Extra Special Ale (ESA) - Yards Brewing Co.

Not Rated.
Extra Special Ale (ESA)Extra Special Ale (ESA)

Educational use only; do not reuse.

603 Ratings
very good

(view ratings)
Ratings: 603
Reviews: 264
rAvg: 3.7
pDev: 12.43%
Wants: 10
Gots: 70 | FT: 0
Brewed by:
Yards Brewing Co. visit their website
Pennsylvania, United States

Style | ABV
Extra Special / Strong Bitter (ESB) |  6.30% ABV

Availability: Year-round

Notes & Commercial Description:
Beer added by: pezoids on 12-01-2001

Our first ever and most beloved brew, ESA helped establish a following for cask-conditioned beer in the United States back in the ‘90s. East Kent Golding hops give this English style ale a subtle spiciness, which compliments its strong malt backbone. Hints of chocolate and caramel round out this deep chestnut colored ale. Floral, earthy, smooth.
Beer: Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 603 | Reviews: 264
Reviews by AaronHomoya:
Photo of AaronHomoya
3.43/5  rDev -7.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Kinda small, off-white head along with fairly high carbonation. Dark amber in color and slightly cloudy. Good head retention.

Yeasty, fruity aroma with caramel malt and spicy hop smells as well.

The flavor is fruity with spicy hops, followed by a roasty malt and a hoppy finish. The finish is slightly dry.

Medium body with a light, dry finish. Refreshing with a lingering hop bitterness.

More User Reviews:
Photo of oberon
4.43/5  rDev +19.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

I reviewed this in the bottle and finally tried this out of the machine,very very nice.Poured a amber color with nice medium sticky head the aroma was nice and fruity with a chocolate background.The taste shines in this form very sweet and chocolaty up front with that fruitiness in the rear and the hop dryeness in the wonderful finish.A definent malt based beer just 10 times better on cask a great experience for a beer geek.

Photo of Fcip78
4/5  rDev +8.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Yards ESA is a Philly classic, one of the beers that got Philly on the map....The beer pours medium amber, topped with a modest white head. The head diminishes somewhat, yet retains throughout the entire pint. The aroma is perfectly malty, with some bready toastiness and some caramel notes. Tastes initially malty, toasted caramel with some biscuit notes - basically a classic bitter. A must have, especially in Philly. It is simply the beer that made Yards and Tom Kehoe famous.

Photo of merlin48
3.56/5  rDev -3.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Pours a hazed, copper amber body with a gigantic, rocky, beige, head that settles at two fingers in height after several minutes in the glass. Patch lacing is massive in effect.
Aroma features caramel malt and pine and grassy hops.
Mouthfeel is medium bodied and well carbonated, with a stinging hops bite.
Taste begins with a caramel malt sweetness that is quickly overcome by hops bitterness. Hops profile is puzzling, but assertive. Not citrusy or pine, but more of a herbal/spicy nature. This seems to have some ringwood yeast character, but maybe I'm picking up some diacetyls. Bitterness becomes acrid toward the finish, diminishing my desire to have another.
I note that this is classified as a strong bitter, and that, it is. I don't find it to be in the English style, but it's worth a try.

Photo of tigg924
3.5/5  rDev -5.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Appearance: minimal head, hazy, orange/brown in color, moderate carbonation

Smell: caramel, tea, malt, and spice

Taste: chocolate, pumpernickel bread, toasted malt, and small hops

Mouthfeel: slightly bitter with a sweet backbone, high carbonation, medium/heavy bodied.

Drinkability: A good beer that tastes like a hearty dubbel. A sipper for a cool night. Maybe one or two per session.

Photo of jakester
4/5  rDev +8.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

I got this in a trade with a friend on mine. Bottle has an expiration date blurrily printed on the bottle. 05/21/06. Seems like a long expiry for a 5.5% beer. I have had problems with Yards being spoiled in the past.

Pours a slightly hazy light amber/orange with a one finger head of off-white foam. Head eventually drops to islands and a ring. Still, there are traces of lacing all the way own.

Aroma is clean, fresh, crisp citrusy/piney hops and slightly grainy caramel malts. A little earthy and yeasty. True to style.

Tastes of earthy caramel, but crisp and refreshing, not sweet. A very nice level of hop bitterness, and some grapefruity/lemony pine needles hop flavor there as well. A good representation of the style.(ESB) This is obviously a fresh sample. Aftertaste is caramely/grainy, but pleasant. A little yeast comes through as it warms.

Mouthfeel is crisp and clean, with a moderate level of carbonation on the tongue. Finish is dry and slightly astringent, but pleasant.

I could drink this all day, if asked to. It's crisp and refreshing, with a nice hop bite. A good "session" beer.

Photo of Soonami
3.8/5  rDev +2.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Yards Extra Special Ale, is the original beer that Yards made in 1994, so it has a special significance to Philadelphia and the drinkers that call the city of Brotherly Love home. It was one of the instrumental beers that kicked off the craft beer movement here. This is a classic beer. It has a deep reddish-amber color with a long-lasting film of white foam that sticks around. The beer smells like rich caramelized malt with a earthy woody hop aroma. There is a hint of browned apple skins and lightly toasted bread. The beer tastes malty with a graininess in the front with a slightly molassess sweetness, hints of apple cider, bruised pears and then finishes a little sticky with residual sweetness and a nice herbal hop bitterness. This beer is nice and soft and with a medium-full body. I feel like there are a few defects compared to the bet ESB examples. First, the fruit quality of this beer is a bit too subdued me, and tastes slightly oxidized. The beer is probably also a little too bitter, and the bitterness is too harsh and lingers on your tongue too long, leaving weird, almost metallic aftertaste. This is a solid beer, but I can only imagine drinking this after having only light american lagers to drink for decades and then trying this!

Photo of WVbeergeek
3.53/5  rDev -4.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Appears amber ruby brown with a vibrant fluffy copper white head and I must note the marathon head retention leaves a nice trickled lace. Aroma is a full bouquet of pine cone scented hops along with tones of caramel malt underneath the hops. Taste is predominantly hops of earthy, pine cone variety with a trace of buttery caramel malt to complement the bitterness. A little off balanced just way too much hop bitterness in my book. Mouthfeel is medium bodied fluffy textured with hop resins creating a slightly oily texture in each sip. The drinkability is kicked down a notch due to the fact that the hops a tad overbearing, but overall this beer should be experienced.

Photo of WCBCFrank
3.85/5  rDev +4.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Yards ESA pours a slightly hazy amber-copper red. There are notes of malty caramel, biscuits, and cereal. Good body in the mouthfeel and finishes slightly mild. A solid bitter!

For the novice: Not to overpowering and great for social drinking.

Personally: The beer that made Yards famous for me....a long time ago I had one of these at O'Neals on South Street and was instantly hooked. ESA is a consistent beer in my fridge.

Photo of glid02
4.1/5  rDev +10.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

On-tap at Tria on 18th and Samson in Philadelphia.

Pours an amber-brown color with a one-finger tan head. The head recedes into a patchy layer on top leaving solid lacing.

Smells of grainy caramel malts with solid amounts of toastiness. Also present are hints of herbal and leafy hops.

Tastes similar to how it smells. Robust caramel and toasted malt flavors kick things off. The flavor profile dries out relatively quick as leafy hops join in shortly thereafter. The hops and toasted malt flavors carry through to a moderately bitter ending.

Mouthfeel is good. It's got a nice thickness with smooth carbonation.

Drinkability is very good. I finished my glass quickly and could easily have a few more.

Overall this beer is on the higher end of the ABV spectrum for an ESB but at least it leads to a robust and full-flavored beer for the style. Worth a shot.

Photo of rhoadsrage
3.46/5  rDev -6.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

(Served in an American pint glass)
A- This beer has a deep amber brown slightly dense body with strands of carbonation gliding to the surface in slow motion. There is a beige bubbly head that turns creamy.
S- This beer has a soft malt flavor with a light toast note when it is warm and a soft dry hop finish.
T- There is a soft toasted malt note with soft roasted bite with a slight tartness in the finish. There is a soft hop bitterness that becomes pungent and lingers a bit after each sip.
M- This beer has a medium-full mouthfeel with no alcohol heat.
D- This beer is a smooth drink with nice but soft flavors. The tart hops come through as the beer warms but the malt stays soft.

Photo of pwoods
3.7/5  rDev 0%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

Big thanks to NJpadreFan for this brew!

12oz. brown bottle poured into an imperial pint.

A: Pours a deep, ruddy amber. A short head on the pour without much retention. Decent lacing, though.

S: A little bit of English hopping, floral and grassy. There's a nice sweetness that is faint but rich at the same time. Very caramelly and maybe a deep as a light molasses. Odd but intriguing.

T/M: The sweetness doesn't have the depth of molasses in the taste but definitely a darker caramel that is controlled. The hops don't really come through too much. Body is medium to medium full with smooth carbonation.

D: Manageable ABV and tasty. Definitely some odd flavors for the style... pretty dark, lower hop profile, lower than average carbonation(for a bottled ES bitter), and the sweetness is a bit deep for the style, even though it's not overly sweet. It kind of sucks to take points off a tasty beer because it's too far out of style.

Photo of Jeffreysan
3.57/5  rDev -3.5%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.5

12 oz bottle poured into a pint glass

Appearance: Pours a gorgeous dark caramel/brown color with a quarter of a finger of white-colored head that disappeared into a thin lacing of foam that covered the entirety of the top of the beer.

Aroma: Very malty with some slight roasty notes too. Very bready, with some slight herbal notes.

Taste: Slight malt flavors in the front, followed by a hoppy finish, but not too hoppy. Some good caramel notes too, but overall a little thin in the flavor. Not impressed.

Mouthfeel: Medium. The beer is slightly smooth, with some good carbonation to tickle the tastebuds.

Overall: This is a pretty good beer, but not one of my favorite beers from yards. I much prefer the Tavern Ale, Tavern Spruce and George Washington Tavern Porter over this ESA.

Photo of BittRnessabounds
3.5/5  rDev -5.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Nice looking almost bourbon colored ale with modest slightly off-white head. All slightly obscured by condensation on my glass. Subtle smell that starts with hops, and as I inhale aroma turns to malt and perhaps slight alcohol note. Nothing over powering, all pretty subtle. Nice smooth taste dominated by the malt, again nothing really jumps out. Very smooth very drinkable beer with good mouthfeel. All in all this is a solid ale. However, nothing dominates or emphasizing any aspect of the beer. I'm guessing Yards designed this ale to be their standard gateway ale. It seems as though they were less interested in making a quality ESB, but instead were trying to turn an ESB into an American amber ale. The results are good, but not by any means spectacular.

Photo of watermelonman
4.04/5  rDev +9.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

This poured to a nice brown and amber color, with a small head that lasted well. The lacing is very minor.

The smell is very good, with hefty malt content and great smoothness. Some of that smoothness is lost in the taste and mouthfeel, but good flavors remain. The taste adds caramel and a light hint of nuts to the malt. Hop content is mild and pleasing.

Photo of mdaschaf
3.61/5  rDev -2.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

A: Pours a clear brown with with a two finger, tan foamy head. Reduced to about 1/2 finger of dense foam which lasts for the rest of the time drinking the beer. Thick lacing left behind.

S: Some caramelized malt, some nuts, and a touch of toffee. There is a hint of some spice as well.

T: Hearty malt bill on this one. Some bready malt upfront with some caramel afterwards that gives a bit of sweetness. A little bit of hop bitterness on the finish.

M: Medium bodied with medium carbonation. Pretty smooth, clean drinking, slightly dry finish.

O: Pretty good beer, heavy on malt as it should be. Not incredibly drinkable, but tasty nonetheless.

D: Tasty, goes down easily, not too filling, decent kick, good representation of style, although there are better beers in the style, this is still a solid beer worth drinking for a while.

Photo of NJpadreFan
4.5/5  rDev +21.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Yards- Extra Special

Appearance- Reddish copper with a thick lacing head.
Smell- Malt and cherries?!
Taste- Big malt flavor, like it was slighty toasted and I detect a sweet cherry flavor balancing it all out. Slight oak undertones.
Mouthfeel- Thick and smooth. Big flavor that makes you take big gulps.

Overall- Man, this was good. I drank it in 7 or 8 gulps! This goes into my top 10 easily!!

Photo of jmz62565
4.05/5  rDev +9.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

This pours a reddish coppery color with a two finger off-white head.The smell is pretty strong with a 'bisquity' aroma and some fruit,apples? The taste has a definite hop feel that mellows the malt,but leaves a nice sweetness.The m/f is light and very well balanced. This is a very good beer. I was once down on Yards,but I've changed my mind.Good job.

Photo of emsroth
4.06/5  rDev +9.7%
look: 3 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12oz bottle with no date

App: Chestnut brown with small, frothy tan head

Smell: Equal parts hops and malt. The malt is caramel, roasty and nutty. The hops are dank and fruity.

Taste: Greeted by a roasty, nutty flavor. Next comes the alcohol and a slight coffee bitterness. The flavor then dies down and a lingering bitterness appears on the palette. Not something I love, but it's a good tasting beer. The bitterness is excellently balanced between the roasty malt bitterness and hop bitterness. Definitely a piney, resinous hop flavor; it's sweet but has an earthy, herbal flavor.

A medium bodied brew with crisp, small bubbled carbonation.

Definitely a very sessionable brew despite the abv

Photo of Sammy
3.73/5  rDev +0.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Fresh bottle from Super Buy Right. Extremely generous off white head on a golden body. Creamy, yeasty on English hops. Great drinkability. Drying finish. Not the style bang on, but a good Englished up ale.Above average mouthfeel. Satisfying, and good by itself or with food.

Photo of tweeder263
3.4/5  rDev -8.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Pours out a dark amber brewski with a 2 finger head.Smells sweet with a nice hop aroma.Tastes a bit dry with bitter hops thrown in,,not horrible but could be rounded out a little bit better.Mouthfeel is ok. A drinkable beer,but i expected better ,,maybe another one of their styles ill try a few more yards.

Photo of NeroFiddled
4.35/5  rDev +17.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Yards ESA shines on draft, and a fresh cask or keg can can deliver a marvelous pint that draws you back again and again! This dark amber/copper ale reveals slightly-hazy orange highlights when held to the light, and a creamy dollop of short but long-lasting off-white froth atop. Bright, grassy, leafy, and floral hops greet you in the nose along with the signature Yards fruit and mineral yeastiness and wafts of hop-laced, caramel-accented malt. It's smooth across the palate with a medium body and a delicately zesty, gently restrained carbonation. Fruitiness and malt combine upfront in the flavor before it becomes a bit more complex as the leafy/grassy/floral hop flavors and a solid bitterness arrive to dry things out. It's not overly complex, but this is not a one-sided beer by any means, and that leads to a great drinkability. When it's on, it's on! And it's always worth the price of admission to see if you've found your pint for the night! Always delicious and sometimes brilliant, this is a slightly strong session-ale that's not to be missed!

Photo of socon67
3.6/5  rDev -2.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

A - Amber pour with a biege foam. Clumps of lacing around the pint glass. Foam retains well.

S - Smells of caramel malt, spices, and a little hoppy scent.

T - Flavors of caramel, light malts, and brown sugar. Finish has a mild bitterness. As with all the Yards beers I've had, this is a surprisingly complex beer.

M - Very sessionable. Light bodied, and has a raspy bite in the finish. Nothing fancy; just a light feeling ESB that starts sweet and ends bitter.]

O - If I had the option of Yards on Long Island I'd be happy. A nice craft beer that could eaily lure the BMC crowd.

Photo of tempest
3.85/5  rDev +4.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Thanks to leftmindedrighty for the trade.

Overall a good, standard ESB. Or at least it tastes like the other ESBs, like MA's Old Macus, I've tried. Mildly fruity malts with herbal hops. A very smooth mouthfeel, if you're in a british sort of mood, this is a good go-to beer. Another fine beer from Pennslyvania.

Photo of beerluvr
4.25/5  rDev +14.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Slight medium tan head settles over clear amber tinged reddish liquid. Excellent classic ESB nose: biscuity/sweet malt and fresh hoppiness balanced to perfection. The taste was more hoppy than malty sweet, the dryness of the hops really compliments the malt base. The complex flavors were all the more complex on this cask version. Finished long and bittersweet.

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Extra Special Ale (ESA) from Yards Brewing Co.
84 out of 100 based on 603 ratings.