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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.

550 Ratings
very good

(view ratings)
Ratings: 550
Reviews: 260
rAvg: 3.71
pDev: 12.67%
Wants: 5
Gots: 32 | 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
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Ratings: 550 | Reviews: 260 | Display Reviews Only:
3.23/5  rDev -12.9%

Hand pumped from cask into a pint glass.

A: Handsome looking. Average head is creamy and very white which is somewhat surprising given the very dark brown body. The head retention was decent. Lacing was seemingly excellent but a few more sips revealed that the stick was from the head only and any lacing from the body ended up sliding down the glass and back into my beer. This brew has a clear body, although it is so dark that it's clarity is hard to notice. The color is a reminiscent of mahogany wood with a dark, cherry finish. Amber lines the glass.

S & T: Malty as expected with predominant notes of molasses. Light herbal, piney, resiny hops. The yeast bill is leathery and brothy. The aroma is a little weak for such a dark brew. Flavors reminiscent of the aromas as well as coriander come through. Lightly sweet and lightly bitter.

M: The mouthfeel seems lacking and uninspired. The medium body has a thin texture but a pleasant creamy quality. Carbonation is soft. I realize part of my negative comments could be attributed to the fact that this Yards was served on cask but my contention is that if a beer's more natural qualities aren't enhanced when casked, then why is it on cask in the first place?

D: Extra Special (as in ESA) sounds promising as if this combination of words shouldn't be thrown around. Honestly, I feel like they could have left the 'ES' out of the name and simply called it an ale. Overall, a pretty average brew. Maybe it doesn't really belong on cask as the result seemed underwhelming and contrived.

FeDUBBELFIST, Jan 10, 2010
Photo of number1bum
4.47/5  rDev +20.5%

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
Photo of Durge
4/5  rDev +7.8%

A dark chestnut color, slightly cloudly with a mellow orange glow. The head is a modest off-white cover with decent lacing. The aroma is a nutty malt with a pleasant floral hops. Nice. The flavor brings a great paradox of bitter granny apple and orange blended with sweet caramel malt. The bitterness is clear and prominent yet there is plenty of mellow grain. Medium bodied but a slight resinous feel. Quite right for the style in my book. Plenty drinkable but it has good personality.

Durge, Dec 11, 2009
Photo of Pinto21
4.13/5  rDev +11.3%

Pour is a deep amber. Low head that fades quick. Ok lacing

Aroma of malts, caramelly. slight bit of hops, english herbal in nature.

Balance of malts and hops in mouth. Then hops come out ahead. more of a herbally type. Def nice english hops (Goldings? maybe fuggle too?). Initial malt taste is of caramel/ slight biscuit, but once the hop bitterness fades, it leads to more of more roasted/buscuit malts, a little deeper and darker. The hop bitterness doesnt fade quick though. The taste of this brew just sticks around for a while.

Mouth is low carbonation, which is spot on for the style. Very drinkable.

Spot on for an english ESB. A very nice tasting beer to enjoy. I feel as though I should be in an Olde Tavern enjoying this.

Pinto21, Dec 02, 2009
Photo of Jwale73
3.73/5  rDev +0.5%

Thanks to edbeer for the opportunity to try this one. Served in a standard pint. Poured a deep, translucent mahogany with a half inch loose, off-white head that reduced its volume in seconds before settling into a fairly consistent skim; some slashes of lacing revealed during the tasting. Mild nose - aromatic hops on a malt backbone. Taste was caramel malts interspersed with some bittering hops that lingers between quaffs. Mouthfeel was light-medium with a consistent background effervescence. Not my favorite style per se, but this is a solid example of an ESB. Well worth seeking out - I'd love to try this one on cask.

Jwale73, Nov 03, 2009
Photo of pwoods
3.7/5  rDev -0.3%

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.

pwoods, Oct 16, 2009
Photo of Cylinsier
3.78/5  rDev +1.9%

12 oz.

Pours a maple syrup brown with thin off white lacing. Light makes it look rusty red/brown.

Smells rich and molasses sweet. Malty and slightly roasted.

Tastes similarly sweet at first, but then switches to a dull hop bitterness followed by smokey roasted notes. Interestingly dynamic.

The mouthfeel is moderately full and lightly carbonated.

A pretty good selection in the class of moderately dark ales, my first in the ESB style. Easy to drink and easy to like.

Cylinsier, Sep 27, 2009
Photo of goblue3509
3.4/5  rDev -8.4%

Pours a copper brown color with a nice slight off white frothy head that is around one finger in size. The aroma is of roasted malt and a little sweet malt with some floral hops. Taste has a roasted and caramel malt backbone which mid way through gives way to the bitterness of floral hops. The hop bite is subtle and slightly sweet. The mouthfeel is of moderate carbonation. Overall it is a good drinkable beer, the taste isn't exceptional but there is also nothing to make you dislike the beer and it looks very nice.

goblue3509, Sep 13, 2009
Photo of Morey
4.03/5  rDev +8.6%

This brew pours an impressive deep dark reddish-brown color with a nice cream colored head. Nice clarity for such a dark ale.

Light aroma of plums and roasted malts.

Taste is full bodied with a nice blend of hops, malts, and earthy flavors.

Mouthfeel is medium with nice carbonation.

I could drink a few of these, but not all night long.

Morey's Bottom Line: A pleasent surprise! Very well crafted ale. Highly recommend for fans of Red Ales (this beer is just as much a Red as it is an ESB).

Morey, Aug 23, 2009
Photo of treehugger02010
3.63/5  rDev -2.2%

I got this in the Yard's variety case. I poured it into a pint glass.
Appearance: The body is a cloudy dark amber color. The head is a light tan color, medium sized bubbles, great lacing and ok retention.
Smell: The aromas are muted, caramel malt and pine resin.
Taste: The flavors are caramel, earthy hops and maybe some citrus.
Mouthfeel: The body is medium to thin and very crisp.
Drinkability: This beer is very drinkable.
Don't drink and review.

treehugger02010, Aug 16, 2009
Photo of emsroth
4.05/5  rDev +9.2%

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

emsroth, Aug 09, 2009
Photo of Duhast500
3.75/5  rDev +1.1%

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

The color is a deep brownish amber with a foamy light brown head with some nice retention and nice lacing the stays on the glass.

The smell has a light malty smell to it. A nutty almost cashew flavor. It was a bit hard to get more than a slight auroma from this beer. Might have been the pour.

The taste is caramel, a bit of a sharp bite at first but pretty tasty. Some nice earthy hop flavor that is a little in the background.

The feel of this beer is pretty mellow. Is medium bodied and is just the right amount of carbonation.

Duhast500, Aug 08, 2009
Photo of WCBCFrank
3.88/5  rDev +4.6%

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.

WCBCFrank, Aug 07, 2009
Photo of woodychandler
2.68/5  rDev -27.8%

The gravity pour created only thin wisps of head. Color was a hazy amber, kind of like weak tea. The nose was lightly malty, definitely on the sweet side. Mouthfeel was medium with a mild bitterness on the tongue. Finish had a mild bitterness, but mothing worth getting excited about. Personally, I felt it was the least of the three, to include Brawler and PHL PA, on that particular Cask Night.

woodychandler, Jul 31, 2009
Photo of rfgetz
4.25/5  rDev +14.6%

A - Cloudy copper in appearance, although very little head from hand pumping, leaves thin rings after each sip

S - Light malt and grains, notes of carmel. Not aggressive like some other English Bitters.

T - think cereal (malt, grain, slightly nutty)

M - Nice body to it, lets me know what im drinking.

D - Very good, drinkable session beer. Great balance of flavors, nothing too overpowering. Some other ESBs may be more robust, but the balance is welcome.

Note: Hand pumped is the way to go on this one, but the bottles, although slightly more mild, are still very good in their own right.

rfgetz, Jul 08, 2009
Photo of deg
3.8/5  rDev +2.4%

A nice amber color. Not much head to it. The aroma was very faint, but I picked up some hops and something else, raisin-like. I couldn't be sure what it was. The beer a nice light roasted taste. Easy on the mouth, and easy to drink. I noticed a slight warm feeling from the alcohol, but nothing overwhelming.

deg, Jun 29, 2009
Photo of lonestar4lunch
3.65/5  rDev -1.6%

Poured with a light head that didn't stick around with a little aroma. I really liked the first sip on this one. The carbonation strikes the tongue just right that the sweet malts mix wonderfully with the hop bite. The carbonation I have noticed on these Yards brews is a bit more than expected but it seems just right here. Enjoyable.

lonestar4lunch, Jun 26, 2009
Photo of philipquarles
4.13/5  rDev +11.3%

Fresh 12oz bottle. Pours with a hazy amber body with a large, sticky off white head. Like an English mild should. Strong caramel malt aromas; biscuity with grassy hop character in the background. Good toasty malt flavors with plenty of caramel. Somewhat earthy, with a nice, palatable amount of bittering hops. Full body and lowish carbonation give it a nice feel. Overall, it drank pretty good. Probably one of the nicer takes on an ESB to come from the States. A cask version with lower ABV and a bit less hopping would be phenomenal.

philipquarles, Jun 18, 2009
Photo of Buebie
4.22/5  rDev +13.7%

Thanks to Philbe311.

Poured from a 12oz brown bottle into a surly tulip. The brew is adarker semi chill hazes amber, glowing with redish copper hues when held to light. A 1'' white snap crackle pop head receeds to leave sticky thick lace, a bubbly wonder of retention.

Aroma of carmelised sugar, cereal grains, a touch of cocoa nib nuttyness, and just a bit of coffee with some breadyness mixing in.

Robust and grainy up front with plenty of woody nutshell twange and a bit of bitter roasty grains. Still some cocoa nib nuttyness and sticky mouthfeel with carbonation throughout.
This is pretty darn good, it does get just a little husky though.
Not overwhelming, but present. Bitters are long lasting with just a bit of piney hops coming through into the finish. The bitter grain flavors are packing a punch. Did not expect this to be so robust.

Very interesting and well done for the style.

Buebie, May 26, 2009
Photo of zoso1967
3.3/5  rDev -11.1%

Coppery brown in color with a nice white head and light carbonation. Head dissipates fairly quickly. Smells of grassy hops and toasty malt with some yeast evident as well. Taste is toasty and malty with plenty of grassy floral hops and a firm bitterness at the end. Some caramel taste as well. Fairly well balanced with a medium body and pleasant mouthfeel. Not too sticky but with a nice malty finish. The only problem with this beer is that I just know it is ten times better on cask. Will have to head into Philly sometime and get it the way it is meant to be.

zoso1967, May 14, 2009
Photo of william5586
4.13/5  rDev +11.3%

A- Clear dark ruby red. Huge 3 finger off white head that left a ton of lace.

S- An earthy smell and mostly floral hops.

T- Caramel malt flavor that blends perfectly with the earthy/floral hop finish. The finish is complex. There is a definite sweetness at the end, but as I drank more the hops started to become more prominent. This is a very well balanced beer.

M- Medium body with a crisp tingle from the carbonation.

D- Like I said before, this is one very balanced beer which makes it very easy to drink.

This is just an all around well made beer.

william5586, May 01, 2009
Photo of drcarver
3.38/5  rDev -8.9%

A - An average sized fizzy amber body with an off white head

S - Initial smell of yeast and dough arises followed by the smell of fruit (plums?)

T - A sharp initial taste followed by a lightly bitter and acidic aftertaste.

M - Lively medium body with a dry finish.

D - Average drinkability. The Carbonation and bite make it a slower drink.

drcarver, Apr 19, 2009
Photo of philbe311
3.93/5  rDev +5.9%

A - Mammoth three fingers plus of fluffy extremely light tan head... Impressive retention... Dense rich copper color... Murky with slow carbonation... Leaves a trail of full rings the entire way down the glass...

S - Mild but pleasant... Caramel... Malt... Crystal Hops... Simple...

T - Yummy malt... Biscuit... Grain... Perhaps a hint of rye... A faint spiciness...

M - Even... Fills mouth well... Medium bodied... Hearty... Smooth... Minor hop presence... A slight tanginess on the finish...

D - Everything an ESB should be... Really fantastic brew... There's nothing exotic about this, it's just a solid through and through... I could drink this all night long year round... Simple and well executed can be a wonderful thing...

philbe311, Apr 05, 2009
Photo of iuhoosier336
3.9/5  rDev +5.1%

Poured from a bottle the color is a dark amber with two fingers of head that seems to dissapate a little quickly. Nice carbination. The smell is of light malt and not much else.

The taste is of strong malt and alcohol with a light hop finish. Goes down very well and tastes great. This is Yards first beer and its a great amber ale.

iuhoosier336, Apr 02, 2009
Photo of TheFightfan1
3/5  rDev -19.1%

poured into my BA mug. Pours a cloudy amber color with a thick off white heading. Very good lacing.

Smell is malty,kind of bitter with some dark fruit's and some spice hop's.

Taste is very bitter and kind of sour. Dry aftertaste,also kind of yeasty.

Mouth is medium bodied with decent carbonation.

Drink is ok, nothing spectacular but for 6.3% Abv I guess it's average.

I was disappointed with this beer I had high hopes going in but a big letdown in the end.

TheFightfan1, Apr 01, 2009
Extra Special Ale (ESA) from Yards Brewing Co.
84 out of 100 based on 550 ratings.