Tag Archives: esb

Ordinary Brews: Redhook ESB

The fine people at Redhook told me that the Long Hammer IPA was their best seller outside of the Seattle region but in the Seattle region, their ESB sold better. So let’s take a look at what those Seattlites apparently know that we don’t.

Redhook’s ESB has a pretty malty nose, with some uncooked bread scents there. There is a little bitterness in the finish but nothing too strong.

Nothing too strong might be a good throughline for this entire beverage. It’s got a sweetness in the back third of the drink but nothing really before that. The effervescence plays cleanup to most of the flavors and all in all, this feels like a good picnic beer. The kind I’d bring to some outdoor event, have something barbequed, wash it down with this ESB.

In this respect, I have to praise this beer for that quality. It’s a decent ‘intro to craft beer’ ale, with nothing overpowering going on to intimidate the neophyte but enough of something going on that they know they aren’t drinking a macro lager. And because I can see this in a more social setting, it’s the kind of beer that I can envision handing off to someone who might feel a bit of trepidation about beers that aren’t fizzy and yellow.

I, personally, would like just a little more malt there. This ESB isn’t soda light in the mouthfeel but a little more ooomph there and I’d probably dig it more. As it is, I still feel like I’ve got a solid little beer to bring with me to the next picnic.

Mild ESB

In advance of Summer, I have attempted to make a couple mild ales. Since I have started doing partial mash brews, my efficiency hasn’t been too keen. (Which is a short way of saying that I have not been extracting fermentable sugars from my grains very well.)  However, for something like a mild, this bug is actually a feature, right? I get a lower-alcohol beer, it still tastes good, I don’t have to mess with my process and potentially get swill; it’s win-win, right?

Well as you’ll see below, I got a bit more sugar than I expected. There’s nothing wrong with a 6.6% beer! It’s just that I was shooting for closer to 4. The result, however, is what matters and the result is good.

It’s got a nice maltiness to it, with a nice bitter end. Just bitter, not floral or pine or something clearly indicative of hops. It reminds me a lot of British-style pints. Nothing too overwhelming, here. This may be one of the more well rounded beers I’ve made. I could try to make something lighter sometime based off this but it’s worked out so nicely I think I should just repeat this recipe as needed. Not much of a nose to it but I’m hard pressed to complain. It just tastes that good.

Brew Date: 4.21.13

Steeping Grains:
3.5 lb 2 Row
1 lb C120
.5 lb Domestic ESB

Fermentables: 4 lb LME

.25 oz Columbus preboil, .25 oz @60
.5 oz Summit @ 60
.5 oz Summit @ 30
.5 oz Columbus pellets @ 10

Yeast: 1187 Wyeast Ringwood Ale-prestarter made

OG: 1.065

FG: 1.016

ABV: 6.63%

ESB from IPA

My base notes suggest that I was going to make an IPA.

I don’t know what I was thinking. One look at the recipe and there’s no way this could be a proper IPA. Even if I had used more hops, I still wouldn’t have had an IPA because I am coming to the conclusion that the style really requires hops added to secondary so that they show up in the nose. Otherwise, you’re really dealing with a pale ale.

This, however, has enough malt in it that it’s really an ESB. There’s no getting around it. I’m not disappointed in that; I don’t know that I really wanted an IPA.

On the other hand, missing the target isn’t beneficial. I take this data to mean that my process of ‘partial mash’ brewing is becoming more efficient. If I try making an IPA in this manner, I might have to up the hops or pay greater attention to what kind of hops I’m using, and when.

But for an ESB, this is pretty good.

Brew date: 3.10.13

Steeping Grains
1 lb C40
1 lb C120
1 lb Victory
2 lb Pale

6 lb LME

1 oz Magnum @ 60 (used .5 oz in ‘preboil’)
1 oz Chinook @ 30
1 oz Amarillo @ 15
1/8th tsp Irish Moss @ 5

1187 Wyeast Ringwood Ale-prestarter made

SG: 1.071

Added 1/2 oz Chinook to secondary on 3.21

FG: 1.021

Bottled 5.14

ABV: 6.77506775

Made with Ed

My friend Ed has always had an interest in world events. A non-Americentric view of the world, if you will. So with that in mind, while he was visiting last month I thought it would be nice to try a really standard ESB, a straight up, British pale, no nonsense from the sidelines.

So that’s what I did. He assisted a bit and now I get to enjoy the beer, sadly without him.

Still, here we are!

esb homebrewsThere’s a nice yeasty/bready scent to this one, which is followed up by a pleasing caramel flavor. It’s polished off nicely by a finely carbonated end and honestly, there isn’t much more to say than that.

But the thing is: It’s a really solid beer and I feel good about not having to try and make it sound like the second coming of fermented beverages. It’s good: I can give it to strangers and they’ll enjoy it! That’s good enough.

Recipe as follows:

Date of brew: 5.12.12

Steeping Grains
1 lb ESB
1lb Victory

7lb LME

1.25 oz Crystal hops @ 60
.5 oz Citra @ 45
1.5 oz Crystal hops @ 30
.5 oz Citra @ 5

Laurelwood ale yeast 2nd use

FG: 1.014
TG: 1.012 (ish)

Notes: Made a sugar solution and put yeast in it to start it up–Laurelwood yeast gotten and used once so, hoping to give it a push

Pitched yeast into a slightly cooler solution-75ish.
ABV: 7.60%

Revisiting Red Hook’s ESB

Back when I first started drinking craft beers, a buddy of mine told me to be careful around the Red Hook: “They should’ve called it Right Hook,” he said, alluding to it’s strength. I never seemed to get rolled by Red Hook the way my buddy suggested  and at the time, I didn’t even know what an ESB was but it has been a staple of the NW scene for quite a while now, introducing other styles and I believe have now joined a kind of beer conglomerate with Widmer.

There’s a strong scent of sulfur, stronger than any of the other beers. Lager like, it reminds me of beers I sniffed growing up while bringing something to my Dad.

Red Hook ESBThat sulfurness hits first in the flavor, too and it’s a bit displeasing on the tongue. The malts show up quickly but not soon enough and there is a quirk at the end, as though the sulfur is pulling a Lazarus moment on me.

This beer is also the least challenging of the ones I’ve revisited and the most like a lager, something I would have gotten in the 1980’s on a whim, just to see if I should break away from the Rainier I’ve been sneaking from Old Man Kopra’s fridge…

I can’t say I’m impressed or convinced to get more Red Hook. This beer is there for someone else, perhaps someone who needs a gateway into a larger world but doesn’t want to actually take a risk.

But it is not for me.

I’ll have whatever you say #2

caldera tsbWhen trying something new, failure is something that should just be accepted. Thomas Edison didn’t discover the lightbulb, he discovered a thousand ways to fail at making the lightbulb, if you take my meaning. Life, however, tends to punish failure and I personally have a pretty strong aversion to it, for better or worse.

Hence, when trying something new it generally helps to do it from a position of strength. The strength can come from the presence of friends, from a series of successes but will usually come from the familiar. People don’t go to see Yo-Yo Ma play the harmonica.

Greatness tends to make demands on a person, though. They cannot stand still. They must attempt the new, master it if possible. This might explain why Michael Jordan left a perfectly brilliant career in basketball to play baseball; after doing something nobody else had done, what was left? He could play baseball and nobody was going to argue with him. It may be that his experience playing baseball allowed him to rediscover the love that he had playing basketball and thus was able to return and triumph again.

Now, I don’t claim to have insight into the mind of someone like Jordan. I’m using this line of thinking to illustrate why I have come to Bailey’s again.

I am not well versed socially and am just a bit shy. It’s my nature and sometimes that’s OK and sometimes it does not serve me well. As when I have to ask complete strangers what they are drinking–including interrupting, as politely as possible, their conversation.

So I have come back to where the bartenders know me, the beers are all good and where the familiar reigns so that I can approach a total stranger to ask a simple question. The answer has led me to Caldera’s TSB, a malty, thirst quenching brew that I’m enjoying quite a bit. I don’t know that it’s brilliant but I’d have another one without missing a beat.

The other bonus of coming here is that on a Monday, it’s one of the few places not overcrowded by Monday Night Football. I like football but a rowdy crowd where I may not be able to sit and write is not where I want to risk new things (even if the new risk is small.)

The flipside is this: I am having to endure, for the first time in my memory, reggae music. While my feelings on the genre are well known to friends and a little out of place at this blog, I think I can sum it up briefly: I think reggae music is death-inducingly boring and is probably used to lessen the amount of time the elderly have to spend in nursing homes. Even the stuff that’s supposed to be awesome is duller than Al Gore circa 1999.

So while I can revel in the success of this week’s event, I can also feel the push to keep trying different places. Oh, I’m totally coming back here because it’s the best goddamn bar in Portland. But success has a price-and the price is that you have to try something else.


IPA number 6So after talking about how we should share our favorite cellared beverages with people I did just that by throwing a party when Fuz was in town to visit. Seven or eight beers I’d made over the past few months were brought up to share with people and for the most part the feedback was good. Or at least people were having a good time and had no reason to complain, so no news is good news.

I was too busy hosting to take notes about how things might’ve fared after a few months but luckily a few beers survived the party. Drinking them now, here are my impressions.

IPA 6 (the sixth IPA I made in ’09)- had a mild sweet citrus with a low level sweetness in the nose. Slightly sharp bitterness at the very end but it’s not an IPA anymore. Pale, maybe? Amber with some bitterness? Not quite sure, but it is still quite drinkable.

ISB (an ESB I overhopped) – a soft piney nose, like wet pine from the forest. Some maltiness in the middle and it’s a good thing there’s some carbonation in there because it’s got a sharp, rising bitterness at the end. The relief of carbonation helps offset that sharpness somehow. Maybe not for everyone but a good beverage, for sure.

IPA 5 (the fifth IPA I made in ’09) – has a much thicker head and it shows that I dry hopped it; tiny chunks of hop plant are suspended in the foam and the beer itself. This has a much stronger nose initially but by the time I went to write about it the scent was nearly gone. A ghost of citrus. What is left is a beer with a flash of malt and then a strong bitterness streak at the end that camps out on the middle of my tongue.

It’s nice that these beers all held up after a few months. I’m in the process of making some milder ales now and I don’t think I’ll have the same luxury.


After a year of making IPAs with the same ingredient list, I have been mixing it up a little. My goal here was to use ESB malts coupled with the hoppiness of an IPA. I was looking for a balanced beer overall that was a child of both styles. I think I could’ve used more ESB malts though. I mean if I’m going to marry styles, why not go for broke?

It mostly worked. Mostly. There’s a metallic tang at the veeeeery end of the beer. Shiny-metal, not rusty-metal. I believe what this means is that the beer may have been oxidized during the process. A bummer, yes but not the end of the world. This ISB is still pretty good and when served cold the tang at the end isn’t really noteworthy. It comes across as a dryness instead which encourages the next sip.

Maybe I’m spinning this; in these cases it’s usually best to give the beer to someone else for evaluation and I think I’ll be giving it to some friends to see what they think. Recipe as follows:

Brew date

Steeping Grains
13oz C-40
.5 lb ESB grain
.5 lb C-120

Fermenting Malts
7lb LME

1 oz Amarillo @ 60
.5 oz Amarillo @ 40
.5 oz Galena @30
1 oz Galena @ 20

1/4 tsp Irish Moss @10

Wyeast American Ale yeast (reused from an IPA batch)

5.57% ABV

52 Weeks 28: Laurelwood Elvis’ Special Bitter

Everyone is out today, and I have sought out the indoors. I completely understand getting out; the long cold of winter is finally shambling to the southern hemisphere. Holiday aside, it’s been warm for a few days in a row so opening up the doors makes sense. 

Maybe that’s why I’ve ordered this ESB. It’s got a juicy quality to it, like ripe fruit, but with a bitter finish that makes it a nice sippin’ ale. Some of the other guys here are talking BBQ, and I have to admit, it seems like a really good idea and would go well with this beer. Even with my personal opposition to being outdoors, I am no fool. BBQ is good. 

One reason I’m here so early is because I’ll have visitors this evening. However, it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if I ended up back here in four hours to show out-of-towners the glory of this bar. It’s strange because a bar ought to be a bar, right? 

Or rather: A good bar is a good bar. Shouldn’t matter where it is, the qualities of goodness should be universal. It matters though, in the ways that cities talk to us. Franchises work anywhere because of their monotony, but nobody hails a franchise as being an awesome place to hang out. No; you have to go to the spaces the city has set aside, the wink and nod that says; see, this is what I’m like, really.