Fuller's ESB

Last Friday, Ted Sobel of Brewers Union brought a firkin of cask mild to Belmont Station. Not coincidentally, I visited Belmont Station that same evening, and shared two pints of the mild ("Jaws of Barrowdale") with Ted. If you'll allow me a slight digression, I'll mention that since I've had precious few milds--since there are precious few milds to have--I can't really judge it. One can read about milds and compare the descriptions with on-the-hoof examples, but it's not quite the same. It matched up nicely based on the descriptions, and was furthermore a very moreish beer--lightly sweet with a touch of roastiness and a bit of mineral. At 3.7%, a behemoth, but I muscled through a couple pints.

(Hell, since we're digressing I'll mention that the Brewers Union "Au Naturel" offered the next day at the Firkin Fest was exceptional. The name comes from the ingredients: few. Just Maris Otter and US Challengers. If I'm recalling correctly, there were twice the hops in Naturel as Jaws, and the beer was even tinier--3.2%. But au, was it good!--golden in color and delightfully zesty and peppery. I think I offended Ted when I told him it was my fave ever Brewers Union, but I calls 'em as I sees 'em.)

Inspired by our conversation of British Ales, I decided to grab a beer to take home and settled on Fuller's ESB. This venerable, family-owned brewery has long been among my very favorite in the world, and ESB my favorite in their line. Unfortunately, thanks to this damned blog, I am generally off tasting new beers and rarely returning to my old faves. It's been at least five years since I've had an ESB, and I was ever so slightly worried that it wouldn't stand up to my memory.

No worries. It's a spectacular beer. For those who think of English beer as small and malty, Fuller's ESB might come as a surprise. It's a hearty 5.9% and has quite a few hops (though modest bitterness--35 EBU, which is more or less like IBU). But it's not the details that impress--it's the overall presentation. The malt bill is simple--pale and crystal--but produce a deep, satisfying base that has large measures of caramel and marmalade. The hops ( Target, Challenger, Northdown and Goldings) are mainly zesty and spicy, but have a hint of something that bridges over to the marmalade. I think one of the reasons the hops seem more assertive is because of the minerals, which help harmonize all the elements. And all of this comes from a bottle shipped all the way from London.

If you've been neglectful like I have, do yourself a favor and pick up a bottle. You won't regret it.