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Young's Special London Ale - Wells & Young's Ltd

Young's Special London AleYoung's Special London Ale

Displayed for educational use only; do not reuse.
very good

391 Ratings

(view ratings)
Ratings: 391
Reviews: 322
rAvg: 3.96
pDev: 11.11%

Brewed by:
Wells & Young's Ltd visit their website
United Kingdom (England)

Style | ABV
Extra Special / Strong Bitter (ESB) |  6.40% ABV

Availability: Year-round

Notes/Commercial Description:
No notes at this time.

(Beer added by: BeerAdvocate on 01-14-2001)
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Ratings: 391 | Reviews: 322 | Show All Ratings:
Photo of BKotch


5/5  rDev +26.3%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

This CAN BE one of the most awesome beers out there. So effervescent that it's hard to pour without letting the mammoth head overflow the glass. Extremely hoppy and yet delicately fruity. BUT I have had some of the skunkiest beers ever come out of an SLA bottle. I don't know if my dealer just doesn't move it fast enough or what . . . When it's fresh, though, it's a real treat. I'll give it the benefit of the doubt.

Serving type: bottle

11-19-2001 00:00:45 | More by BKotch
Photo of Offa


5/5  rDev +26.3%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

This is one of my all-time favourites and for me it is essentially perfect beer.

Th colour is deep bronze colour with reddish hints. It has a beautiful thick, creamy, head that lasts forever and leaves beautiful lacing.

In taste it has amazing, deep complexity with a perfect bitter-sweet balance, and plenty of malt and hops in great balance. It has lots of light, zesty fruit with citrus, plus lightly caramelly malt, toasty bread, pine, a light earthiness, and consistent flavour from start to finish. It's flavour is strong and complex yet clean, very crisp, lively, and extremely satisfying and drinkable at the same time. It has an incredibly "fresh" quality to it. I shall add though, that I have gotten a couple bum bottles (however, that's out of many).

Serving type: bottle

04-18-2008 22:46:20 | More by Offa
Photo of CAMRAhardliner

Ontario (Canada)

4.88/5  rDev +23.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Appearance: a brilliant reddish orange with plenty of carbonation. The head is big and foamy with decent retention and excellent lace.
Smell: absolutely perfect. lots of earthy and spicey hops with biscuity malts.
Taste: a definite emphasis on the hops, very hoppy. Not the citrusy grapefruity hoppiness youd find in American ales, but a more earthy bitterness, probably from Golding hops. This beer is no hop tea however, there's a solid malt background.
Mouthfeel: Almost silky in its smoothness, highly quaffable. The aclohol is almost unperceptable. Terrific.

Ive finally got the chance to try this beer and it was even better than I thought. It probably replaces Fuller's ESB as my favourite Bitter.

Serving type: bottle

07-25-2004 18:00:11 | More by CAMRAhardliner
Photo of joecast


4.88/5  rDev +23.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

500ml bottle. best before may 06. bottle conditioned.

pours a surprising clear amber color. only poured about 2/3 of the bottle, but not even a haze to it. nicely sized foamy off white head.

nice floral hoppy aroma. a bit spicy, almost piney notes as well. very nice.
just checked out the youngs website (i feel like im cheating) which states fuggles and goldings hops. ive used goldings before and gotten a sweetness that i just didnt like. nothing like that here. also goldings and target added after fermentation. works great for me.

goodness me! this is some smooth stuff. great balance. malts hold up the brew something fierce. and being the hophead i am, i am not disappointed one bit. nice level of bitterness follows this brew right down.

i dont know what else to say. serious drinkability. and one of my new all time favorites. a champion of a beer.

Serving type: bottle

09-16-2005 09:33:58 | More by joecast
Photo of Mark


4.83/5  rDev +22%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

I finally had this brew again after a long wait. The wonderful English manager of the Longs that I wrote about in a past journal ordered this on my suggestion. This bottle conditioned ale poured a golden copper, the head shrunk to a thin persistent layer that left nice lace patterns. Taste is a bit more hoppy and bitter than most Young's beers, it is also on the sweet side and some buttery notes were evident. Another winner from Young's my favorite brewer. I have had some fresher samples recently and this is very close to cask! A top bottle conditioned beer!

Serving type: bottle

09-23-2002 19:22:25 | More by Mark
Photo of John

New York

4.8/5  rDev +21.2%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

One of my favorite beer styles is English strong ale and this one's a classic. Great bottle conditioned, outstanding on tap.

Serving type: bottle

09-25-2001 12:42:48 | More by John
Photo of KnutAlbert


4.78/5  rDev +20.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

The best bottled beer regularly brewed in the UK IMHO. Fine hoppy bitterness on top of complex flavours from the malt. The extra strength gived added dimensions compared to most of their draft beers. And it travels well, too.
A warning: Very easy-drinking, despite the alcohol!
Let's hope they can keep the same quality in the new brewery!

Serving type: bottle

08-11-2006 08:49:14 | More by KnutAlbert
Photo of jkdrummer


4.72/5  rDev +19.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Pours a dark orange and a nice rocky head that does not give up. Yeast aroma is pleasant too. Drank mine ice cold and the taste is sweet with a subtle banana flavor and a little bitterness and tartness from the hops. Mouth-feel is excellent and very easy to drink. Highly recommended.

Serving type: bottle

12-22-2007 22:27:36 | More by jkdrummer
Photo of snilsen13


4.7/5  rDev +18.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Okay, this is a loaded review, maybe. I had a bottle in CA while camping in some mosquito infested redwood forest. I drak it wjile eating NY Strip, fresh from the fire. I was in heaven. I drank from a plastic mug, but this beer elavated the experience to a perfect cullunary delight.

A - dark beer small head. Has nice solid color, looks good.

S - Pairs really well with meat. Not exotic.

T - smooth, luxurious balance of hops and malts, minimal aftertaste. Alcohol was faintly present ... on par with the best bottle conditioned ales or cask conditioned ales. really exceptional.

M - probably the weakness of all bottle conditioned, they're politefully smooth, watery, I can't give the more than 4.5 ... if it had just a little more carbonation.

D - Oh, friggan perfect! Please I want more! Where can I buy this in MA!

I can't believe the 4s this beer is getting. I know what I tasted. This is exceptional. I doubt I'll need to ammend these thoughts, except to better describe the A and S.

Serving type: bottle

07-27-2006 00:13:00 | More by snilsen13
Photo of TheSarge


4.63/5  rDev +16.9%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Produces 2.5 finger thick off white head, which forms tightly and lasts a good amount of time. Nice lacing sticks well to the glass. The body is slightly hazy and is amber gold in color.

Aroma is dominated by floral hops, with a hint of spruce/pine.

The taste also leans to the fruity/hoppy side, surprisingly. There is some lemon zest along with a light tea and biscuit taste.

MF is medium in body. Wetting to the palate. Very enjoyable with seafood I'd suppose, rather than the recommendations on the label.

This is a totally well balanced brew and a great hops profile. I'm slowly becoming a fan of these British ESBs.

Serving type: bottle

08-02-2009 17:25:02 | More by TheSarge
Photo of StevieW


4.6/5  rDev +16.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Same big bottle depicted in the picture.
Rusty copper color body, big rocky, dense, sticky, bubbly head. Laced the glass all the way to the bottom. Big nose of fresh whole hops, citrus and grapefruit and buttermilk biscuits. Lots of freshly baked bread smells.
Taste was exceptional for an ESB. Perfectly smooth combination of fresh bready biscuit malt and striking hop presence. Lots of lip puckering dry hop finish. Sticky on the lips though. Beer temps you have another sip. Loads of flavors, all balanced, wash right over each other.
Light to moderate body, super smooth and very very drinkable. The most refreshing, well balanced beer I have had in a long while. I can still taste it. I had this with grilled chicken and sweet peas, but I think it would go with just about any dinner. Well worth a try.
I bought this one at shop in St. Andrews and lugged it home, then stored it for about 5 months in my fridge, and it was still great. I think it's readily available in most parts of the US though.

Serving type: bottle

11-21-2003 23:36:45 | More by StevieW
Photo of ppoitras


4.55/5  rDev +14.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

500ml bottle obtained via trade with CRJMellor. Bottle conditioned, and hoofed back from the UK by him. A hearty thanks for the opportunity...

Poured into an imperial pint glass, formed a creamy 3/4" off-white head over the bright amber brew. Head lasts well, and lacing consists of foamy bits here, there, and everywhere. Aroma is malt sugars, paired with some citrus hops character. Flavor is as well caramel malt sweetness, with light hops character bringing a clean, crisp bite. Bottle conditioning has done it's work here, mouthfeel is incredibly smooth over the tongue, and drinkability is amazing. After cask, I'm sure, this is the way to enjoy this one.

Serving type: bottle

08-25-2005 21:37:28 | More by ppoitras
Photo of Darkale


4.53/5  rDev +14.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Copper-gold clear body, thick tan head, great lacing.

Sweet and malty aroma with a tinge of yeast.

Chewy mouthfeel is soft and sweet and creamy in the mouth. Ends with just enough British sourness.

This beer has one of the best mouthfeels of any beer that I've ever had. It starts sweet, goes raspy, then bitter, and ends with creaminess. Fabulous.

Serving type: bottle

09-01-2003 13:35:08 | More by Darkale
Photo of ypsifly


4.53/5  rDev +14.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

16.9oz dated best before 4/13/05 poured into an imperial pint.

Clear copper with a frothy white head that stands tall for more than a few minutes. Good lacing rings the glass.

Smells very bitter with some caramel malt and yeast aromas. The bitterness is citric, while the yeast gives it that bottle conditioned aroma I love so much.

Nice caramel notes upfront when tasted. Fades nicely into a growing bitterness that is hoppy and has a pleasant flavor of green apples. Clean, dry finish that retains some malt character. Very balanced, very tasty.

The mouth is smooth and malty upfront, but is wiped clean by the bitter flavors. Damn refreshing, I could drink this all night with food or by itself. I highly recommend this one.

Serving type: bottle

09-12-2005 04:16:29 | More by ypsifly
Photo of nortmand


4.53/5  rDev +14.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

Rich amber hue, with a stiff white head and minimal lacing.
Pine resin dominates the smell, with a fruity plum essence underneath.
Tart citrus beginning, which rolls into a nice, clean bitterness. Ends bitter with a fresh baked bread maltiness.
Bubbly yet smooth, with a slightly sticky mouthfeel
Very drinkable. Packed with flavor and a great upper end session beer.

Serving type: bottle

10-03-2005 23:05:08 | More by nortmand
Photo of Globetrotter


4.53/5  rDev +14.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

Found in a Moscow supermarket, my bottle looks just like the one in the picture. Russian import label lists only purity law ingredients and emphasizes that the sediment at the bottom is OK. Best before 1/17/07, I opened it on 4/29/06.

The initial pour is clear, pinkish copper under a fairly short-lived off white head that survives as film and collar and generates some pretty nice lace rings at first. The secondary pour brings out the sediment, generating a slight haziness but none of the chunks I feared after reading the import label (or the actual label, for that matter, which recommended leaving the sediment in the bottle.) The nose is sublime, with sweet fruity (plum) malt and spicey hops well combined. The mouth is very well-carbonated and just a bit sticky, coating the tongue and palate with brisk and prickly viscosity. My goodness, this is good. The grain is distinct, leaving a bready impression. There's also some plum or grape here. And lots of hops flavor, from acidic spice to refreshing floral. The hops win out by the finish, leaving the tastebuds awash in crisp, dry, enticing dryness that begs for the next sip. Very enjoyable indeed, despite the strength.

Serving type: bottle

04-29-2006 18:13:59 | More by Globetrotter
Photo of botham


4.53/5  rDev +14.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

pint bottle poured into a nonic. pours a rich amber color with a single finger of off-white frothy head.

aroma is malty, with a solid balance between malty sweetness and hoppy bitterness. malts are grainy, with a notable caramel note. hops are mellow, but still present. slight spicyness that lends to a coniferous base, giving this brew one hell of a tasty aroma.

taste is malty up front, with a bit of a fruity chracter. the same caramel and pale malts are present, with the same hoppy note on the back of the palate. finishes on a slightly hoppy note, with residual bitterness.

mouthfeel is medium bodied, with a smooth and creamy texture. finishes very clean with only a bit of residual bitterness. exceptional mouthfeel.

drinkability is excellent. this is a phenominal brew, with wonderful balance, great malt and hop complexity, and a smoothness that will put other ESBs to shame. as a fan of the style, this beer advocate will be looking for more of this one. cheers!

Serving type: bottle

02-18-2008 02:55:11 | More by botham
Photo of dedalus


4.5/5  rDev +13.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

gorgeous beer . . . lots of sugared lemons, mintleaf hops and dessert apples in the nose, with apricot nectar and more minty hops on the palate. the finish is sea salt under clean, biscuity malt and smooth, sugared green apple peels. the mouthfeel is silky and juicy.

this beer has layers and layers of fruit flavors and aromas, which i can only assume comes courtesy of the live yeast that only real ale (or "real ale" in the bottle) can impart. word of mouth gave me the impression that this beer was a hop bomb, but there's much more to it than that. it's kind of like a slightly fruitier, hoppier, more complex cooper's sparkling ale.

finding this beer under the esb category took me off guard. i'm used to fuller's esb, which has less fruit and more leafy, earthy hop bitterness. but whatever label you pigeonhole this beer into, it should be a welcome addition to your rotation.


Serving type: bottle

03-09-2005 19:34:37 | More by dedalus
Photo of diamondc


4.5/5  rDev +13.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

I was a bit skeptical on trying this one. Not that I don't like British ales, but only because I buy so many 'big' American beers that my expectations are for 'big' flavors on all the beers I try. A bad expectation, but it happens.

On the bottle, the label said bottle-conditioned (I'm guessing it is not pasteurized like many British imports) which is always a plus. The aroma was good ... reminded me of orange flavored gumdrops.

The taste was just fantastic. More orange flavor and caramel. Not so subtle banana and clove afterwards. And a lot of British hops at the end. No real 'big' flavors, but the flavors present meld into each other begging for another sip. The mouthfeel was the very definition of creamy. And thanks to the yeast added, this one was streaming constant bubbles all the way to the end.

I usually take my time drinking, but I went through this one in less than five minutes. It was THAT good! In my mind, this is a cross between an ESB, British IPA and a Belgian. I'm definitely buying more.

Best before 30/06/08

Serving type: bottle

12-18-2007 05:05:45 | More by diamondc
Photo of tai4ji2x


4.5/5  rDev +13.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

a friend from the UK managed to bring back a couple bottles of this for me to try here in beijing, china

garrett oliver, in brewmaster's table, says this an IPA, even though the brewery doesn't market it as such... well, *i'm* going to review it as such... ;-)

500ml, bottle conditioned

amber with orangey brown hues, nice head that fades very slowly to a thin layer. great fluffy lacing. clear on first pour, can be slightly hazy if you swirl the yeast in.

almost fruity aroma, english hops for sure - less of the of bold citrusy and piney notes you find in american strains. toasted malts and toffee. hint of yeasty bread.

for an english beer, this is hoppy, and certainly why i'm inclined to agree with oliver that perhaps this is supposed to be an IPA. with that in mind, it's great. an aggressively herbal, grassy hop flavor and bitterness is complimented by the sweet, buttery, carmelized malts. the bitterness peaks in the middle for a bite, but starts to give way to the sweet biscuity malt into the finish.

not thin at all, almost chewy. nice, moderate carbonation.

as an "ESB", it actually might be too hoppy, and color-wise a bit light. but as an english IPA, this is a winner, particularly if you can get a hold of it fresh.

Serving type: bottle

04-07-2008 09:27:01 | More by tai4ji2x
Photo of Opethsprite


4.47/5  rDev +12.9%
look: 5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Wow! Pours a gorgeous, deep honey color with a thick, rich head that stayed with it for quite sometime! Deep in grain scent with citrus and smells pretty sweet, actually. Much thicker than I'd expected, but this was certainly a good thing. This is the best tasting ale I've experienced to date! The sweetness comes to fruition in the taste, while the citrus and grain make for a lovely backdrop. Be careful with this one: it is almost *too* easy to drink!!!

Serving type: bottle

03-30-2005 02:30:16 | More by Opethsprite
Photo of KarlHungus


4.47/5  rDev +12.9%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

This brew pours a clear bright red color. The head is a mountainous, billowing, rocky cloud of white that recedes very slowly, but never fully goes away. The aroma is of citrus and grapefruit with a nice tang to it. The taste is wonderful: grapefruit and citrus start things off, while a malty sweetness finishes. The aftertaste is quite remarkably balanced, and leaves me wanting more. The mouthfeel is medium bodied, smooth and a nice carbonation. Overall, this beer is a great session beer as the flavor is interesting without being in your face.

Serving type: bottle

04-22-2006 20:37:54 | More by KarlHungus
Photo of BlackHaddock

United Kingdom (England)

4.47/5  rDev +12.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Brown 500ml bottle, best before 31st May 2009, drank mid Jan 2009.

Poured into a standard UK pint sleeve glass.

Slightly cloudy it was a tangerine orange/amber colour with a huge cauliflower head very like the ones seen at breweries on open fermenting tanks.

The yeast aroma from the head was very powerful and it overshaddowed the hops and malt smells trying to get out, very impressive.

A deep, traditional English Ale bitterness, grainy and a good balance of hops, malt and yeast.

Depth of flavours hide the alcohol very well and the whole beer seems to be a well balanced blend of good quality ingrediants.

A very good beer, now one of my favourites.

Serving type: bottle

01-24-2009 08:17:44 | More by BlackHaddock
Photo of RBorsato


4.45/5  rDev +12.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Golden-brass color with a tan head and decent carbonation but leaves little-no lace. Aroma is fruity, hoppy and malty. Nice complex balanced flavor, fruity (banana tones?), and light spiciness (malt or hops?). Medium bodied and creamy with a light bitter finish.

** Spicy hop aroma, flavor, and crisp finish when fresher (less malt character). Better fresh. **

Labelled as "CAMRA champion bottle conditioned beer of Britian 1999". Previously Young's Export Bitter.

(16.9 oz bottle for $2.99)

Best before: 12/02 Tasted: 01/12/03 & 01/26/03
Best before: 10/03 Tasted: 01/26/03 **

Serving type: bottle

01-15-2003 11:09:47 | More by RBorsato
Photo of GreenWBush


4.45/5  rDev +12.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

This beer was purchased in a wineshop near Hyde Park in central London, then made it back home safe and sound. It was put directly into the cellar, only to see the light of day exactly one year after it entered.

This long-travelling pint bottle was poured into its proper etched-glass Young's vessel. It kicked up a mega frothy head that soon sank down to a quarter inch of so of marbled surface haze. After settling, all I could think about when peering into the glass was "dishwater froth". The color was copper-bronze with a nice yeast cloudiness. This ESB-type ale left large clouds of lacing on the glass, reminding me of the lucky state of the weather when I was abroad.

Young's SLA had nice bready, sweet tones on the nose along with a slightly sour alcohol smell. I was a bit surprised to notice a slighty barleywinesque note, reminding me of Young's Old Nick.

The full year of cellaring treated this beer quite nicely. Along with the forefront of sweet and bready malt tastes, your tongue finds and is quickly numbed by the classic British hop tastes. I noticed tones of apples and cider in there somewhere as well as a silky harmony of flavors, presumably due to the aging process.

The aftertaste of the beer was the finest part - real ale heaven. I found this beer to be one of the best examples of a bottle reproduced cask-conditioned ale. The mouthfeel was a bit on the slender side, not chewy or hefty, but still rich and almost refreshing.

Overall, a fabulous experience. It was hard to be overly objective because of the good memories, but I did my best. I'm going to go out of my way to pick some of these up in the US and throw them directly into the cellar.

Serving type: bottle

01-16-2004 18:54:54 | More by GreenWBush
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Young's Special London Ale from Wells & Young's Ltd
89 out of 100 based on 391 ratings.