I have reached the 250 beer review mark. I consider myself accomplished, my wife and parents think that I drink too much. Today’s beer review is the second of three beers that Magic Hat Brewing Company sent me. The bottle says that this beer is an ESB, or Extra Special Bitter, with spruce. I’m not generally a fan of spruce flavored things as it makes me think about tree sap a bit too much. Extra Special Bitter is a bit of a misnomer for many newcomers to craft beer. They are expecting something really hoppy, and an ESB just isn’t that. ESB is an English beer style that, while significantly more bitter than an English Mild, is not all that bitter in the grand scheme of things.
Wooley pours a wonderful clear orange color. It has a thin white head that clings to the side of the glass. The nose is nice and malty. It’s an interesting mike of sweet and dry that you often find in English style beers. There are also some dried fruit odors that are probably the result of the yeast strain used to make this beer. There is a slightly spicy hop smell that lingers in the background along with a slight hint of spruce. Since the spruce was so light in the nose, it gave me hope that it wasn’t going to overwhelm the beer/my taste buds.
There is a nice dose of malt and biscuit on the front end of this beer. It is followed with the fruity esters found in the nose, mainly small bits of plum and cherry. The hops come in on the second half and do a nice job of replacing the other flavors in a balanced way. The hops are slightly spicy and the spruce gives a nice resin taste that adds to the bitterness. Everything mixes nicely to give this beer an earthy quality that I always enjoy.
As I said at the beginning of this review, I’m usually not a fan of spruce flavored anything,but this beer does a good job of keeping that flavor in check. I really enjoyed sipping on this one while getting caught up on episodes of American Horror Story. This beer comes in at 4.5% and I can imagine downing one of these after shoveling some snow when you don’t want something heavy but you also want something with some balls. It’s refreshing and crisp, while delivering plenty of flavor.