Fullers ESB, London
Contrary to the claims of some beer drinkers in the North you can get a decent pint in London ; these days the options are many in fact, with various newer micro-breweries with tempting ranges. But of course as London’s ale enthusiasts have long known, Fuller, Smith and Turner have been making good beer since 1845 at the Griffin Brewery in Chiswick ; there has actually been a brewery on the site for 300 years and more.
Fuller’s ESB (Extra Special Bitter) has not been around for so long; it was launched as ESB in 1971, though under another name it - or something very similar - was first tried out two years previously. ESB is one of Britain’s best pints, with more medals than Prince Charles ’s dress uniform – three times winning CAMRA beer of the year among many other recognitions of its quality. Launched in the dark days of the 70s, when volume-brewed character-free keg was king, ESB was a beacon of traditionally well-made, flavoursome bitter. Like its near contemporary, Adnams Broadside , it is found in draft and bottled variants, the bottled at 5.9 per cent ABV slightly stronger than the draft which is still, however, a pretty hefty 5.5 per cent.
ESB is a very malty beer (using both Crystal and Pale Ale malts), with loads of hops – particularly Goldings, but also Challenger, Target and Northdown - that give it a pleasant bitterness and a truly complex range of flavours: citrus notes that some go so far as identifying with marmalade; nutty roundness; a touch of fresh bread; spicy with the Goldings hops adding their characteristic hint of pepper; plus flowery and honeyed undertones. It is a beer that can be drunk with the same attention paid to it, if not the formality, as would be given to a good bottle of claret.
The intention when the beer was developed was to create a winter warmer, and it serves well for this still, but it has become a year-round ale, and is accepted as a British classic – legendary beer writer Michael Jackson indeed called it a world classic, underlining the success ESB has in export markets.