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Extra Special Ale (ESA) - Yards Brewing Co.

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

Educational use only; do not reuse.
BA SCORE
85
very good

263 Reviews
THE BROS
-
no score

(Send Samples)
Reviews: 263
Hads: 612
rAvg: 3.76
pDev: 11.17%
Wants: 10
Gots: 76 | 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: Reviews & Ratings
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Reviews: 263 | Hads: 612
Photo of metter98
3.68/5  rDev -2.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

A: The beer is very dark reddish amber in color and has a moderate amount of visible carbonation. It poured with a finger high light beige head that gradually died down, leaving a thin head covering the surface and lots of lacing down the sides of the glass.
S: Light aromas of herbal hops and earthy yeast are present in the nose.
T: The taste is similar to the smell, except that the malts impart light amounts of toasted malt flavors and faint hints of sweetness while the hops lend a very slight amount of bitterness.
M: It feels a bit more than light-bodied on the palate and has a moderate amount of carbonation.
O: This beer is very easy to drink and seems to have a good balance between the malts and hops. (714 characters)

Photo of WissBrauSean
3.71/5  rDev -1.3%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

I poured this beer at about 55 degrees F from a bottle into a standard pint and it has a very deep amber to mahogany colour that is crystal clear with a one finger tan head of super fine bubbles that stay as a nice thin cap on the beer and leave and excellent dragon tooth pattern on the glass.

The aroma is of toasted malts, bread, and raisins with a faint whiff of corn in the background. I could be confusing that with something else, but it resembles corn. It's really pleasant considering.

The taste starts off sweet on the tongue and as it travels back it releases dark fruits with bread and as the beer comes to a close hop bitters that seem earthy to me coat the tongue and the back of the tongue where some spicy black pepper comes through leaving a mild but dry end to the beer that seems slightly more bitter than some ESAs. And if you wait long enough, you will taste a medicinal taste like Band-Aid's smell or like pine sol. It's very faint, but I see what people are talking about. That may be the hops. Interesting. It's like a band-aid on my tongue. I'm not sure that I like that.

The mouthfeel is a bit silky and sweet with a medium body, but it leaves a coat on my tongue that is a product of the dry hops I am assuming. The carbonation is around moderate.

Overall, I am not too happy with this beer. It's good, don't get me wrong, but don't think I will seek this out in bottle again. I have had this on tap and it was a different experience. A much better one. The corn aroma and the Band_Aid flavours really put me off as well as it was a bit too bitter for my taste and, I feel, the style if indeed it is an Extra Special/Strong Ale. I will still give it a mid to high 3's out of five. It's not crap, but it's just not for me. (1,752 characters)

Photo of tone77
3.37/5  rDev -10.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Poured from a brown 12 oz. bottle. Has a bronze color with a 1/2 inch head. Smell is mild, a bit of malts. Taste is well balanced malts an hops, a bit light, easy drinking but just seems to be lacking any punch. Feels medium bodied in the mouth and overall is a decent beer, but nothing great. (293 characters)

Photo of mooseo
3.78/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

12oz bottle into tulip.

A - Dark brown-mahogany with a small off-white head.

S - Sweet toasted malt, light dark fruit, nuts, and herbal spice.

T - Bready and nutty malts, earthy hops, and subtle dark fruit. Caramel, yeast, and slight spice. A tad bitter on the finish, with more toasted grain and nuttiness coming through.

M - Exceptionally smooth and silky. Medium body, average carbonation, somewhat dry finish.

O - This is a nice beer full of malty goodness. A slight bitter hop character tames the sweetness. Very soft mouthfeel. A good beer to sit back and relax with. It would be easy to drink a few of these in one sitting. (636 characters)

Photo of mactrail
3.01/5  rDev -19.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

Large and malty. Great big flavors of juniper, resins, dank malt. Tastes like it's been sweetened and spiced, like some kind of holiday grog. Tastes good at first sip, but gets weirder as you drink.

Served in a big English imperial pint nonic. Pulled from the fake hand pump. Plenty of carbonation and a nice sudsy foam, with lots of lacing in the glass. No aroma to speak of. Winey and tastes like some new kind of Long Island Iced Tea. On the cask at Local 44 in Philadelphia. Interesting but I don't get it. [Transcribed from notes written on 05/30/2012 visit.] (565 characters)

Photo of garuda
4.03/5  rDev +7.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

A - Deep copper, hazed, white cap has good retention with some lace.

S/T - Sweet bready caramel, toasted malt base balanced out with some bittering pine hops in the finish. Touch of spice.

M - Medium body, lower carb level, stays smooth, finishes clean.

O - Nicely brewed to style, easily drinkable, pleasant flavors. (320 characters)

Photo of DrinkSlurm
4.04/5  rDev +7.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Poured from cask into standard pint glass at standard tap in Philadelphia. Pours a nice see through brown golden with creamy head. It looks awesome...but how can a brew poured from an engine look bad...
Smell is strong noble hop and nice sweet malt. Taste is smooth easy hop and malt. So smooth and drinkable. Really nice brew on cask. Just not sure how it would translate to bottle...very worth it from cask. (409 characters)

Photo of gr0g
3.13/5  rDev -16.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.25

Review from notes taken on 01/15/2012.

Dark mahogany in color with a one-finger white head. Some lace curtains are left behind. Aroma is primarily of caramel and toffee notes from the malt, while a floral hop note backs them up.

Toffee malt and fruity esters on the palate. Hops contribute a a pronounced bitterness, but one that's well below IPA levels. A slight solvent presence on the finish detracts from the experience. I think I'd pay a little extra and pick up some Fuller's ESB over this. (498 characters)

Photo of cbutova
3.67/5  rDev -2.4%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Had a few bottles of this out of my variety case so far. Yards is a solid brewery most definitely.

A- Poured into a pint glass with a very dark red, brown-looking body. A small light tan head forms to about a finger in size with decent retention. The foamy, creamy cap ends up with nice thick ring leaving nice webs of fairly thick lace.

S- This beer certainly has the feel of an English Ale. An interesting toasty, nutty and roasted malt profile is inviting. The yeast gives a nice dark fruit aroma along with bread and spice notes.

T- Fairly malty and yeast forward here too but the hops join in on it all. Dark fruits with a very slight medicinal taste are the main flavor I get along with a mix of yeast bread, spices, raisin, toast, roasted malts and some buttery caramel malts. Hops give off that European herbal, spicy and floral taste.

MF- Moderately thick body with a creamy and smooth overall consistency. Moderate level of carbonation with a silky feel. Slight spicy bitterness on the palate in the finish.

A fairly solid ESA/B but the dark fruit seems to get a bit more medicinal feeling than I would like it to be towards the end of the experience. Still another addition to a solid Yards lineup from what I have tasted. (1,238 characters)

Photo of SolipsismalCat
3.53/5  rDev -6.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Poured into a pint glass.

A: Clear dark amber with one-and-a-half-finger, off-white, creamy, foamy head that lasted several minutes and left a nice film. Pretty good lacing.

S: Caramel malt and a hint of dark fruit.

T: Light sweetness and light to moderate bitterness. Toasted malt. Light butter and nut flavor.

M: Medium bodied with fizzy carbonation. Slightly smooth.

O: Pretty good ESB. Looks nice in the glass and has the right flavor. A bit mild though. (463 characters)

Photo of barczar
3.53/5  rDev -6.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Pours a clear deep amber with a frothy half inch cream head that dissipates slowly, leaving spotty lacing.

Deeply toasted malt, dark fruit, and caramel form the initial aroma. Nuttiness, a touch of roast, and earthy and floral hops round out the profile.

Floral hops abound in the flavor, carrying throughout, into an earthy, fairly bitter finish. A backbone of toasted malt ties in with fruity esters and a minerally character, adding complexity.

Body is moderate to full, with moderate carbonation and noticeable alcohol warmth. There's a bit of astringency at the finish.

Kind of an odd combination, with fruity esters and floral hops really dominating. Don't think I've had a beer with more floral hop flavor. The minerally quality and pretty bitter finish make things even weirder. (790 characters)

Photo of Electros
4.15/5  rDev +10.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Penn State is different, even coming from Canada, when it comes to beer sales. I picked up a 2-4 mixed, and actually, it was a sound investment for the hotel after Sesame Place. LOL.

Honestly, all of there beers were steller including this one. Colour, taste, smell, and mouth feel I wouldn't put at a traditional ESB (British), but for a American take, 'pretty spot on eh'. This had a great balance of the malt and hops as per par, and for most British ESB's in the 5% - 3.5% range, at 6%, they hid this very well! (516 characters)

Photo of Skepticalfriend
3.42/5  rDev -9%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

A hint of staleness, but the flavor grows on you. There's an interesting tangy-ness. In the first one I drank, it seemed stronger. Maybe it's what I was eating. Airy bitterness on the finish. Lingers nicely. Tangy-ness yes, but very little sweetness - which is something I like. First drinks felt flat, but then it got a bit more body. Do beers change like wine after they're open? (381 characters)

Photo of socon67
3.6/5  rDev -4.3%
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. (583 characters)

Photo of TheMultiYeast
3.66/5  rDev -2.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Pours clear amber with a big honkin head. Great layers of lacing down the glass.

Smell is sweet, figgy, strangely metallic...

Taste is also metallic, grassy, sweet again, overripe dark fruit, quick bitter jab at the end.

Substantial brew but not my favorite from Yards. (272 characters)

Photo of larryi86
3.96/5  rDev +5.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

12 oz bottle poured into a pint glass

A- A Dark copper color with a two finger off-white head.

S- Floral and earthy hops, toasted malts, some caramel malts, a little weak.

T- Again floral and earthy hops in the finish with a touch of dark fruits, toasted malts, caramel malts, roasted notes, much bolder than the nose.

M- Smooth, a little creamy, medium body.

O- A solid beer that I would love to try on cask. I am really starting to try ESB and I am really enjoying this. Definitely will be pick this up again. (516 characters)

Photo of kylehay2004
3.83/5  rDev +1.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Thick circumferential lacing on a c;ear amber body.

S: musty earthy hops with caramel malts and a light citrus note.

T: very nicely hopped ESB with a full toasted and caramel malt base. Very flavorful for the style.

M: medium body and light carbonation.

Overall: Flavorful ESB, true to the style for sure. (309 characters)

Photo of 57md
3.94/5  rDev +4.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Copper color. Bready nose indicative of the style. Hearty body for the style. Malty but not with the caramel sweet notes that generally come in an ESB. Drier and more bitter than the average beer of its style.

A bit out of step for the style but a nice effort nonetheless.

Paired well with my dinner of pork, mashed potatoes and gravy. (341 characters)

Photo of jman42
3.95/5  rDev +5.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Grabbed the bottle from the fridge thinking it was going to be a 2X IPA for some reason... As I poured, smelled, tasted, etc I figured out it was an ESB

A = Rich amber color. Nice fluffy off-white head that was pretty persistent. Lacing hung onto the sides of the glass even now that the level is 3 inches lower.

S = Thinking it was an IPA, I was wondering why I was noticing so much more of a maltiness to it. Some hop-inspired floral undertones, but the malts prevail.

T = The maltiness really comes through with a fair amount of an ESB's bitterness at the end.

M = Definitely not watery. Good body with the bitter taste lingering long after I swallowed.

O = Now that I verified it is an ESB, I'm quite impressed. (720 characters)

Photo of Darkmagus82
3.38/5  rDev -10.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Served on cask in a 10 oz chalice glass

Appearance – The beer is served a deeper amber color with a big off white head. Upon fading the head levels a moderate amount of lacing on the sides of the glass.

Smell – The nose is mainly of roasted malt, but mixed with it are notes of dark fruit (cherry and prune) as well as some light earthy hop aromas.

Taste – The taste begins heaviest of roasted malt with some sweeter caramel notes. As the taste advances however the caramel sweet fades and more hop flavors come to the tongue. The hop begins with just some more earthy like flavors, but then lighter floral flavors develop as well. In the end of the taste the roasty flavors and hop flavors with the lack of sweetness leave a slightly bitter aftertaste on the tongue.

Mouthfeel – The body of the beer is on the light to medium side with the low cask carbonation giving it the classic cask creamy feel. The smoothness of the brew really suits the roasty flavors as well as the more floral and earthy hop flavors and overall suit the beer quite well.

Overall – Easy drinking and a pretty good taste. A brew and one to try if you get a chance. (1,155 characters)

Photo of Stinkypuss
3.33/5  rDev -11.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Extra Special Ale (ESA)
Yards Brewing Co.
Style: Extra Special / Strong Bitter (ESB)
ABV: 6.30 %

LOOK: Dark amber colored brew with a fine clarity. Pours with a soapy off white head that leaves lace on the pint.

SMELL: Caramel, toffee, flowery hop, burnt sugar. Smells like an English session ale.

TASTE: Upfront sweetness of caramel and candy sugar. There is more depth of flavor with lightly roasted malts, toffee, tree nuts and mellow herbal hopping. Tea like hops with a mild but complimentary bitterness, this brew actually finishes a bit on the sweet side.

FEEL: Medium bodied ale, medium carbonation, malt flavor lingers into the finish but more or less clean example of English ale.

OVERALL: A pretty good attempt of the style, but hop character was a bit withdrawn and the malt sweetness was big. Almost could be considered a dessert beer, this would pair best with sweet and savory dishes. (905 characters)

Photo of jifigz
3.7/5  rDev -1.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Bottle poured into a pint glass.

The beer pours a rich and deep caramel/reddish brown with a tiny head that lingers for quite a while. It left some lacing on the glass. The aroma is rich with candy sweet malts with just a touch of hops noticeable. The flavor is very well balanced between bold and robust malt sweetness with flavors of molasses and twizzlers noticeable that is very balanced with a delicate and lingering hop bitterness. The hops taste earthy and grassy but are mostly just noticeable through the bitterness. The MF is medium bodied and very smooth. Overall this is a decent "E.S.A" and quite enjoyable. (621 characters)

Photo of Buggies
3.63/5  rDev -3.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

I actually picked this out of the cooler thinking it was an extra pale ale. I was surprised when I poured it all the while in my head saying "extra pale my ass".

Either way, I like a good ESB so I'm not all broken up about the confusion. Nice aromas of malt and dark roasted grains. Also a slight fruity aroma as well.

Tastes really good. All the roasted grain goodness and a slight caramel tastes. Just a hint of fruitiness, but the roasted grains dominate. Nice sharp bitterness that lingers and keeps this from being too sweet on the pallet.

Very nice attempt at the style. (579 characters)

Photo of NiceTaps
4/5  rDev +6.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured from a 12oz bottle into a room temp pint glass.

A-truly an amber ale. About a one-finger head, good lacing and carbonation. It keeps the malty tan head as it goes.

S-dark roasted malts dominate. The malts are strong and sharp as the name implies; it has English Bitters written all over it. I wish that I could identify the sweetness in the aroma; mocha...caramel...hard to tell.

T-all those malts are full of flavors. A little dry grass, some roastiness, some fruit. There is a slight hoppy finish.

M- full body and carbonation. It is tart and oily.

O-quite good. It is an English Bitter Ale to me.
Tasty and drinkable. I'm glad that I have some bottles left. (673 characters)

Photo of MONKandTUCK
3.28/5  rDev -12.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

A - Deep golden hue. On draught it would be clearer and lighter, probably also carry more head. Darker than Pilsner Urquell, but much lighter than most Pale Ales.

A - Some malts, kinda fruity and vegetal. It reminds me more of a flower than what you think of when you imagine flowers. Definitely not bright and juicy, like American Pale Ales.

T - Buttered bread and a little honey, some sturdy hops. This is remarkably balanced and refreshing. The hops add some depth, but they're not harsh. There's a refined character about this beer. Then.... the finish. Wow, funky. Maybe it's this batch. Maybe it's something that goes unnoticed when this beer is chilled. But damn, there's something fierce that sneaks up in this batch. Ya know how athletes chew food for the taste, then spit it out? That's how I felt with this one.

M - It's no shrimp. Considering the ABV, this beer is substantial. But the malts are staight forward, so the beer is actually refreshing.

O - It was never gonna be stellar; however, this beer lost its opportunity to be my go-to-beer with the lousy finish. I'll try it again, but I suspect the bittering hops had a lot to do with that fresh-cut-lawn taste. gag. (1,187 characters)

Extra Special Ale (ESA) from Yards Brewing Co.
85 out of 100 based on 263 ratings.