Total Score: 6.4/10
Hargreaves Hill is one of those breweries who I’ve glanced at and thought “their marketing’s too posh for my tastes, and I’ve got far too many beers to review as it is, so: pass”. However at the very beginning of 2017 I was staying in Yarra Glen (Victoria) and I stopped by for a pint. It was called HOA (which stood for “Hop Oat Ale”) and it was so delicious and creamy textured that I drank a pint in about 5 mins. Then I had to drive 500 meters down the road, so I wasn’t allowed to try any more beers, poo. Fast forward to today and I’ve decided to give them a chance starting with their ESB – which I deemed the hardest style in their core range.
Poured from a 330ml bottle into a nonic pint.
A: Cloudy caramel/amber body with a boisterous 3 centimetre beige head that ever so slowly dissolves leaving lace on the side of the glass. A bit on the cloudy side for an ESB, and that’s one heady, err, head… but otherwise OK. 6/10.
S: Dulcet caramel/toffee malts and a hint of earthy/nutty tones rounds out an ESB that certainly fits the ESB bill fine, however I wonder when the “new world” hops on the bottle label will show up… Christmas? Probably. 7/10.
T: Earthy and dirty upfront (too earthy/dirty IMO), mid-palate comes in with some OK nutty/caramel/toffee characters… then it sort of drops off there with a light herbal bitterness in the finish. Certainly no hops of note – perhaps a bit of hop fade here? But let’s forget about the hops and rate it as a straight up-and-out ESB: It doesn’t compare favourably to most UK ESB’s, but then it does beat out a few Aussie ones… TBH us Aussies seem to be shit at brewing ESB’s… which is a shame because I do love a good ESB, my ESP goes wild for ESB. 6/10.
M: At least the body has a decent heft to it – medium bodied with a thin but active carbonation. 8/10.
D: First tinge of disappointment from Hargreaves Hill after HOA with this lacklustre ESB, and I can tell you exactly where they went wrong with this brew: Relying on the hops to carry a style that is malt-driven – there’s a reason all the tastiest ESB’s work: The malt bill. In an ESB hops are secondary to a decent malt bill and this ESB doesn’t have that. It’s got a slight bit of playful caramel/toffee/nuttiness, but then it’s also got a bit too much earthy/dirtiness… then that light herbal blip in the finish – give me a decent fruity/floral hopping any day in an ESB – that’s where it’s at! 6/10.
Food match: Poultry dishes for this averagESB, think: Duck, goose or pheasant.