The Hargreaves Hill ESB is a slightly modern take on the classic English style. Floral, biscuit, malt, cookie dough, raisins. The mouthfeel is creamy and dry finishing. The medium bitterness is refreshing rather than harsh. Hargreaves Hill ESB is definitely malty like the English style of Extra Special Bitter. But the hop character and sweetness balance the normally quite dry and astringent style.
Simon was a classical pianist, his wife Beth an and opera singer. With a melting pot of creativity and talent it one form of art, it spilled over into a more noble art: Brewing. I’m old enough to remember when Hargreaves Hill started too. From the first, their Pale was a cut above the bland norm. When they made a Porter/Brown Ale loosely based on my suggestion, it was love. Since 2004 they’ve been through many challenges, but they’ve evolved and thrived. Still, their beers are a cut above the bland norm. At the same time, they provide drinkable beers.
A bitter was a style of Pale Ale with a bit more bitterness. They were moderate in alcohol and well balanced with more hop character than a Pale Ale. The brewers then started to make stronger and more bitter styles and called them “Special Bitter” and “Extra Special Bitter” which was strong still. The English styled bitters are malty, dry, bitter (!), astringent. Hops don’t provide a strong flavour base but do add the bitter punch at the end.
When pale malt became available, brewers could make Pale Ales not just brown Porter and Stout. English Pale Ale is often dry, malty, bitter, with hints of hop flavours. New World Pale Ale can be anything. They used to be all the rage but IPA is now the darling of brewers. Most modern Pale Ales are around that 5% abv on the lighter side, fresh with a sweeter, hoppier outlook.