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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.

551 Ratings
very good

(view ratings)
Ratings: 551
Reviews: 260
rAvg: 3.71
pDev: 12.67%
Wants: 7
Gots: 34 | 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: 551 | Reviews: 260 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of TheFightfan1
3/5  rDev -19.1%
look: 4 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

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

Poured from the bottle right down the center. Frothy head disappeared too quickly. It did leave a nice ring around the outside but very little to no lacing. A nice coppery amber color that is very clear with a smattering of little bubbles of carbonation. The aroma is a complex mix of fruit, highlighted by a bit of citrus and a hint of souring or bitterness. A smooth, but thin feel, with slightly sweet malts and a crisp bitter dry finish. There is very slight to no noticeable alcohol, even though this is an Extra Special. An excellent American version of a great English style. I'm glad they're located so close by. This is a tasty brew.

Gilgemesh, Apr 01, 2009
Photo of jlandis
3.43/5  rDev -7.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A - Caramel colored with a 1 inch thick white head.

S - Very very subtle earthy hop and malt aromas.

T - Solid earthy hop flavor with a hint of tart lemon. Simple malt profile.

M - Creamy mouthfeel with subtle carbonation.

D - Highly drinkable and tasty. Makes a decent session beer, but I think I'll stick with their Brawler for that.

jlandis, Mar 25, 2009
Photo of drtth
4/5  rDev +7.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Lightly chilled and poured into Duvel glass and allowed to warm some over the course of the tasting. Glass of cold water on the side to sip from periodically.

Appearance: Pours a nice mahogany color with ½" off white head that dissipates relatively quickly leaving a thin film, a ring of foam and some interesting lacing around the side of the glass.

Smell: Malty with a light presence of dark fruit (plum and/or raisin) and an earthy hop character.

Taste: Lots of smooth mild malt flavor with dark fruit notes. The the earthy bitterness hops is well controlled in this one with notes of fruits popping out here and there but a nice steady bitterness throughout.

Mouthfeel: Light to medium bodied mouthfeel with light carbonation but no real creaminess. Finish is medium to long length with some mild sweetness that leaves the scene early leaving then hop bitterness and dryness to just disappear.

Drinkability: Easy to drink and I could easily could have a few of these, but given a choice I think I'd pick a one or two beers from Yards over this one if I were buying a case with only one style of beer in it.

drtth, Mar 08, 2009
Photo of Finn
3.68/5  rDev -0.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Haven't had Yards in years, ever since they were having carbonation problems, I've steered clear. Now they're in a new facility, and I'm hearing good things, so here goes.

Poured hard into an imperial pint glass, this beer leaves a modest, but creamy tan head. Aroma is grainy, tannic, with hints of grapes, figs, dark fruit. The taste: starts out with the smooth round fruit up front, accented by a very slight hint of roasted malts that cuts through it. The finish is crisp with a firm hop bitterness. The mouthfeel is pleasant, with medium carbonation that turns a bit creamy in the mouth. Drinkability is pretty good for this beer, could easily have a few, though there are plenty of other session beers I'd go to before this. Well worth trying though.

Finn, Jan 21, 2009
Photo of kennyo
3.98/5  rDev +7.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

fell in love with beer back in 2000 when I spent a week in Philadelphia for a conference. New Brewery. New beer?

Pours a crystal clear, I say it even tho itis generic, amber color with a 3'4: white head that afte a bit drops to a 1'4". Aroma is malt and some spice. Taste is malt, toast, some hop bitterness, dry on the finish.Body and mouthfeel is fine. Would like to try this in the cask condition style

kennyo, Jan 18, 2009
Photo of LilBeerDoctor
2.83/5  rDev -23.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

On tap at Tria. Pours amber with a thick tan head. Aroma of light sweet malt and raisins. Flavor is pretty much dominated by raisins. Weak palate and I'm not a fan of the flavor either.
Aroma: 6/10
Appearance: 4/5
Flavor: 5/10
Palate: 3/5
Overall: 13/20

LilBeerDoctor, Jan 11, 2009
Photo of Seanibus
3.88/5  rDev +4.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

I remember this beer being more enjoyable before Yards moved to the new brewery, but memory is a fickle thing, so who knows. It's still a good on-tap session beer and I would never be disappointed to see this on draft.

Pours a deep brown with a big fluffy head and good lacing. The smell is malty and slight sour. The flavor is a big slap of amber malt, deliciously bready, with bitter hop backbone. The finish is thin and bitter. Good.

Seanibus, Dec 18, 2008
Photo of beerthulhu
3.38/5  rDev -8.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

A: Pours a dark mahogany red color with a thin off white head. Some haze is detected.

S: Dried cranberries on nose with some malt.

T: Slight tartness, sour malting and dried fruit (raisins) contribute to flavor. Some dry earthy bittering hops with dark caramel that is very rich. Some alcohol but not overpowering to the flavor.

M: light to medium fullness. heavily carbonated per style. ok but nothing really spectacular.average.

D: a safe moderate beer that strives to be middle of the road.

beerthulhu, Oct 06, 2008
Photo of Rzzzzz
4.03/5  rDev +8.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured into a pilsner glass. Orange/copper with a pretty, cream-colored head with excellent retention. Slight haze, active carbonation, good lacework.

This beer has a mild but pleasant nose, mostly caramel malt and floral hops, with notes of raisin and grain. It has a terrific malt flavor punctuated with some fruity notes (plum?), which is immediately smacked down by some wicked (as in wicked good) bitterness. Medium bodied and smooth, easy to drink. This is a solid, enjoyable ESB.

Rzzzzz, Jun 16, 2008
Photo of Gmann
3.78/5  rDev +1.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Pours a hazy dirty brown color with an over active light brown head that left some nice foamy lacing on the glass. The aroma is of rust, minerals, perhaps some fig or light brown sugar. The taste is a strong metallic/rust flavor, earthy; must have some hard-ass water in Philly. Some light honeysuckel and brown sugar notes followed by a bittering hop flavor, typical of an ESB. The feel is fairly light with very fizzy carbonation. Has a very airy feel to it. The finish is on the slightly bitter side of the spectrum. The metallic flavor is probably a bit strong but resembles the true English ales. A very solid offering, worth a try.

Gmann, Apr 26, 2008
Photo of ColForbinBC
3.93/5  rDev +5.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

12oz bottle

Wow. A large, root beer float-like, slightly off-white head settles to a nice lace. Appears a reddish amber with bits of yeast suspended in the mix.

Smell is sour and bitter with a bit of fruit and candied caramel malt.

A very sour, wine-like taste. Crisp, clean malts and a citrus hop palate. Overall though, very smooth.

Oxidizes on the tongue. Very carbonated.

A little tough because of the carbonation, but a very smooth and solid beer.

ColForbinBC, Apr 12, 2008
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 ROMER79
4/5  rDev +7.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

I am a fan of yards. Being from Philly, I can say this I guess. But, I will always like Belgians more.

P: Copper orange with a one finger tan head.

S: Hops, fruits, and spices

T: Hoppy, fruity, with a touch of spice to balance

M: Good

D: Easy to enjoy anytime. I like me some hops.

ROMER79, Mar 30, 2008
Photo of hops4me
3.93/5  rDev +5.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A - deep red/amber. Very nice color. Small thin head but it stays with the beer as its volume diminishes. Small amounts of lace adhere to the side of the glass.

S - Fruity and slight grassy smell. Bananas and apples.

T - Opens up with toasted malt and caramel. This gives way to a small butterscoth and toffee middle. The after taste has some clinging sweetness and hop bitterness.

M - medium to light body with a decent amount of prickly CO2.

D - I like this one. Nice depth. Complex but easy drinking. If I could get this where I lived, I would buy more.

hops4me, Mar 06, 2008
Photo of splat215
3.88/5  rDev +4.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A - Foamy head, golden brown color, good carbonation - looks great.
S - Spices (cinnamon), with a sweetness to it
T - Bitter but not overwhelming, spice - solid flavor profile, no nasty afterbite
M - Little too much carbonation for my tastes, slightly on the thin side
D - Quite enjoyable, spices make it a little strong for multiple servings

splat215, Feb 20, 2008
Photo of yourefragile
3.38/5  rDev -8.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

12 oz bottle poured into a pint glass

A: Dark, slightly hazy, mostly clear copper color. Off white head that quickly dissipates to a thick ring with some large bubbles and sticks to the inside of the glass.
S: Strong smells of sugar and malt, a little hop hiding in back
T: Strong sweet flavor paired against a pleasant hop bitterness, though they don't seem to be balanced too well. Strong malt body and finish is drier and slightly bitter.
M: Lighter side of medium body with very strong, active carbonation.
D: I like the taste and look of this beer but something just seems a little out of whack in the body. All of the appropriate flavors are there but the sweetness and bitterness seem to be fighting each other.

yourefragile, Feb 17, 2008
Photo of matty
3.38/5  rDev -8.9%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Dark amber colored ale with a thin foam that is quickly gone.Sweet smelling aroma and taste of toasted malt with a mildly bitter aftertaste.All around decent beer,would recommend to anybody.I am eager to sample other beers from this brewery,i've heard good things about them!!

matty, Jan 30, 2008
Photo of RblWthACoz
3.9/5  rDev +5.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a clouded amber that has strong orange tones and a bit of brown in the mix as well. Nose is a slight sugary leaf. Flavor is pretty smooth with a staying power that holds a mildly mature sweet woody tone. Very slight bitter edge on the end. Feel is smooth on liquid and pretty standard on the carbonation. This is a very drinkable brew. Nothing wild or crazy, but it is fairly even and smooth. Would probably be interesting on cask.

RblWthACoz, Dec 31, 2007
Photo of wheelinshirt
1.83/5  rDev -50.7%
look: 2 | smell: 2 | taste: 1.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2

Really disappointed with this one. I have had their IPA before and i remember enjoying it, but this beer was a mess. Way too carbonated and not balanced at all. The hops and carbonation drown out any malt character. I also got a metallic taste to this one that stayed for some time. Not an enjoyable beer.

wheelinshirt, Nov 28, 2007
Photo of AaronHomoya
3.45/5  rDev -7%
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.

AaronHomoya, Oct 06, 2007
Photo of mobyfann
3.68/5  rDev -0.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Paid $27.99 for a mixed case...

The beer pours a light chocolate brown colored based, small white/off-caramel head, and nice lacing effects. The aroma is a mix of mild malt, a bit sweet maybe lemon, also a sneaky and subtle note of hops.

The taste is rather strong when compared to the aromas, I think of a nut English brown ale when I drink this but sweeter. For an ESB it is really sweet in general. The carbonation is a bit heavy but feels good on the mouth with the retaining head. This beer is drinkable, but only 2 for me and I will move elsewhere, due to the over-sweetness.

Final Thought: Cool brew! I like everything that is going on, and it gets higher grades for originality (4.5/5.0), but there is no voting option for that!?!

mobyfann, Sep 08, 2007
Photo of flexabull
3.58/5  rDev -3.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Bottle courtesy of leftmindedrighty. Thanks again.

Pours a clear copper color with a nice head on top.

Aromas are sweet, malty, and a bit yeast like.

Beer has a very bright and crisp malt character. Pretty strong flavors, not as subtle as most British versions of the style. Finish is dry, and has a very faint hop bitterness.

Mouthfeel is nice and full.

Pretty nice and drinkable beer. But I like others in the style better...

flexabull, Aug 24, 2007
Photo of klewis
3.55/5  rDev -4.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Courtesy of leftmindedrighty

A: Pours a copper color with a frothy head. Tons of lacing.

S: Mild smell with an herbal hop aroma.

T: Nicely balanced, but with a strong vegetal hop flavor.

M: Medium-bodied with light-moderate carbonation. Very dry texture.

D: Nothing special, but solid.

klewis, Aug 22, 2007
Photo of jmalex
4.13/5  rDev +11.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Another from my Yards variety case that I'm drinking in remembrance of the now splitting brewery.

APPEARANCE: Pours into my Yards shaker an opaque copper-colored amber with vague red highlights. The head starts one finger high and slowly descends to a surface coating and hearty collar.

SMELL: The aroma is a very balanced combination of sweet pale malt and clean but slightly resinous hops. Neither are very intense at all. Overall it's an appropriately mild aroma.

TASTE: The beer hits you first with a mild and refreshing sweetness. Then it really shows its colors with a delicious nutty toasty quality. At the same time, the hops show themselves. They're slightly citrusy and a bit resinous but at a surprisingly low level. It's quite nice.

MOUTHFEEL: Medium-light bodied and very refreshing. A moderate carbonation level helps it just a bit more.

DRINKABILITY: Drinkability is excellent. A very nice interpretation of the style, and it goes down fantastically easy.

Now this is beer I could buy again. Oh wait. The brewery is splitting up. Here's hoping the next incarnation of Yards can make this beer just as delicious.

jmalex, Aug 02, 2007
Extra Special Ale (ESA) from Yards Brewing Co.
84 out of 100 based on 551 ratings.