Fuller’s ESB

Fuller’s ESB is a beer brewed and enjoyed in the UK…so why am I drinking it during the hot Australian summer? Well, Brisbane is experiencing its coldest start to December in 120 years, and while this fact is negative in many ways, I like to look at the positives in life. The positive in this case is that the cold and rainy weather is perfect for enjoying some of the UK beers that I have stored in my fridge! So here is beer number 86, Fuller’s ESB (5.9%ABV).

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The bottle says:
My first impression is that this is another beer that doesn’t need to sell itself with fancy labels, clever gimmicks or witty slogans. The blue label trimmed with gold is very formal, exuding a regal confidence, as if this beer knows that it will be purchased based entirely on its fine pedigree. It shows off this pedigree by displaying some of its accumulated ‘bling’; five gold medals on the front label (underneath the words ‘Champion Ale’) and eight more around the neck, each one stating that this beer is officially ‘Britain’s best’. Ok, maybe it’s a little more cocky than confident…

First Half:
The body is a deep orange amber colour that has a ruby shimmer to it, topped with a thick off-white head. I’ve served it straight from the fridge, so the aroma is typically muted; the major player at this early stage is sweet orange marmalade. The bitterness on the palate is surprisingly big and dominant; not overpowering at all, but it lets you know it’s there. It’s all resiny and piney, more reminiscent of a big American IPA than a typical English Bitter. There’s a little malt sweetness struggling to make an impact, but it’s all about the hops. The aftertaste lingers with fresh bread flavours.

Second Half:
There’s an almost smoky bitterness in the aroma covering the orange marmalade now, along with some sweet bun. The malt has become the dominant player on the palate, presenting some very savoury flavours; the fresh bread that was in the aftertaste is now present throughout the mouthful, and it’s been smeared with thick butter and the slightest bit orange marmalade. The hop flavours have taken a back seat, but still provide a little peppery hit. As the beer continues to warm, the sweet flavours intensify. The aftertaste is smooth and buttery, and makes me want to go back for more.

Final Thoughts:
This beer played games with my head – it was nice and refreshing when it was cold, but much more interesting when it was allowed to warm; the flavours were very complex, yet easy to understand; the hops were dominant, except of course for when the malt was…why is it that English beers continue to confound me? I can’t put my finger on when I would recommend trying this drink; perhaps open it during the summer months and enjoy the hops, then let it warm until sometime in winter and appreciate the complexity then.

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