Maybe I’ve been out of touch but I think Sierra Nevada’s been putting out some very interesting as of late. I guess that I’ve been ignoring them lately because their pale ale’s so ubiquitous. Stupid reason, I know. It’s not the first stupid thing I’ve done and it’s a guarantee it won’t be the last.
A traditional English Special/Strong Bitter (ESB), also known as an English Pale Ale, is an average to slightly above average strength beer that appears balanced between the malt and hops but leans toward the hop side of the flavor spectrum. Out of the 3 beers in the English Pale Ale category (Category 8 of the BJCP guidelines), it is the most robust. Drinkability is also a huge part of the style. How does the Sierra Nevada ESB fare?
ESB (Early Spring Beer), Sierra Nevada, 5.9% ABV
When I popped the top on my bottle of ESB, there was a forceful hiss from the bottle. ESB pours out a clear amber/copper color with an off-white, lasting head. I noticed a bready malt aroma right off the bat with low citrus notes. It was fairly balanced in the aroma department. The flavor is balanced up front, slightly bready and caramel malt flavors with an equal citrus, earthy and resiny hop flavor but the hop bitterness comes in at the end is of moderate intensity and lasts well into the finish. ESB is medium bodied with medium carbonation.
This ESB is a nice entry into the ESB category. The malt bill is decidedly English in nature with two-row pale malt, Maris Otter malt, and Crystal malt. English Challenger is used for bittering. English Challenger and East Kent Goldings are used for finishing while English and U.S. Challenger, U.S. Goldings and Crystal are used for dry hopping. At 45-46 IBUs, ESB is on the high end of the spectrum for the ESB style. With the inclusion of American hops, this is not a “true” ESB by any stretch, even the name “Early Spring Beer” is a witty reminder of that.
At the end of the day, Sierra Nevada’s ESB would make a good addition to your beer fridge. It seems like this is going to be their spring seasonal and would make a good addition to your seasonal drinking list. It took a while for me to write this post. I got distracted. : )