Splash of Red | Temperance Beer Co.
Some beer styles have a long brewing history attached to them. Like hundreds of years. Shockingly, the Extra Special Bitter (ESB) isn’t one of them. First brewed in 1969 in London by Fuller, Smith & Turner, their Fuller’s ESB subsequently went on to win numerous awards, including Champion Beer of Britain three times. Naturally, American breweries started to brew the style, one which I always would rather have from a cask engine rather than on CO2 draught. Temperance, makers of a pretty damn good ESB in Smittytown, decided to go a different direction with Splash of Red.
Splash of Red starts life as an ESB (assumedly as Smittytown) to which Metric cold brewed coffee and tart cherry puree is added. While the adjunct choices seem a bit off, when looking back on the origin of the beer, it makes sense. Splash of Red was first brewed in collaboration with Bitter Pops for their 2020 advent calendar and packaged in 12 ounce cans. It subsequently graduated out of its advent calendar prison to a limited seasonal release, usually coming out in late October or early November. It also broke free of its 12 ounce shackles, as this year’s version comes in 16 ounce cans for the first time.
Splash of Red pours a red and copper color. Three fingers of big bubbled white head forms that slowly recedes to a half finger sitting atop the beer. No haze detected, as I can clearly see my finger on the other side of the glass. Somewhat surprisingly (thanks craft beer culture), Splash of Red actually smells closer to an ESB as opposed to some coffee/cherry bomb. While a whiff of tart cherries and a faint coffee note show up, it’s mostly bready notes, malt sweetness, and a slight grassy and floral hop aroma. The cherry and roast notes only show up after repeated sniffs. I came back to smell it after about a minute and the ESB-ness was extremely prominent.
Splash of Red starts off as a typical ESB upon sipping – light bready notes combined with a fairly significant bitter finish. I’m not talking about an IBU bomb or anything like that, but enough bitterness to put off those that love hazy IPAs and the ilk exclusively. Then things start to happen. Some coffee roast appears on the sides of your tongue. A wisp of tart cherry near the end of the sip. Even some light chocolate notes show up somehow. The taste matches the aroma exactly. Splash of Red is an ESB first and foremost while the cherry puree and cold brew coffee provide subtle support. As we like to say on the show, it’s a grower.
At no point does Splash of Red go overboard on either the cherries or coffee. The most prominent spot for the roasty coffee comes after the sip, when some of that roast hangs around with the bitterness. I’d say it leans more toward a grassy bitterness, but even the bitterness doesn’t have many distinctive properties. It’s just bitter. The medium mouthfeel across the tongue only makes drinking it more satisfying.
I’m torn on Splash of Red. On one hand, I like that it still retains its ESB-ness while adding a very little amount of cherry and coffee flavors. While I don’t want it to go smoothie-style on the adjuncts, a bit more cherry and coffee would go a long way to adding a bit more kick and interestingness to the beer. Fans of English style beers will enjoy this take even with the adjuncts. Those looking for over-the-top flavors should look elsewhere.