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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.

549 Ratings
very good

(view ratings)
Ratings: 549
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: 549 | Reviews: 260 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of Kreuger
3.83/5  rDev +3.2%

Served in a brown bottle with no noticable date, nor was there one on the variety case.

A - This poured a dark amber brown color. This poured with one figner of frothy rocky head. Little visible carbonation.

S - The smell is largely toasted malts. There s a little bit of a sweet hop aroma going on in the background.

T - There's a strong malt presence here. And a surprisingly strong roasted/burnt malt after taste. Im not sure hwat it reminds me of, maybe campfires and wood smoke. I'm not sure, but I like it.

M - This has a pretty solid body. Not quite chewey, but substantial.

D - At 6.3% abv and with such a strong burnt taste this might not be the best session beer, but it will certianly go along well with strongly flavored foods. I can see this riding high with some barbecue or some really spicy wings.

Kreuger, Feb 09, 2006
Photo of brentk56
4.33/5  rDev +16.7%

Appearance: Pours a hazy medium amber color with a fluffy head that leaves a smattering of lacing behind

Smell: Caramel and earthy English hops on the nose

Taste: Starts out with a nice caramel malt flavor, with the earthy hops making their presence known by mid-palate; mineral flavors appear as well; after the swallow, the tea-like hop flavors continue to pair nicely with the caramel backbone

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied with moderate carbonation

Drinkability: Well-balanced example of the style; a great session beer

brentk56, Feb 06, 2006
Photo of joeskirkie
3.28/5  rDev -11.6%

Well theres not much head, I've had others that had a vey tall head though. The color looks like a brown that matches the empty bottle, with a hint of red in it.

Light fruity? scent. I definatley detect malts, but not too much roasting going on. The most nocticable thing is a lingering bitterness, but it's well balanced I would say. I can readily call this a smooth and sessionable brew.

joeskirkie, Jan 30, 2006
Photo of jmz62565
4.05/5  rDev +9.2%

This pours a reddish coppery color with a two finger off-white head.The smell is pretty strong with a 'bisquity' aroma and some fruit,apples? The taste has a definite hop feel that mellows the malt,but leaves a nice sweetness.The m/f is light and very well balanced. This is a very good beer. I was once down on Yards,but I've changed my mind.Good job.

jmz62565, Jan 23, 2006
Photo of maelstrom
3.5/5  rDev -5.7%

I recently moved to Philadelphia and think it appropriate to try the local offerings. I intend to work through the Yards selection and decided to start with the Yards ESA.

The initial bouquet once poured is very balanced with none of the elements overpowering. The taste is only slighty hoppy and not quite as bitter as I was expecting. Overall, a very balanced taste and consistent from the initial moment it hits the pallette to the finish. Mouthfeel was well built with nice medium body and the carbonation was moderate. I should add here that the beer poured very well with just the right amount of head.

Overall, the Yards ESA is to me, a good, solid beer and is very drinkable for leisurely, slightly detached enjoyment. In the end, this offering is certainly above average but nothing about it really jumps out and grabs you.

maelstrom, Jan 01, 2006
Photo of unknownlamer
4.18/5  rDev +12.7%

It is damn near impossible not to get a good head with this. It is really carbonated so one must pour it very carefully to avoid getting a glass of foam. It pours a cloudy copper color with an off white and very solid head. It leaves beautiful lacing too. The smell is mildly fruity with the grain smell dominating. The smell isn't too interesting, but that is really the only flaw I can find in this.

The taste follows through and is nice and malty with the perfect amount of hops to balance it out. Not too bitter and not too sweet. The carbonation makes it feel wonderful in the mouth too. The six pack of this disappeared very quickly.

unknownlamer, Dec 17, 2005
Photo of beerluvr
4.28/5  rDev +15.4%

Slight medium tan head settles over clear amber tinged reddish liquid. Excellent classic ESB nose: biscuity/sweet malt and fresh hoppiness balanced to perfection. The taste was more hoppy than malty sweet, the dryness of the hops really compliments the malt base. The complex flavors were all the more complex on this cask version. Finished long and bittersweet.

beerluvr, Oct 27, 2005
Photo of tgbljb
3.63/5  rDev -2.2%

poured a murky reddish-copper color with moderate, yet oong lasting tannish head. Smell seems to be a combination of malts, caramel and hops, with none dominating the other. Good Blend. Taste starts with toasty malt, but slowly evolves into a strong hop bitterness. Finishes very, hoppy and bitter. Nice easy drinking beer.

tgbljb, Sep 10, 2005
Photo of cubedbee
2.98/5  rDev -19.7%

Pours a dark reddish copper with a finger of loose head which sticks around as a ring all the way through the beer. Aroma is a little caramel, a little floral hops, and unforunately a little soy sauce. This is the second ESB I've tried where I smelled soy sauce, so it might be something with me, but it's definitely offputting. Luckily, the smell doesn't carry over to the taste. The taste is a caramel malt with a slight buttery flavor and a fairly strong floral hop finish leaving some lingering bitterness. Mouthfeel is a little too carbonated and prickly on the tongue. The smell ruins this beer for me, but even without it I'd say it's only an average brew.

cubedbee, Sep 09, 2005
Photo of ppoitras
3.4/5  rDev -8.4%

12oz bottle purchased as a single somewhere in NoVA, either WF/Vienna, WF/Annadale, Norm's, or Rick's.

Poured into an imperial pint glass, and got the same foamy mess others have mentioned. Can you say 5" of head and 1/2" of beer after a careful, slow, against the glass pour? I knew you could. Waiting 15 minutes to actually get 12oz into my 20oz glass is really not an "Extra Special" experience...

Too bad the wait is so long, because the airy foam head has a nice, casky look to it, and heavy sticky foam is the rule, not the exception here. Aroma is fruity hops, with a malty undercurrent. Taste is smooth malt, with fruity hops adding character, but not dissolving your tongue. More cask-like attributes here. Mouthfeel is nice and smooth. Drinkability is where I had to ding this one, as I want more, but just can't wait that long.

ppoitras, Sep 05, 2005
Photo of beermanbrian
3.5/5  rDev -5.7%

When i could finally get it in the glass this beer had a cloudy gold color. The head was just huge and frothy. I'm about 1/2 way through a case and they have all been this way so it isn't just an isolated bottle. Very pungent grapefruity/piney hops smell. The grapefruit is the primary taste. The bitterness gives it a dry finish that puckers your cheeks. Slightly above average beer that is ok but nothing special. From reading other reviews it seems to have a lot of variability.

beermanbrian, Aug 16, 2005
Photo of jakester
4/5  rDev +7.8%

I got this in a trade with a friend on mine. Bottle has an expiration date blurrily printed on the bottle. 05/21/06. Seems like a long expiry for a 5.5% beer. I have had problems with Yards being spoiled in the past.

Pours a slightly hazy light amber/orange with a one finger head of off-white foam. Head eventually drops to islands and a ring. Still, there are traces of lacing all the way own.

Aroma is clean, fresh, crisp citrusy/piney hops and slightly grainy caramel malts. A little earthy and yeasty. True to style.

Tastes of earthy caramel, but crisp and refreshing, not sweet. A very nice level of hop bitterness, and some grapefruity/lemony pine needles hop flavor there as well. A good representation of the style.(ESB) This is obviously a fresh sample. Aftertaste is caramely/grainy, but pleasant. A little yeast comes through as it warms.

Mouthfeel is crisp and clean, with a moderate level of carbonation on the tongue. Finish is dry and slightly astringent, but pleasant.

I could drink this all day, if asked to. It's crisp and refreshing, with a nice hop bite. A good "session" beer.

jakester, Aug 03, 2005
Photo of watermelonman
4.03/5  rDev +8.6%

This poured to a nice brown and amber color, with a small head that lasted well. The lacing is very minor.

The smell is very good, with hefty malt content and great smoothness. Some of that smoothness is lost in the taste and mouthfeel, but good flavors remain. The taste adds caramel and a light hint of nuts to the malt. Hop content is mild and pleasing.

watermelonman, Aug 01, 2005
Photo of AudioGilz
3.75/5  rDev +1.1%

It pours a murky muddy color with a rather large head of foam; definitely an enticing sight. Solid hop aromas permeate the nostrils, a bit fruity, with some slight sweet maltness. Same goes for the flavors, solid hop character, a pleasant bitterness in the aftertaste, but not overly so. It doesn't knock my socks off, but the enjoyment factor is solidly there. I'm sure it's quite a treat on cask.

AudioGilz, Jun 26, 2005
Photo of tweeder263
3.35/5  rDev -9.7%

Pours out a dark amber brewski with a 2 finger head.Smells sweet with a nice hop aroma.Tastes a bit dry with bitter hops thrown in,,not horrible but could be rounded out a little bit better.Mouthfeel is ok. A drinkable beer,but i expected better ,,maybe another one of their styles ill try a few more yards.

tweeder263, Jun 21, 2005
Photo of GeoffFromSJ
4/5  rDev +7.8%

A decent ESB which makes for good session drinking. Hops slightly dominate the malt presence. Some doughiness in the taste which is expected for the style. Hops were very good. Malt tastes were average to above average for the style.

I think more subtlety and complexity will be shown on the cask versions of this beer, which can be found all over Philly. But for some reason I've not partaked of those yet.

GeoffFromSJ, May 30, 2005
Photo of TheDeuce
3.95/5  rDev +6.5%

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.

TheDeuce, May 20, 2005
Photo of TongoRad
3.15/5  rDev -15.1%

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.

TongoRad, May 10, 2005
Photo of NeroFiddled
4.38/5  rDev +18.1%

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!

NeroFiddled, May 06, 2005
Photo of mentor
2.15/5  rDev -42%

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.

mentor, Mar 11, 2005
Photo of francisweizen
4.5/5  rDev +21.3%

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!

francisweizen, Feb 28, 2005
Photo of MuddyFeet
3.53/5  rDev -4.9%

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.

MuddyFeet, Jan 22, 2005
Photo of santoslhalper
3.53/5  rDev -4.9%

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.

santoslhalper, Dec 21, 2004
Photo of merlin48
3.55/5  rDev -4.3%

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.

merlin48, Oct 21, 2004
Photo of edchicma
4/5  rDev +7.8%

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.

edchicma, Oct 16, 2004
Extra Special Ale (ESA) from Yards Brewing Co.
84 out of 100 based on 549 ratings.