5 out of 5 Hops...just because
What better excuse to drink two beers than with two interpretations of the same style? Redhook ESB was an early favorite of mine when I began drinking craft beers. It's also one of my go-to beers in a pinch that is readily available here in Washington. Fuller's produces amazing English Beers that are available in the U.S. On to the comparison! ESB stands for Extra Special Bitter, which is a descendant of English Bitter/Pale Ale. The Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) has guidelines that break down the elements of each beer style. I basically see ESB as an ale with more hop, malt, and alcohol than a Pale Ale. There are more breweries doing ESB's now, but these two have always served as gauges for my comparisons.
First off, my old friend, Redhook ESB. This is a 5.8%, 28 IBU brew. It has a toasted malt nose with light hints of hop. The taste is malty but the moderate bitterness takes over right away. Hops used are "Alchemy Hops"(proprietary blend:Warrior and Millenium?) and Willamette for bittering, Centennial and Crystal for flavor/aroma. Clean finish, malty aftertaste with some hop.
Next is the Fullers ESB from England. This would be the more "original" style, but to each their own. The aroma is more noticeable and has a toffee/candy/fruity smell. Uniquely Yummy. The other Fullers "London Pride" has a similar aroma; yeast, I presume, combined with the grains. The taste is malty delicious and a slight oily finish. The beer has a very full bodied mouthfeel to it..if that makes sense..not watery in texture;thick and chewy. English Hops used are Target (bittering), Challenger(flavor/aroma), Northdown(flavor/aroma), and Goldings(flavor/aroma/dryhop)..same blend as their Bitters but add the Goldings. ABV is 5.9% and IBU is a rumored 35; which is remarkable since the Fullers tastes less hoppy. Definitely an English beer. Carbonation and aroma may seem very foreign at first, but give it a chance.
I won't go so far as to say one is better than the other. Like any style, each brewery interprets. I say try em both and see what you think. Redhook is very common in the West, and Fullers has a large distribution in the US. Let me know what you think!