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Beer buzz: Extra Special Bitter

ESB, a traditional British beer style, is popular at local breweries

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Amid the hops arms race and a trend toward bold-flavored sour and barrel-aged beers, there's a small but growing British beer trend in New Orleans' beer scene.

  Currently, four of New Orleans' seven breweries are producing British-style ESB, or "extra special bitter," which balances malts with subtle bitterness, creating a beer that's neither sweet nor astringent.

  At Parleaux Beer Lab (634 Lesseps St., 504-702-8433; www.parleauxbeerlab.com), Eric Jensen just added an ESB to the brewery's lineup. Customers can have the beer on "nitro," which adds nitrogen to the carbonation mix and produces a smoother mouthfeel.

  "It's one of the first beers I fell in love with making," Jensen says of his decision to brew an ESB. "It's versatile, delicious on nitro and always reminds me of sitting in a pub in England."

  At Wayward Owl Brewing Company (3940 Thalia St,, 504-827-1646; www.waywardowlbrewing.com), Justin Boswell never expected a throwaway beer to be so popular. He only brewed his ESB to harvest yeast to ferment his Scotch ale. But when he put the ESB on tap, patrons loved it, he says. Tawny Twit now is one of Wayward Owl's flagship beers.

  "I made the recipe for our ESB three years ago because I had no clue what it was," says Robert Bostick of Brieux Carre Brewing Company (2115 Decatur St,, 504-304-4242; www.brieuxcarre.com). "It was nice creating an easy-drinker that was different than the typical blonde or brown (ale)."

  At Old Rail Brewing Company (639 Girod St, Mandeville, 985-612-1828; www.facebook.com/oldrailbrewingcompany), Echo Sierra Bravo is an ESB that brewer Matthew Horney has offered since the brewery opened four years ago.

  Scott Wood of Courtyard Brewery (1020 Erato St.; www.courtyardbrewing.com) says, "We can talk about sours and stouts and IPAs forever, but when I started as a homebrewer, I felt like I needed to start with the classic styles. If I hadn't, we wouldn't have been able to grasp what we're doing now and what we're gonna be doing."

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