North End had me hooked from the first promo of their new “Ancestral Range” of classic-style beers featuring The Bitter Sea ESB. (The others in the Ancestral Range are The Lash, an export stout, and their Iron Sands Oat Rye Stout has just been rebranded as part of the family). I’ve got a particular leaning towards Extra Special Bitter with Townshend’s version being my first love in terms of New Zealand-brewed variations of this style, and Galbraith’s Bellringer sitting close by. Well the podium is complete now because this is in my top three easily. ESB won’t be everyone’s cuppa tea. The colour (ruby red), the hop profile (Fuggles, East Kent Golding), the crystal malts (so out of vogue right now it seems) make this as far removed from an on-trend hazy pale ale as it’s possible to be. But lord, it’s yum. I took one out of the fridge and it disappeared so fast I immediately grabbed the second, which I’d been meaning to keep for another day. In all honesty, I felt I could have sat on this all night, chugging away quite happily on this 4.7 per cent belter. My only regret is that I ordered only two. I’m going back for more, so get in quick. It’s stylistically accurate as you’d expect from North End and it’s a reminder that great beer doesn’t need to be tricked up.

north end bitter sea