Bayou City Beer Club

Beer Review: Holler ESB

An old-school style is done really well at the Sawyer Yards brewery.

By Timothy Malcolm February 13, 2019

There's an interesting dichotomy at play at Holler Brewing Co. The brewery, located in Sawyer Yards, regularly rolls out topical beers, whether by style or by name.

For instance, currently on tap you'll find Tank U, Next, not just a nod to Ariana Grande but a New England IPA with dank hops and Hawaiian tropical aromas. You'll also find Exclusive Carveout, a more sessionable IPA playing off a term used by the Beer Alliance of Texas to describe its thoughts on craft's push for to-go beer sales. 

But then you'll also see Belgian IPA, Belgian Tripel and ESB, very old-school European styles that aren't what one calls quaffable or a juice bomb. The fact that Holler has room for the new hot thing and the older trusted thing means it's aiming to be a brewery for the people. Stop by its taproom and chat with bartenders or other drinkers, and you might just come to that conclusion without even considering beer names or styles.

So I'm happy to report that Holler holds up as both a popular hangout and a maker of quality beers across the spectrum. I found Tank U, Next to be enjoyable, and I liked the nuance in Exclusive Carveout, but I really liked what I tasted from ESB.

ESB can mean a couple things (Extra Special Bitter or English Strong Bitter), but it really just means a malty and sweet beer with a bitter finish, popular in British pubs but also strong enough to withstand being exported into other locations. Generally I want a good sipper with a little backbone and malted sweetness. 

Holler's ESB, which has been around for more than two years, is exactly that (heck, it won a Great American Beer Fest Bronze in 2017). It recreates the style with a biscuity aroma, and caramel and bread taste whose bitterness lingers a bit. When I was at Holler, it also had an ESB in cask, which for the drinker means lower carbonation and a rounder flavor. Here the subtle floral notes of the beer come out; while I'm not a big cask guy (mostly because my experience is overwhelmingly non-cask), I found an appreciation for the gentle nature of the ESB this way.

However you try it, you should. I love that Holler has an appreciation for classic European styles just as it keeps updated on trends. Sometimes I just like chilling with a proper pub pint. This works very well.

Rating: 8.7/10

Explanation of ratings: 9.5-10: as good as the best beer in America; 9-9.4: the best beer in Houston; 8-8.9: among the better beers in Houston; 7-7.9: really good beer; 6-6.9: try this beer at least once; 5-5.9: if you’re stuck, this won’t hurt; 3-4.9: among the lowest-quality beers in Houston; 0-2.9: as bad as the worst beer in America

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