’s ESB Review”
  1. Ben says:

    i can get behind this beer. and to tie this post into st. patrick’s day, this is the beer i chose to down last night.

  2. FIL says:

    I’m all for extending St Paddy’s to the whole month of March, so bring it! uhh . . bring one . . . over . . . . I’ll wear green?

  3. James says:

    Scott- glad to see Godzilla made it for the ESB rating. It’s a world classic that many English ales and US varients of the style try to emulate. I tend to forget that many of the best beers don’t have flavors that jump right out. It’s about subtlety.


  4. Deb says:

    I’ll try it!

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