Gibb's Hundred Guilty Party ESB
Every time I go to England, I’m curious to see the British take on American-style craft beers. There are some impressive efforts to replicate West Coast hoppy IPAs and APAs, yet there are still some characteristics of British brewing that almost always make their way into these brews, for better or for worse. It’s the classic “bitter”. That marriage of dry biscuit maltiness and dried fruit is so ubiquitous it’s hard to avoid across the pond. When I saw that a local Greensboro brewery tried their hand at an unfiltered, unpasteurized ESB, I had to have it.
Beer: The Guilty Party
Brewery: Gibb’s Hundred Brewing Company
Country: Greensboro, NC, USA
Style: English Strong Bitter
Beerlandia Advisory: Here, there be floaters. And that’s okay!
If you’ve never had an unpasteurized cask conditioned bitter, you may notice one thing before anything else: floaters. It may be alarming to see chunks of white stuff floating around in your beer, but I can assure you, this is true to style. It’s simply yeast that has settled out of the beer, which is usually not filtered in cask conditioned ales. The Guilty Party is no different. The dark copper brown, thin cream head, and even lacing all demonstrate that Gibb’s knew what they were doing.
The aroma of the ESB is something I didn’t really appreciate my first time around. The dry, biscuity scent initially seems so acrid and musty that one may wonder if they made the right choice. The Guilty Party has these notes as well, but there’s more to it than that. Underneath these near-opaque malty layers there are some dried fruit and floral notes that have piqued my curiosity. Overall, the aroma is well-balanced and more enticing than many a bitter I’ve had on tap.
I have to applaud Gibb’s on both the beer they’ve created and also how well they described it on the can. It’s sometimes painful to watch certain craft breweries go after millennials with what one may call pretentious wank promising a “bold beer for a bold lifestyle” or some other crap that doesn’t even describe the flavor profile of the beer. Gibb’s made my job easy:
Pleasingly full-bodied, it achieves a nice balance of caramel, nutty, biscuity maltiness, and smooth but assertive bitterness. The premium English and Belgian malt comes through nicely in the nose, along with floral Indie Golding hops, and a wonderful fruitiness from the traditional English yeast.
And so it is.
True to style
I usually gravitate to more light to medium-bodied beers that go down easily, crisp and cold. This is not that. The toffee sweetness and solid bready base propagate a full-body syrupyness that, while not what I usually go for, is an enjoyable change of pace. This bold mouthfeel works well with the musky bitterness and caramel yin/yang relationship. If you get this beer only slightly cool, you’re setting yourself up for an authentic cellar-cool, unfiltered ESB experience in the convenience of a can.