I sampled a number of beers this weekend (some new, some familiar). Among them, Redhook's famous ESB (mostly because I was visiting The Folks, and my mother loves their ESB).
The AHA guidelines for the ESB are pretty clear: 30-55 IBU, and medium to strong hop aroma and bitterness. I'm no beer judge, but I would swear that the flavor profile of the ESB falls more into the American Brown category: Slightly lower bitterness, more malt character, slight caramel tones. ESB, after all, stands for "Extra Special Bitter."
I realize that commercial breweries are under pressure to make wifely palatable beers, but if your attempt to create a beer that everyone likes, and in that attempt you manage to change styles, you should rename your damn style. I'm tired of explaining to people what a real ESB tastes like, and why Redhook's isn't.
That said, it is a pretty good beer.
Come hell or high fucking water, I'm going to brew this weekend. We're going to taste the beers that have been sitting down there for months, and probably throw them out. We're going to brew a good pale ale. Next week the plan is to start in on the Nanobrew and, at the very least, gather all the equipment necessary to brew a one-gallon batch in my kitchen. Geekbeer will spin up again after this long hiatus.
Even if you don't care, I do. It's my god damned PASSION.