Beer: Beachwood BBQ and Brewing (Long Beach) “Hops of Brixton”
Style: English Style ESB
English ESB (extra special bitter) is one in a category of English bitters (ordinary bitter, special bitter, and extra special bitter). Bitters were traditionally the standard bearers in any English brewer's repertoire with the ESB (as the name might suggest) being the brewery's flagship beer. Despite their name these beers are not bitter. In fact they are often very mild, brewed to be malty and slightly sweet/fruity with a subtle hoppy aroma and light hop bitterness. In today's vernacular these beers are "session beers." Lower in alcohol and medium bodied, bitters are meant to be drank in social situations where one might want to drink more than one and still be able to walk away from the bar.
American craft brewers have adopted the style but craft their ESBs to American tastes. Using domestically grown malt and hops the American ESB is slightly more aggressive in its hop profile, so a bit more bitter than its English cousin, but it’s also full bodied and rich in malt sweetness, which balances the additional hops. If you’re looking to introduce a reluctant friend to the world of craft beer, ESB is a great place to start.
Beachwood's version of the ESB Hops of Brixton bucks the American trend and tries to remain faithful to the British original. Hops of Brixton features a traditional British malt bill that including Maris Otter, and caramel malts with a bit of flaked barley added to the mash resulting in a medium-bodied beer that reveals rich aromas and flavors of toast, or fresh baked bread, a toffee like sweetness and a mild bitterness brought on by those quintessential English Kent Goldings hops, which provide the beer with a traditional "English style" hop finish. At 6.1% abv (alcohol by volume), I wouldn't call Hops of Brixton a session beer (though some would and I’ll admit the growler I bought went down quite easily this past weekend). It is ultimately a delicious example of an English/American ESB.
ESBs are food friendly beers and, given their pub history, work extremely well paired with pub grub like fish and chips, bangers and mash, corned beef, but they are equally happy paired with BBQ, roasted meats (lamb and pork especially), grilled sausages, English cheeses (Cheddar, Stilton, and Costwold pair particularly well) and smoked and preserved meats.