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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.

529 Ratings
very good

(view ratings)
Ratings: 529
Reviews: 260
rAvg: 3.71
pDev: 12.67%
Wants: 5
Gots: 21 | 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)
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Ratings: 529 | Reviews: 260 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of francisweizen


4.5/5  rDev +21.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

On cask at several Philly bars over the past few months (Standard Tap, McMenamins, Etc...). Dark amber and slightly muddy in appearance with an unusually fluffy head for a cask brew. The aromas are all sweet UK bready malts and some nice UK hopping is in use here as well. The taste is lovely with a sweet maltiness in the foreground and a slightly nutty hopiness in the background. The mouthfeel is cask greatness and the drinkability is great as well. One of the best non-UK sessions beers I have ever tasted!

Serving type: cask

02-28-2005 19:09:37 | More by francisweizen
Photo of MuddyFeet

North Carolina

3.53/5  rDev -4.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Poured a lot darker than I was expecting, with just enough of a head to create a half-way decent lace around the edges of the glass. After I learned it was an ESB and not an ale or amber, I said, "Aaah!" The aroma is strong in yeast and slightly old, blackened bananas. The yeast follows through into the tongue of the beer, and is quickly replaced by a wood varnish flavor. The hops are quite pleasantly bitter and they hang around the back of the mouth well after I was finished. Kind of like sucking on orange peels. Unless one likes ESB, you may be turned off by the hop kick, but this would be a good beer for a tasting to introduce someone to a bitter without it being too over the top.

Serving type: bottle

01-22-2005 02:35:06 | More by MuddyFeet
Photo of santoslhalper


3.53/5  rDev -4.9%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Appearence: Pours a copper hazy hue with an extremely small head. Head leaves tin spots of lacing.

Smell: Smell's spicy and hoppy with decent malt back. The alcohol smells strong for a 6.3% brew.

Taste and Mouthfeel: Smooth and spicy at first, mellowing out to a almost woody flavor at the end. This beer is nicely balanced, but none of the flavors really taste all that great. The mouthfeel is chewy and sticky. The aftertaste lingers on for a minute or so.

Drinkability and Overall: A strong, solid beer that has a flavor that is purely American. But that flavor is nothing special. The mouthfeel is good. But other than that this beer doesn't stand out in any way. The drinkability is held down by the lack of a really good taste. My first offering from Yard's, and I must say I'm a bit dissapointed.

Serving type: bottle

12-21-2004 02:48:43 | More by santoslhalper
Photo of merlin48


3.55/5  rDev -4.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Pours a hazed, copper amber body with a gigantic, rocky, beige, head that settles at two fingers in height after several minutes in the glass. Patch lacing is massive in effect.
Aroma features caramel malt and pine and grassy hops.
Mouthfeel is medium bodied and well carbonated, with a stinging hops bite.
Taste begins with a caramel malt sweetness that is quickly overcome by hops bitterness. Hops profile is puzzling, but assertive. Not citrusy or pine, but more of a herbal/spicy nature. This seems to have some ringwood yeast character, but maybe I'm picking up some diacetyls. Bitterness becomes acrid toward the finish, diminishing my desire to have another.
I note that this is classified as a strong bitter, and that, it is. I don't find it to be in the English style, but it's worth a try.

Serving type: bottle

10-21-2004 00:02:57 | More by merlin48
Photo of edchicma


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

Super heads tops a light murky brown appearance. Floral citrus hop on the nose....very inviting. Light initial sweetness is followed by a hoppy, tasty bitter flavor...finishes dry. Mouthefeel is dominated by hops and dryness...I like both. Easy to drink....smooth enough to have another.

Serving type: bottle

10-16-2004 00:32:14 | More by edchicma
Photo of donnebaby

North Carolina

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

Soft dry foam head that seemed to dry up more and more against the glass. Sharp malts smell, deep on flavor, of spicy molassas and low sweetness. Taste held a medium malts flavor without too much flair. Something of bitter oranges and citrus, but not too much. Touches of bitter, earthy hops arrive late. Medium to heavy body, a solid ESB, but nothing too exciting bringing me back for more.

Serving type: bottle

10-06-2004 04:28:45 | More by donnebaby
Photo of yen157

New Jersey

3.85/5  rDev +3.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3

Pours orange amber with some haziness and a few floaties. Foamy tan head that leaves some nice lace. Nose is of apples, bubblegum, and malt, that Yards house character that sometimes gets out of control. Slight (this time) tartness dulls the sweet malt. Moderate “British” malt flavor through and through, a little bready, and spicy hops on the finish. There are slight hints of the phenolic funkiness that is rampant in the bottles of ESA and TJ Ale that were oh so bad. Carbonation is light and prickly, and the body is light as well. This is a very good beer that I can image being wonderful if cask conditioned (as I have heard from schoolteacher). If somehow I can be assured that the beer isn’t going to be one of the woeful ones I have come across several times, I would certainly get this again.

Serving type: bottle

08-10-2004 17:22:29 | More by yen157
Photo of GCBrewingCo

North Carolina

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

The beer poured hazy golden amber with an off-white head that was tall and long lasting to lace the glass.

The aroma was slightly malty with caramel. Slightly fruity and English hop presence.

The flavor was bitter with English bittering balanced by caramel maltiness. The balance was however distinctly bitter.

The finish was dry with well accomplished bitter aftertaste. The body was medium.

12 ounce bottle. 5.5% ABV on bottle.

Serving type: bottle

07-31-2004 00:04:54 | More by GCBrewingCo
Photo of sublimesipping


4.03/5  rDev +8.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

pours a beautiful, dark mahagony color. Two inches of creamy, beige colored foam settle into the glass. Aroma of blanched cashews and fresh-baked bread. Nutty flavor permeates throughout the th first sips. Beer strikes a really fine balance between hoppy and sweet. Mouthfeel is tremendous, very full on the tongue and threough the taste and lingers and lingers on the palate. Exceptional balance for this beer. A perfect summer/fall beer and better from the cask.

Serving type: bottle

07-17-2004 04:29:06 | More by sublimesipping
Photo of aracauna


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

I missed the chance to have this on cask in Philadelphia, so I brought home a bottle of it to try later. Tasting this makes me wish I had gone to the Standard Tap and dared the hangover gods. This is good. Heavily hazed brown-amber with a big airy head that fades slowly. The aroma is heavily fruity with apricots, grapefruits and plums riding over the malt. The flavor turns maltier with a strong toasty presence supported by a mild bitterness and that great fruitiness. Tasty beer.

Serving type: bottle

06-30-2004 07:20:47 | More by aracauna
Photo of garymuchow


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

Thank you to goindownsouth for this sample. It's much appreciated.

Aroma starts with a sweet malt with a notable yeast quality that eventually dominates.
Poured with an excessive head that tan is color. Amber of orange and deep red. Cloudy. Yeast setiment on bottom of bottle.
Flavor shows an interesting mix of malt (with just a shot of sweet fruitiness), spicy hops that moves to a lingering bitterness, and the yeasty tones.The yeast brings an interesting flavor contribution that adds a refreshing quality to the drink.
Feel is mostly soft from both the ale smoothness and the carbonation, but the bite from the hops prevents it from being completely smooth. Carbonation is a little excessive.
Interesting ale. Unique and drinkable. Yeast flavors may be excessive for some.

Serving type: bottle

06-28-2004 18:46:22 | More by garymuchow
Photo of blitheringidiot


4.03/5  rDev +8.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Delicious looking pour into a pilsner with a ruddy ruby cloudy bottle conditioned fizzy serve, under a slick white head coating with never ending carbonation bubbles.

Mostly Earthy malty scents that are hidden inside. Aroma needs to be searched for to be found.

More malt in the taste that hops. Bottle conditioning was a bit early in the offering. The bottle was stamped with an 04/23/04 painted date. After this warmed to a warmer than fridge temp, the hops popped out with palpable yeasty smoothness. Easy malt profile.

High grades for the feel. This flowed out of the bottle and into me gullet almost like a cask conditioned beer fresh from the handle, with a thick creamy body. Carbonation is a foamer all the way.

Last swigs: Spicy herbal cookie. This might be the first 5/5 bottle feel I have ever given. Cask-conditioned from the bottle. Hmmm...YARDS is top notch locally with a lack of marketing zest. A mature drinker that goes back despite bready robust full body. High marks all around. I've had this on cask, but never reviewed it. Good.

Beer is good. Happy beering.

Serving type: bottle

06-10-2004 05:19:49 | More by blitheringidiot
Photo of 99bottles


4.2/5  rDev +13.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

Appearance: Pours an awfully deep amber color, with an abundant fluffy off white head. The one trademark of Yards’ beers is the insane and somewhat annoying head. As a bottle conditioned ale, this has less yeast and sediment in the bottle than other offerings like the Philly Pale Ale.

Smell: Rich malts and sweet biscuity dough. Brown sugar and molasses.

Taste: Very nice indeed. A heavy malt presence serves as the base for this ale. There is a good bitterness towards the end, more akin to a British bitter than an ESB (which is what I’m guessing this is classified as). Noble hops show life through the finish.

Mouthfeel: Smooth and rich. The malt gives it a certain thickness

Drinkability: A classic. Quite satisfying as it is not overly heavy, but not thin in anyway. If there wasn’t another beer I wanted to try, I’d drink these all evening long and be content. However, I’m usually inclined to switch things up given the chance. Excellent as a session beer though.

Serving type: bottle

04-15-2004 03:09:14 | More by 99bottles
Photo of guinness33

New Jersey

3.23/5  rDev -12.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

this brew from yards starts out wonderfully by building expectations with a stellar appearance, but tanks back into the land of average thereafter. pours a great looking cloudy amber colour with a big creamy off-white head. nice stickiness and great overall appearance. smells of malt, hop, and a bit of fruit sweetness (plum or grape, perhaps). the taste is average at best, much like the smell. there's a bit of a hop kick in here along with a bitter malt finish that is on the dry side. again, this one's nothing special, but it's not bad either. there's nothing striking that would warrant my seeking this one out on a regular basis, but i certainly wouldn't turn one down if offered to me.

Serving type: bottle

04-14-2004 16:46:02 | More by guinness33
Photo of CRJMellor


3.88/5  rDev +4.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Pours cloudy deep red copper color with offhite head that deposits big rows of lace to the pint glass.
Aroma is is biscuit nad butter with sweet caramel malt and herbal and resiny hop notes.
Flavro is very smooth malt that swithces to a somewhat subtle and pleasant perfumed and flowery bitterings.
Mouthfeel is crisp to start but then slides into a gritty and spicy highly bittered palate pounder. Little bit unbalanced IMHO, ven for the style.
Drinkability is very good, grows on you with numbers 2 & 3.
Thanks to beerluvr for another Yards creation.

Serving type: bottle

04-13-2004 03:13:24 | More by CRJMellor
Photo of WesWes

New York

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

The beer pours a dark amber color with a 1/4" off-white head that fades to lacing. The aroma is good. It has a creamy malt scent with a dry bitter aroma that lingers. The taste is good. It has a smooth, complex malt makeup that goes down easy and finishes bitter and dry. It has tremendous mouthfeel. It is a medium bodied beer with good carbonation. This is a fine ESA. It is really smooth and flavorful.

Serving type: bottle

04-04-2004 04:10:04 | More by WesWes
Photo of sulldaddy


3.88/5  rDev +4.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

I scored this brew from Beerluvr. Thanks man! I pour the 12 oz bottle at room temp into my snifter. I The brew pours a rich amber/copper color and I get a soft marshmallowy beige head to foam up easily. The head is sticking around nicely. The aroma is a nice mix of floral hops and malty caramel. Very balanced on the nose.
First sip reveals mild carbonation and an thicker than average body. The flavor is slight hit of caramel and then a rush of piney/grassy hops. Not overwhelming but definitely the strongest flavor I get. The hops leave a lingering bitter coat in my mouth and urge me to quest for the hit of sweetness at the front of this beer. The beer is very drinkable and I get no hint of the 6.3% abv. Quite a tasty beverage. Thanks beerluvr!!

Serving type: bottle

04-01-2004 23:17:32 | More by sulldaddy
Photo of goindownsouth


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

I have yet to come across a brew from Yards that is in any way bad. This Extra Special Ale was no exception. A deep and rich brew out of the bottle, it had a great deep amber appearance and sheen. The aroma was slightly bitter and smoewhat floral, but ever so different than that of ESB's. Make no mistake, this is one worth trying.

Zum wohl!

Serving type: bottle

03-24-2004 18:03:46 | More by goindownsouth
Photo of jtfest


3.88/5  rDev +4.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Pours a darkish amber-hued haze, with a HUGE, creamy off-white head -- lots of sediment in the bottle. Smelled of sweet hay with pumpkin spice and just a hint of hops -- an oddly pleasant combination. The mouthfeel was thick -- like molassas but not quite as syrupy. It felt very good on the palate and allowed the flavor to coat. The taste was spicy -- I detected orange, clove, and some floral characteristics -- quite complex, actually, with a complimentary level of bitterness in the aftertaste. A bit too heavy to be a session brew, perhaps, but very drinkable none-the-less. I enjoyed this one.

Serving type: bottle

03-18-2004 02:47:58 | More by jtfest
Photo of pheurton


3.58/5  rDev -3.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

unfiltered and cloudy color of old pennies. creamy eggshell colored head, that sticks around somewhat. interesting aroma that seems kind of schizophrenic. weird. medium chewy body, sort of slick in the mouth. fruity malt flavors are all over the place, very english esb in character. finishes with a decent hop-leaf twang that tied this beer together. interesting to say the least, i didn't know what to make of this brew at first, but it grew on me. an old english style ale with character. try it.

Serving type: on-tap

03-07-2004 18:22:06 | More by pheurton
Photo of GnomeKing


4.1/5  rDev +10.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

This beer goes down so easily and quickly, although its flavorful and has a good body. Everything about ESA is subtle and pleasant. The malts are a little more forward than the hops, but both are distinctly present and the balance between the two is relatively even. From the first instant the taste hits your tongue until the aftertaste disappears, this tastes great.

I first had this on the hand-pump at Standard Tap in Philly. The hand-pump seems to make everything taste better. I originally gave it a 5 for drinkability, but have since edited it to 4.5 after having the beer on ordinary taps. Still a great beer, but the hand-pump gave it a sweetness and drinkability that made the beer a little better overall.

Serving type: on-tap

02-15-2004 05:12:19 | More by GnomeKing
Photo of GreatPondBrewer


4.1/5  rDev +10.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

This was a damn good ESB if I have ever had one. Poured a dark cloudy mixture of brown and copper hues with an off-white head that was not overly large. Smelled wonderful with heavenly notes of dried raisins, mollassas and sweet esters. Taste was biscuity with a firm hop bite coming out towards the middle a slight sweetness and a buttery finish. The mouthfeel was full bodied and smooth. If I ever find this on cask it may be the best bitter I try. danke nomad.

Serving type: bottle

02-06-2004 17:53:38 | More by GreatPondBrewer
Photo of nomad


4.55/5  rDev +22.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

In honor of Fergie's, Monk's, the Standard Tap, Grey Lodge, and other fine Philly bars that regularly have this beer on cask. Thank you for this offering, which comforts me week in and week out in my acclimation to this new hometown.

It takes awhile for this sweet thang to calm down after a brisk pump from a cask. Ruddy shades of brown, red, and copper appear, with a tough head that never goes away, and likes to leave stain and lace behind that would make you think it was a nitro pour. In a sturdy pint glass, as most of Philly's finest tend to serve it, this beer looks right proper.

It's a world of fresh odors down the chute that keeps on shrinking down: caramel, toffee, rose water, dried flowers, lemony herbs, a husky hop leaf reminiscent of grapefruit turned grainy, and a faint biscuit sometimes.

Simply put, its like an even, hand-crafted mix of English malts with minty herbal hop flavors washing over. As a lover of ESB's, its very tough to find a good ESB with decent availability on the market, and thats speaking of bottles. Even harder is a draught special bitter, with those fresh, sturdy, but delectable flavors of caramelly malt and refined hops. Easy to drink, as it won't be too largely this or that. Equitable, balanced, and quietly complex, like it should be. The style of ESB is not an American big flavor monster - so don't expect it to be!

A rare item: a regularly available real ale patterned after the originators in England. If you don't understand it, well, that's a shame. If you'd like to, go to Fergie's Pub at 13th and Sansom in Philadelphia, PA where its the cheapest and best beer on draught. Well-appreciated.

Serving type: cask

01-25-2004 22:37:15 | More by nomad
Photo of stewart124


3.78/5  rDev +1.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

A deep cloudy amber ale with a fluffy head that vanishes a little too quickly but with nice traces of lace along the walls of the glass. The smell was decently hoppy with scents of fruit. The taste was a nice blend of fruits obscured by hops and finishing off with a dry taste. The hops were not overpowering but still gave your taste buds a nice jolt. A nice beer by any means and one that screams to be enjoyed by all.

Serving type: bottle

01-12-2004 04:44:31 | More by stewart124
Photo of Gasp100


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

Deep dark amber with a nice fluffy tan head. The lace clung to the glass heavy all the way down. The smell was slightly fruity with an earthy quality. The taste was of carmel, malt and slight hops with a clean, bitter finish. The mouthfeel was bright, crisp and very smooth on the tongue. This was a very enjoyable ESB style, not too sharp and extremely drinkable. I was very impressed with this one and hope to find it on tap soon.

Serving type: bottle

12-02-2003 01:11:04 | More by Gasp100
Extra Special Ale (ESA) from Yards Brewing Co.
84 out of 100 based on 529 ratings.