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Extra Special Ale (ESA) - Yards Brewing Co.

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

Displayed for educational use only; do not reuse.
BA SCORE
84
good

568 Ratings
THE BROS
85
very good

(view ratings)
Ratings: 568
Reviews: 262
rAvg: 3.71
pDev: 12.67%
Wants: 8
Gots: 44 | 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:
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 added by: pezoids on 12-01-2001)
Beer: Ratings & Reviews
Sort by:  Usefulness | Recent | High | Low | Top Raters | Read the Alström Bros Beer Reviews and Beer Ratings of Extra Special Ale (ESA) Alström Bros
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Ratings: 568 | Reviews: 262 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of vonburgey
5/5  rDev +34.8%

vonburgey, Nov 17, 2011
Photo of RnRManifesto
5/5  rDev +34.8%

RnRManifesto, Jul 28, 2013
Photo of Pharkle
5/5  rDev +34.8%

Pharkle, Dec 16, 2011
Photo of jennib1
5/5  rDev +34.8%

jennib1, Jul 07, 2013
Photo of mquinn919
5/5  rDev +34.8%

mquinn919, Jan 21, 2012
Photo of dwoolley1
5/5  rDev +34.8%

dwoolley1, Dec 03, 2011
Photo of pezoids
4.9/5  rDev +32.1%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

This was supposedly the first batch of ESA from their new brewery in Philadelphia and The Grey Lodge Pub had a conditioned cask of this beer. I had the second pint poured from it and I must say that it was truly awesome. Very creamy, murky brown color, creamy white head with a subtle malty aroma and dryness. Hints of chocolate. Spicy hop flavor which blends very well with the malts. The nearly six and a half percent alcohol content is really subdued in the flavor. Those pints were some of the best beer I have ever tasted. I have also had this beer in bottles - bought directly
from their brewery and they were excellent as well.
This is definitely a very special ale.

pezoids, Sep 08, 2002
Photo of UnionMade
4.88/5  rDev +31.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

The beer pours medium orangey amber, topped with a modest ivory head. The head diminishes somewhat, yet retains throughout the entire pint. Great cobwebby lacing.
The aroma is malty, with some toastiness and a very light caramel. Some biscuity aroma, with moderate, fruity esters. Hints of pear, cidery apple, and a suggestion of white grape. Mild hopping, mostly a light (fuggles?) citric aroma. Fantastic ESB aroma, with sweet malt and mild fruitiness.
The flavor is initially malty, with pronounced toasted flavor, light caramel malt, and perhaps some crystal. Some biscuity malt comes through in the middle with moderate floral/fruity esters. Light pear, cider, and apricot flavor. Hops come through lightly in the middle, adding a tanginess, building steam to provide some citric bitterness to the finish. Some white grape flavor, with a touch of yeast. Slight biscuit and white grape flavor in the aftertaste, which lingers and demands another sip. Mild, british carbonation, with a medium to full body. Absolutely superb.
A traditional english ale with complexity and flavor that really stands out from the crowd. One of the best versions of an ESB made in the US, I think. I can't begin to imagine how good this beer would be when served cask conditioned.

UnionMade, Oct 07, 2003
Photo of dennarb
4.8/5  rDev +29.4%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

I had some Yards ESA today hand pumped at Standard Tap. It had a solid finger plus head and a clean red amber color. The first taste was good but the last was exceptional. Lots of malt beautifully complements the tangy hops. I am definitely going back for more.

dennarb, Apr 06, 2008
Photo of JeffTheJuice
4.75/5  rDev +28%

JeffTheJuice, May 22, 2012
Photo of clickpush
4.68/5  rDev +26.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Beautiful amber hue, bordering on ruby. Tight sticky cap of lace that hangs around until it's sucked in. Sticks to glass w every sip. Constant coat of lace an halo.
Soft & subtle aroma, slightly roasted and plenty of floral hops. Touch on tanginess... Citrus essence.
Gentle carbonation. Tons of subtle flavors: bittering hops, somewhat bitter. Lingering roast flavored finish. Lemon peel (citrus oils).

This is one of my favorite beers. Ever. At least on cask...

clickpush, Jan 08, 2011
Photo of diddith
4.65/5  rDev +25.3%

diddith, Oct 20, 2014
Photo of nomad
4.55/5  rDev +22.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

In honor of Fergie's, Monk's, the Standard Tap, Grey Lodge, and other fine Philly bars that regularly have this beer on cask. Thank you for this offering, which comforts me week in and week out in my acclimation to this new hometown.

It takes awhile for this sweet thang to calm down after a brisk pump from a cask. Ruddy shades of brown, red, and copper appear, with a tough head that never goes away, and likes to leave stain and lace behind that would make you think it was a nitro pour. In a sturdy pint glass, as most of Philly's finest tend to serve it, this beer looks right proper.

It's a world of fresh odors down the chute that keeps on shrinking down: caramel, toffee, rose water, dried flowers, lemony herbs, a husky hop leaf reminiscent of grapefruit turned grainy, and a faint biscuit sometimes.

Simply put, its like an even, hand-crafted mix of English malts with minty herbal hop flavors washing over. As a lover of ESB's, its very tough to find a good ESB with decent availability on the market, and thats speaking of bottles. Even harder is a draught special bitter, with those fresh, sturdy, but delectable flavors of caramelly malt and refined hops. Easy to drink, as it won't be too largely this or that. Equitable, balanced, and quietly complex, like it should be. The style of ESB is not an American big flavor monster - so don't expect it to be!

A rare item: a regularly available real ale patterned after the originators in England. If you don't understand it, well, that's a shame. If you'd like to, go to Fergie's Pub at 13th and Sansom in Philadelphia, PA where its the cheapest and best beer on draught. Well-appreciated.

nomad, Jan 25, 2004
Photo of Lookingloo2
4.52/5  rDev +21.8%

Lookingloo2, Aug 17, 2014
Photo of NJpadreFan
4.5/5  rDev +21.3%
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!!

NJpadreFan, Aug 15, 2006
Photo of dmmcgove
4.5/5  rDev +21.3%

dmmcgove, Oct 06, 2012
Photo of Elfastball7
4.5/5  rDev +21.3%

Elfastball7, Jan 27, 2012
Photo of FlakyBiscuit
4.5/5  rDev +21.3%

FlakyBiscuit, Nov 02, 2012
Photo of chicagoish
4.5/5  rDev +21.3%

chicagoish, Nov 08, 2013
Photo of GratefulJack
4.5/5  rDev +21.3%

GratefulJack, Mar 06, 2013
Photo of robdip9
4.5/5  rDev +21.3%

robdip9, Jun 11, 2013
Photo of ChefSean
4.5/5  rDev +21.3%

ChefSean, Aug 07, 2012
Photo of francisweizen
4.5/5  rDev +21.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

On cask at several Philly bars over the past few months (Standard Tap, McMenamins, Etc...). Dark amber and slightly muddy in appearance with an unusually fluffy head for a cask brew. The aromas are all sweet UK bready malts and some nice UK hopping is in use here as well. The taste is lovely with a sweet maltiness in the foreground and a slightly nutty hopiness in the background. The mouthfeel is cask greatness and the drinkability is great as well. One of the best non-UK sessions beers I have ever tasted!

francisweizen, Feb 28, 2005
Photo of oberon
4.47/5  rDev +20.5%
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.

oberon, Jul 31, 2003
Photo of number1bum
4.47/5  rDev +20.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Previously had this beer about 2 years ago and thought it was decent, but it was right before they stopped brewing for awhile amidst some ownership or other changes. Trying it again from a mixed case.

Pours a reddish dark copper color with about a finger and a half of tan head. Keeps a full but somewhat thin lace, and leaves a ring or two of stick.

Smell is quite fruity and floral, with some buttery caramel and toffee as well. This is pretty much exactly what I think an ESB ought to smell like; it's pungent and very pleasant.

Taste is every bit as good. Great toffee and caramel flavor, with a dark, almost chocolaty malt flavor as well. Subtle buttery quality. Floral, fruity hops as well. Some hop bitterness in the finish too. Extremely smooth and well put together, and full of flavor.

Mouthfeel is a very creamy medium body, with a nice slickness to it. Carbonation is on the soft side and I can imagine that this beer is an absolute beauty on cask. Has a dryness in the finish too, with the hop bitterness.

I must say that this is a ton better than I remember it from my previous sampling. Lots of flavor and very well balanced and smooth. This is an outstanding ESB and I would actually buy a case of this, which is saying something because there are very few beers I'd want a whole case of at a time. Great session beer. Worth seeking out.

number1bum, Jan 05, 2010
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Extra Special Ale (ESA) from Yards Brewing Co.
84 out of 100 based on 568 ratings.