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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.

546 Ratings
very good

(view ratings)
Ratings: 546
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: 546 | Reviews: 260 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of kennyo

New York

3.98/5  rDev +7.3%

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

01-18-2009 19:49:40 | More by kennyo
Photo of LilBeerDoctor

New York

2.83/5  rDev -23.7%

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

01-11-2009 02:16:28 | More by LilBeerDoctor
Photo of Seanibus


3.88/5  rDev +4.6%

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.

12-18-2008 21:31:27 | More by Seanibus
Photo of beerthulhu

New Jersey

3.38/5  rDev -8.9%

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.

10-06-2008 22:51:24 | More by beerthulhu
Photo of Rzzzzz


4.03/5  rDev +8.6%

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.

06-16-2008 03:14:02 | More by Rzzzzz
Photo of Gmann

New York

3.78/5  rDev +1.9%

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.

04-26-2008 02:47:15 | More by Gmann
Photo of ColForbinBC

New Jersey

3.93/5  rDev +5.9%

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.

04-12-2008 05:35:42 | More by ColForbinBC
Photo of dennarb


4.8/5  rDev +29.4%

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.

04-05-2008 23:10:49 | More by dennarb
Photo of ROMER79


4/5  rDev +7.8%

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.

03-30-2008 15:35:46 | More by ROMER79
Photo of hops4me


3.93/5  rDev +5.9%

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.

03-06-2008 01:44:11 | More by hops4me
Photo of splat215


3.88/5  rDev +4.6%

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

02-20-2008 20:38:09 | More by splat215
Photo of yourefragile

District of Columbia

3.38/5  rDev -8.9%

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.

02-17-2008 20:12:52 | More by yourefragile
Photo of matty


3.38/5  rDev -8.9%

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!!

01-30-2008 20:32:27 | More by matty
Photo of RblWthACoz


3.9/5  rDev +5.1%

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.

12-31-2007 20:08:34 | More by RblWthACoz
Photo of wheelinshirt


1.83/5  rDev -50.7%

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.

11-28-2007 03:28:15 | More by wheelinshirt
Photo of AaronHomoya


3.45/5  rDev -7%

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.

10-06-2007 22:56:11 | More by AaronHomoya
Photo of mobyfann


3.68/5  rDev -0.8%

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!?!

09-08-2007 01:17:58 | More by mobyfann
Photo of flexabull


3.58/5  rDev -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...

08-24-2007 21:41:39 | More by flexabull
Photo of klewis


3.55/5  rDev -4.3%

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.

08-22-2007 00:42:19 | More by klewis
Photo of jmalex


4.13/5  rDev +11.3%

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.

08-02-2007 22:24:16 | More by jmalex
Photo of BittRnessabounds


3.5/5  rDev -5.7%

Nice looking almost bourbon colored ale with modest slightly off-white head. All slightly obscured by condensation on my glass. Subtle smell that starts with hops, and as I inhale aroma turns to malt and perhaps slight alcohol note. Nothing over powering, all pretty subtle. Nice smooth taste dominated by the malt, again nothing really jumps out. Very smooth very drinkable beer with good mouthfeel. All in all this is a solid ale. However, nothing dominates or emphasizing any aspect of the beer. I'm guessing Yards designed this ale to be their standard gateway ale. It seems as though they were less interested in making a quality ESB, but instead were trying to turn an ESB into an American amber ale. The results are good, but not by any means spectacular.

08-02-2007 02:07:34 | More by BittRnessabounds
Photo of Umbra


3.3/5  rDev -11.1%

12 oz of hazy brown with a thick head. Great retention and lacing (something of an expectation with most yards brews)

Nose full of malt. Some bready metallics on some from the sixer

Malty and nutty with a faint hops bite. Comes off as a bit watery, though, lacking some body. Some spiciness comes through on the end.

With a slightly lower ABV, this one could be a very nice session.

Other info: As with many Yards brews I've had in the past, at least one beer out of every 6'er appears to have some sort of quality related problem. I really like the beers when good, but won't be hashing out big bucks for this micro when I can trust some others (which also detracts from drinkability)

07-25-2007 19:21:03 | More by Umbra
Photo of JFazekas


3.83/5  rDev +3.2%

Presentation: Standard 12oz bottle

Appearance: Medium brown body, very small head that quickly dissipated.

Smell: A very average smelling beer, nothing that really stands out. It doesn't even smell that hoppy for an ESB

Taste: A very nice malty characteristic, perhaps some honey malt, mixes very nicely with a mild spice from the hops that isn't too overbearing.

Overall: I would definitely pick up a six pack of this on the way home from work. This is a very nice tasting ESB and it has a great drinkable quality as well.

07-04-2007 01:12:21 | More by JFazekas
Photo of soupyman10

District of Columbia

3.73/5  rDev +0.5%

Appearance is amber color, solid white head (one finger) with a little very mild lacing. Nose is fairly mild, although not bad. A little malt and that standard ESB scent. Taste is good; good amount of malt, saltiness, and then some hops in the background. Stronger than the nose suggested. Tasty. Feel is medium, good, good carbonation. Overall, a tasty, smooth, drinkable beer.

05-11-2007 19:53:51 | More by soupyman10
Photo of Braudog


3.08/5  rDev -17%

Bottle at my personal mecca, Brickskeller, Washington. Dark copper with a thin head. Metallic caramel aroma. Thin body. Bit grainy, gristy and carameled, but overall the thinness detracts far too much. Gets a bit better as it warms with more malt bases, boosting my impression. (#2775, 4/6/2007)

04-08-2007 23:48:16 | More by Braudog
Extra Special Ale (ESA) from Yards Brewing Co.
84 out of 100 based on 546 ratings.