1. The wait is over! Download the BeerAdvocate app on iTunes or Google Play now.
  2. Get 12 issues / year of BeerAdvocate magazine for only $9.99!

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

575 Ratings
THE BROS
85
very good

(view ratings)
Ratings: 575
Reviews: 262
rAvg: 3.71
pDev: 12.67%
Wants: 7
Gots: 43 | 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:  Recent | Likes | High | Low | Top Raters | Read the Alström Bros Beer Reviews and Beer Ratings of Extra Special Ale (ESA) Alström Bros
Ratings: 575 | Reviews: 262 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of Viggo
3.68/5  rDev -0.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12 oz bottle, not sure where it came from.

Pours a hazy dark orange, some light brownish red highlights, medium white head forms and settles down to a medium ring around the glass and a thin layer, some lace spots stick, looks okay.

Smell is nice, quite a nice aroma, very caramelized, nice biscuit, a bit fruity, some raisin, lightly herbal and woody, a touch of vanilla, lightly nutty, kind of sweet and a bit sugary, not bad.

Taste is similar, sweet and malty, some caramel maltiness, a touch of biscuit and toast, quite fruity, a bit oxidized with some raisin, a bit of floral, balanced bitterness in the finish.

Mouthfeel is light to medium bodied with low to medium carbonation. Pretty smooth going down, nothing fancy but pretty drinkable.

Photo of grub
3.78/5  rDev +1.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

got this one in a recent trade with sholland119. thanks scott!

12oz bottle. sampled aug 8/2010.

pours slightly hazy reddish brown with a small dense light tan head. the head drops slowly and leaves plenty of spotty lace.

aroma is nice. toasted multi-grain bread. a bit of nutty character. caramel and a bit of toffee. light fruity character. bit of alcohol.

taste is good. toasted whole wheat bread. bit of biscuit. nutty. hint of chocolate. caramel and toffee. light alcohol. a bit fruity. medium-low bitterness level. lightly herbal.

mouthfeel is good. medium body. medium carbonation level.

drinkability is nice. alcohol is a touch high for an ESB, and not entirely balanced. nice malt character.

Photo of mralphabet
3.28/5  rDev -11.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

12 oz bottle poured into pint glass.... My first Yard beer.

A: Ruby red in color, clear with a nice big head, 2 fingers. Settled to a like layer with pretty good lacing.

S: Sweet caramel malt with a touch of floral hops.

T: The sweet caramel malt hits you first with a splash of floral hops at the finish. Well balanced between the sweet malt and bitter hops. Just not making me jump for joy.

M: Medium body with a crisp carbonation, feels good.

D: Not a bad little beer, ABV is pretty good, a 1 a session beer for me. Worth looking up.... I'll try some of their other stuff.

Photo of benlaitman
4/5  rDev +7.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A- gold-brown color, good head, not a lot of carbonation.
S-citrus/spicy crisp smell.
T-similar taste as smell. Complex citrus flavoring. Low-mild hop.
M-Smooth, not too heavy, not too light.
D-overall a solid showing. A good beer to drink whenever. Went down smooth and easy and I enjoyed the flavors. Will definitely order again.

Photo of droomyster
4.15/5  rDev +11.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Enjoying this beer with a plate of bangers. Pours a dark reddish brown with a head the color of white cheddar. Sweet aromas are big on molasses and garden soil, with lighter, spicy notes coming through as well. Taste of big, toasted and sweet malts intermingled with hops that are initially earthy and then linger like orange zest on the finish. Very interesting. Hefty body is perfectly suited to a beer of its flavor profile and taste amplitude. A beer whose whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Photo of donniecuffs
4.22/5  rDev +13.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Into an American pint glass; poured amber/brown with one finger of off-white head and decent lacing. Smelled of molasses, honey, and malt. The taste revealed caramel apple, maple syrup, honey, and maltiness; dissolving to a sweet finish. Creamy, medium-bodied, modestly-carbonated texture. Good session beer. Couldn't help but wonder how this would taste on cask.

Photo of Bouleboubier
4.4/5  rDev +18.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Yards makes a dependably wondrous ESB. It's pretty much been constantly on cask at one of my favorite Philly bars, the Abbaye, for years.

Allow me to offer up front that Yards version of an ESB, while in many ways a smart, accurate representation of the style, kicks up the palate a notch or two, presenting a thumpier, decidedly American interpretation.

Pours with a generously fat, compact, cream-ish head each time. Leathery rust color - a little on the dark(er) side. This beer must not have laced in awhile, because it was lacing huge messy loads all up and down the glass. Thump.

Hoppier in the nose than is traditional - hoppier than from the bottle, for sure. I'm guessing the ample, active head may be the carrier for this the enhanced hop character, eh?

Moderately strong bitterness and (in order of respective presence) toffee, caramel, and a touch of chocolate in the flavor. Bold malt backbone.

Compared to cask or out of the bottle, the growler pours sport a wee bit more carbonation, giving it a wee bit scrubbier bite on the tongue than maybe it should. That and the potent bitter of the hops give it staying power. But I ain't craving that so much.

One of the most drinkable domestic ESBs I've come across, and if it weren't for the fact that it packs a little more of everything - that is: hops, malt, and alcohol - I wouldn't hesitate to give this a 5 on drinkability. It starts to wear thin after 4-5 pints - but I strongly endorse, nonetheless.

Photo of DmanGTR
3.63/5  rDev -2.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Review from notes on 6/5/10

Poured dark amber, maple syrup color with a thin, off white cap. Spotty lacing, but quite clear. Nice biscuity and bready aroma with a pinch of roast and clean herbal hops, maybe a slight citrus twang. Light bodied and slick, crisp, almost biting carbonation. A decent drinker for a hot day.

Photo of berpwillie
3.8/5  rDev +2.4%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

pours a cloudy dark brown color with spare off white and and spare lacing. lively fizzy carbonation. light piney hop smell and taste that finishes slightly bitter. some light charcoal like hints. light body, and thin slick texture. average flavor duration. great session beer.

Photo of Milestone221
3.58/5  rDev -3.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2

Bottle poured into a pint glass.

A: Dark brown with a small head and noticeable carbonation. Appears inviting.

S: If rich mahogany had a smell, this ESA would be it. Dark, almost creamy aroma with appropriate bitterness. An overall creamy organic smell.

T: A smooth bitterness if there is such a thing. Just the right amount of hops/flavor. A refreshing dark ale. The hops are definitively present.

M: Strongly bitter but overall smooth with a good finish.

D: Not at all drinkable in my opinion. Best tasted when sipped at for a while.

Quite dark for an ale, but nonetheless tasty if consumed properly. Wont go out of my way to attempt again.

Photo of magine
4/5  rDev +7.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured into a oversized pint glass.

Pours a brown clear color, with an off white chunky head. Has nice lace and a chunk island head that remains.

This brew smells malty, fruity hops. Bready malts as well.

This brew is smooth, malty and has a hop (almost floral) bite to it in the finish. Finishes slightly bitter and crisp. Has a nice blend of hops and malts and full body mouthfeel.

This is a very good brew, has a very nice flavor and mouthfeel. It also looks good. Very good drinkability as well, would be good any time of year. Another fine brew from yards. This may be my favorite one I have tried from them so far.

Photo of ritzkiss
3.73/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

12oz bottle as an extra from G311 - thanks man!

Pours a dark almost cola brown with a hint of amber, about a finger of head graces the top and then dies to a thin layer.

Nose is malty, a touch of roast and caramel, a slight earthiness.

Pretty hefty for an ESB, this one pulls it off. Loads of malt, biscuit, a hint of roast like in a good English porter, creamy caramel slips through giving the mouth a bit of a coating, a light peppery quality, biscuits, toast. A light dryness in the finish from the hops but otherwise pretty subdued. Pretty sweet and hefty but a really creamy mouthfeel with enough carbonation to keep it moving and not cloying.

Certainly not the light drinker I was expecting but a good beer nonetheless. Thanks Vince!

Photo of stakem
3.55/5  rDev -4.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Poured from a brown bottle into a pint glass. No identification as to the freshness. It appears a somewhat clear amber color that has some noticeable small particles stuck in suspension keeping it from being totally clear. Presents 2 fingers of slightly tanned fluffy head with fair retension that leaves a sticky about of lace clinging to the glassware in patches. Aroma is quite malty, grainy and has a little bit of mineral character to it before the hops come into play. Taste is slightly bitter upfront with a nice malt presence and again some mineral flavors come into play along with the flavors of the hops. This beer leaves a lingering hop flavor in your mouth without having much bitterness. Hops are somewhat spicy and herbal which exaggerates the mineral flavor in this beer. Light feel with moderate amount of carbonation. Nothing overly exciting about this beer but nothing to complain about either. As it warms the 6% alcohol starts to come through a bit.

Photo of gabrielsyme
3.85/5  rDev +3.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

12 oz bottle in a pint glass. Pours a rich opaque brown with 1.5 fingers of head. Not very much in the aroma, maybe a little burnt sugar. The first taste is toasted malt character. The rest of the sips, I get only bitterness. Nothing too complex but probably as it should be for the style.

Photo of IronLover
3.9/5  rDev +5.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured a dark orange to brown with beautiful clarity. Nice head retention and foam lacings on the edge of the glass. Not very aromatic, no hop aromas, but experienced light coffee and caramel scents. Coffee flavors up front that taper to pleasant carmel flavors and finish. Faint licorice undertones and the end as well. Lazy carbonation. A smooth bodied feel in the beginning with a mild hoppy finish. Could definitely have a few of these at one sitting.

Photo of jwhancher
3.95/5  rDev +6.5%
look: 5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A: Pours a clear amber color with nice thick off-white head. Lazy carbonation - good for the style.

S: Faint malt aroma. Bready & sweet. No real presence of hops.

T: Solid malt character. Caramel notes well evident along with the bready notes. Finishes sweet.

M: Very light on the carbonation, yet gives a nice malty, creamy feel. Above medium bodied.

D: Nice tame, drinkable beer with good taste. Makes a very good session beer.

Photo of argock
3.45/5  rDev -7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Poured from 12oz brown bottle into a clear glass mug. No freshness date evident. Single purchased at Wine Warehouse (Charlottesville, VA) for $1.70.

A: Burnished dark brown with light amber tint and 1-finger off-white tightly bubbled head with average retention and thin threads of lace.

S: Very light with caramelly maltiness and herbal hops, tending more toward malt

T: Flavor is good but still reserved with toffee caramel countered by herbal, earthy hoppiness.

M: More robust feel than either aroma or flavor with medium body and soft carbonation. Aftertaste is caramel malt with papery finish.

D: Not bad but pretty mundane. I wish the flavor matched the nice mouthfeel with something more interesting in either the hops or the malt department.

Photo of PittBeerGirl
3.45/5  rDev -7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

A- Body is a translucent rust color. Pours with a minimal fizzy white head that subsides pretty quickly but traces of lacing are still left behind in the glass.

S- Nose is mild and is pretty much a combo of spices and caramel malt.

T- Flavor is very interesting. Upfront is predominately added spices, with a solid sweet caramel malt backbone. Some herbal hop bitterness comes through for the finish but the main character is definitely the spices.

M- Medium to high tingly carbonation and light to medium weight body. The consistency of the spices actually really comes through in the mouthfeel.

D-Despite my lower rating for this-I found this to be a pretty good, enjoyable beer. To me-it seems to be more of a novelty beer than anything else but its still something I'd like to revisit. Its nice to see Yard's beers around again!

Photo of Greenlabel
4.13/5  rDev +11.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Purchased a 6-pack of Yards ESA on a recent trip to NJ and am enjoying one in a Yards pint glass.

Pours a reddish copper color with medium head. A slight caramel malt nose. Has a rich malty flavor but also a reasonable hop presence. Clean mouthfeel and overall very light on the palate. I was surprised to see that its ABV was over 6%. Despite the ABV, I would consider this to be a satisfactory session beer.

On my next trip to PA or NJ, I'll definitely be purchasing this ESA again.

Photo of mvanaskie13
3.95/5  rDev +6.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured from the bottle a deep mahongy brown, with coppery edges and frothy, cream colored head.

Smell was lightly malty at first and as it warmed a several of the other aromas were enhanced, with some light caramel and toffee scents.

Taste was solid, roasted malt upfront followed by a caramel, with slight toffe/chocolate flavors, with light earthy undertones as it finished.

Mouthfeel was good, light carbonation and a nice lingering malty aftertaste.

Very drinkable, my type of stronger than normal session ale, session ale.

Photo of mkyle
3.93/5  rDev +5.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Appearance: This beer looks great right out of the bottle. A nice deep, brownish color with a nice head to top it off. The head is nearly the same color as the tannish label, fairly pure and clean. Holding this glass up to the light, one can see the subtle pieces of sediment that hang in suspension.

Smell: This beer has a great aroma. No bitterness, just a pleaseant fruit smell. I can't quite place the exact fruit, but its there. I am pretty excited to drink this.

Taste: Incredibly smooth. Wow. A very subtle bitterness overshadowed with a nice ale taste.

Mouthfeel: Like I said, this is very smooth. There is nothing aggressive about this, afterall it's an ale. The aftertaste is very nice, kind of a fading sweetness into a dryer bitterness.

Drinkability: From the second you open one of these up it begs you to drink it. Very inviting disposition both in taste and smoothness. I could drink a few of these in a night. Overall, this ale is deserving of its "extra specialness".

Photo of ujsplace
4/5  rDev +7.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured into an oversized pub glass.

Bulbous, creamy off-white head that leaves ample sticky lacing. This brew is a
deep burnt orange/amber in color.

Smells of sweet toasted caramel malt and herbal hops...

Nice big malt upfront and a bready yeast middle with a hearty, mildly bitter
herbal hop finish with only the faintest hint of alcohol.

Mouthfeel is medium and creamy

This is a damn good ale. Would be a good one to go with for gatherings. It is
light enough to session, but by no means light. Nice big flavors...

Photo of dedrinker
3.18/5  rDev -14.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

This one looks much like the pugilist: dark amber/ brown.

Hardly gives off much aroma - is it a little malty smell? maybe some more of that tree fruit (same yeast?) and a hint of toffee? I can't be sure.

And if most of taste is smell, then how is it that I can taste it? By its' warming up in my mouth? So do they recommend to bring the beer up to body temperature before drinking? So it kinda tastes malty with a little hop edge on the back. Geez, nothing extra special here at all.

Medium body, mixed fruit and bittering hop finish. It aint bad, but if I was at a bar and ordered a pint of this, I'd be bummed.

Photo of joemeister
3.9/5  rDev +5.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

First, let me say I love the bottle (mine was not the one pictured on BA, but similar). The colors and graphics are very colonial America, which is befitting a brewery based in our nation's birthplace. And with a name like "Extra Special," this beer is off to a good start.

The beer pours with a nice cream-colored, spongy head which settles gently into a happy, thin film over the top. The color is dark amber, with a gradient of burnt orange visible against bright light. It is slightly murky, but you can still see the lines of bubbles rising to the surface.

There is definitely a warming darkness to the smell. Very much a mixture of spices and caramel - although I can't tell if this is going to be more on the bitter side or more on the sweet side. Regardless, the smell is strong and intriguing.

Ooh. That was unexpected. Modest carbonation gives way to a well-concocted balance of hops and malt, with a roasty, earthy finish. The aftertaste is almost like a coffee or espresso. I really don't get a lot of bitterness from it, but that may be my mind playing tricks on me as a result of the lasting impression of the caramel and coffee flavors. Overall, the beer is smooth with a moderate body. I could drink several of these in a sitting.

Photo of rhoadsrage
3.48/5  rDev -6.2%
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.

Extra Special Ale (ESA) from Yards Brewing Co.
84 out of 100 based on 575 ratings.