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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.

533 Ratings
very good

(view ratings)
Ratings: 533
Reviews: 260
rAvg: 3.71
pDev: 12.67%
Wants: 5
Gots: 23 | 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: 533 | Reviews: 260 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of TheDeuce

New York

3.95/5  rDev +6.5%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Yards Extra Special Ale....out of the Yards variety pack

Appearance-pours copper red, a small two finger head fizzes and goes with relative ease, ok clarity, this beer is clearly not as carbonated as other Yards' releases.

Smell-some caramel malt lingerings, some Magnum hop as well I believe, as it warms I smell something almost like Cocoa as well.

Taste-Malt comes through with a clean pronouncement but there is some hoppyness to speak of as well, bittersweet and smooth.

Mouthfeel-decent going down, smooth and malty, rich bitter aftertaste leaves the mouth in desire of more, not too alcoholic either.

Drinkability-a decent bitter that is sessional, I could see myself quaffing this in any English pub.

Overall-a passable bitter, better as it warms, very malty as it should be, nothing of the style that leaps out and wows me but a very solid attempt at the style, another solid part of the variety pack.

Serving type: bottle

05-20-2005 02:43:43 | More by TheDeuce
Photo of TongoRad

New Jersey

3.15/5  rDev -15.1%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

I'll be damned if I can make out the freshness stamp on the bottle, but it's there.

A decanted pour shows a slightly hazy dark copper with a long lasting one finger head.

Moderate aroma- creamy, slightly berry-like esters, caramel and some fresh floral hops.

Bittering hops dominate the palate. There's a touch of dark caramel and fruit as well. Finish is crisp and the bitterness lingers. Not particularly bad, but kinda boring. A good fallback option.

Serving type: bottle

05-10-2005 00:18:57 | More by TongoRad
Photo of NeroFiddled


4.38/5  rDev +18.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Yards ESA shines on draft, and a fresh cask or keg can can deliver a marvelous pint that draws you back again and again! This dark amber/copper ale reveals slightly-hazy orange highlights when held to the light, and a creamy dollop of short but long-lasting off-white froth atop. Bright, grassy, leafy, and floral hops greet you in the nose along with the signature Yards fruit and mineral yeastiness and wafts of hop-laced, caramel-accented malt. It's smooth across the palate with a medium body and a delicately zesty, gently restrained carbonation. Fruitiness and malt combine upfront in the flavor before it becomes a bit more complex as the leafy/grassy/floral hop flavors and a solid bitterness arrive to dry things out. It's not overly complex, but this is not a one-sided beer by any means, and that leads to a great drinkability. When it's on, it's on! And it's always worth the price of admission to see if you've found your pint for the night! Always delicious and sometimes brilliant, this is a slightly strong session-ale that's not to be missed!

Serving type: on-tap

05-06-2005 13:31:59 | More by NeroFiddled
Photo of mentor


2.15/5  rDev -42%
look: 2 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2

Thanks to Francisweizen for this one. Freshness stamp is 042306. Pours a ridiculouos 4 finger head from just half of the bottle. WTF? Light tan head over a very cloudy orange rust liquid. Decent lacing left on the glass. Smells tangy. Mango, orange, and pine sol. Tastes tart to start. Frutiy with an early burst of carbonation on the front flat of my tongue. Yeasty and malty in the middle with some acrid carbonation piercing a bit gently. The very end has a dish-soapy twang that I don't like, and it's combined with chalky malt character. Aftertaste is a sequel of the tart start. I also get a metallic character that I'm wondering if it's hops or just a result of foul preparation. This beer sucks. There is an amazing sameness between this beer and their Philadelphia Pale Ale, although the pale ale has noticable citrus hop character. Mouthfeel is medium, I guess. It's hard to tel, because the moment I start to swirl the beer in my mouth it explodes into a glob of foam. This beer is vastly overcarbonated.

Edit: Wow, this beer received the lowest score I've ever given. I've only reviewed craft beers up to this point...time for me to dig into some macro-swill.

Serving type: bottle

03-11-2005 05:54:45 | More by mentor
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
Extra Special Ale (ESA) from Yards Brewing Co.
84 out of 100 based on 533 ratings.