A traditional English-style pub ale, Earnscliffe ESB from Dominion City Brewing Company in Ottawa, Ontario pours a steely, ruby-brown colour with a small off-white head that remains as a persistent collar throughout your glass. The smell of roasted chocolate malt blends with aromas of caramel and tea biscuit to create a sturdy base, on top of which are deep plum and raisin notes, along with woody hints of pine and cedar.
Chocolate and dark toffee flavours anchor Earnscliffe ESB. The taste of plum and raisin is joined by a vinous and slightly sour grape tone that transitions to a lighter grape jelly-like character in the finish. This ale’s bitterness is spot-on and leads to a dry aftertaste with notes of chocolate and pepper. A full body and low amount of carbonation give the brew an authentic English pub feel.
Earnscliffe ESB is named for a Victorian manor in perched on an “eagle’s cliff” in lower Ottawa that once served as the home to Sir John A. McDonald. The included card is primarily purple and depicts a partial portrait of Canada’s first Prime Minister with the wording printed on thick black lines reminiscent of electrical tape. The card also has a description of the beer, along with pertinent technical information.
I consider Earnscliffe ESB an outstanding example of the style and I’d happily drink it on any occasion at any time of year. The brewers hit all the right notes without getting fancy and created a beer with all the fruitiness you’d expect from the industry standard (Fuller’s) with some added weight in the malt base.
Earnscliffe ESB was a limited release in October 2014 and at the time of review was still available at the brewery and at select licensees around Ottawa. While I don’t normally review one-off beers, I’ve been informed that the brewery intends to bring it back next year as a fall seasonal.
Type: Extra Special Bitter (ESB)
Region: Ontario, Ottawa
Brewery: Dominion City Brewing Company
Format Purchased: 750 mL
Price: $11.50 (including $4 deposit)
Alcohol Content: 5.5%