AleSmith Anvil ESB

Anvil ESB is the flagship ale produced by San Diego’s AleSmith Brewing Company and was the first beer ever produced by the brewery. AleSmith is one of California’s most awarded craft breweries known for their unfiltered hoppy brews as well as heavy hitters like Speedway Stout and Old Numbskull Barleywine. The Anvil ESB is a bit of a San Diego twist on the standard British Premium Bitter style of session ale. Premium Bitters or Extra Special Bitters are higher alcohol (4.5 to 6%) versions of the more sessionable bitter style. At 5.5% ABV, Anvil ESB is certainly within the range of alcohol to be called a ESB stylistically.

Cracking the cap and beginning to pour I find a solid heavy and creamy foam forming atop the brilliant ruby and copper toned body. Slowing the pour down, it comes to rest with a thick mess of a chunky two finger creamy beige head and some heavy lacing around the glass. The nose is a bit abrupt and has a solid hop with pleasant floral and fruity notes. The nose is rather odd stylistically with an enhanced fruitiness pairing with toasted bready and caramel malts. Taking my first sip of the Anvil I notice a pronounced fruit flavour of both banana and apples which is certainly odd. Toasted bread and grainy malts with caramelized sweetness and a hint of toffee pairs well with the intricate floral hop notes and a rather unusual fruity character. The finish is really crisp and has a mild but not overbearing bitterness that lingers for a short time. On the whole this is an exceptionally well done ESB in that the hops aren’t too foreboding and there is still plenty of grainy and bready malts as well as tasty fruit and floral hop centric notes. In general, a very well done and well balanced ESB.

Grade: 86/100       Price: $4.69 (in California)

Hook Norton Haymaker

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To be honest I had never actually heard of Hook Norton Brewery, but after a quick google search it was something I definitely had to try. Hook Norton Brewery located in Hook Norton, Oxfordshire was founded in 1849 and still operates as a brewery from the era. In what is known as a Victorian tower brewery, a beer is brewed sequentially starting on the top floor and making its way down. Until 2006, the Hook Norton Brewery was powered by an on site steam engine making this a truly unique and real ale. The Haymaker itself is a 5% ABV Premium Bitter or ESB. The ESB style of beer is a term used to refer to Brtitish style bitter ales over 4.8% ABV.

The Haymaker has a gorgeous bright golden copper tinted body with a thick bright white head. There is a steady stream of of fine carbonation bubbles streaming upwards that help form a few lines of sticky lacing. The nose has a beautifully floral bouquet with a typical English accented biscuit malt and yeast. A fresh citrus fruit with grassy and floral hops accompany a mild caramel and toasted bread malt. The finish has a solid hop bitterness and a lingering grainy malt flavor. Beautiful light lemon and fresh floral notes make this a fantastic session  ESB. The body is quite  full and a bit of sparkly carbonation truly makes this a good example of the brush pub style strong bitter ale.

Grade:  78/100            Price: $4.99