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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 brendan13


4.43/5  rDev +11.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A - Poured into a Youngs pint glass a pretty clear dark orange with a small 2cm white head that slowly falls.
S - A Fruity, almost marmalade like hop character with some floral perfume touches. Some biscuity malt notes also come through.
T - The fruity hop character also comes through quite strongly in the taste along with a biscuity and nutty malt character.
M - Lighter side of medium bodied with moderate carbonation.
D - A very tasty Ale. I was very suprised that it took me so long to review it.

Serving type: bottle

07-19-2010 09:48:08 | More by brendan13
Photo of JohnnyP3


3.98/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

500ml bottle poured into an imperial pint glass. Bottle has a date stamp of 23/10/10.

This ESB pours a dark gold/copper color with a creamy white head that is about 2 fingers in width. This head ain't going nowhere. Minutes after the pour, it has not budged. Leaves a lovely coating on the glass as the beer is consumed. The top 2/3 or so of the beer are somewhat hazy, with the bottom 1/3 being clear. Inhaling this delicious looking beer reveals hints of candied fruits, some classic hop bitterness, notes of diacetyl, and perhaps a trace of malted sweetness--caramel of toffee-like.

Tasting this beer reveals that it is much as the nose suggests. Very smooth and well-rounded, there are candied notes and bitterness up front, rounded off with some smooth malt flavors. Or maybe the other way around. Either way, the transition is there. A sweeter/rich malt taste nicely contrasted with a more bitter and fruity flavor. Not an extreme hop flavor by any means...rather, this ESB strikes a solid balance. Almost a little bit of a mineral taste in there as well, perhaps from the water.

[note: the bottle says the malt is up front and that the finish features a "powerful spicy hop" conclusion--I had not thought about describing it as spicy, but as I drink more, that's not a bad adjective.]

Mouthfeel--this bottle-conditioned ESB has much more carbonation, probably from the bottle conditioning process. I imagine that would help its pairing with certain fatty foods, like cheeses. Drinkability is good. I find this beer to be a nuanced offering from Young's that is a fine way to enjoy a quiet evening. Even at 6.40%, you barely notice the alcohol in the taste.

Serving type: bottle

07-12-2010 20:01:56 | More by JohnnyP3
Photo of mjgarrett2


4.05/5  rDev +2.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A-Pale tangerine, a bit cloudy with minimal head.

S-Fermented yeast, quite pungent. Touch of alcohol, aroma like other English bitters.

T-Coppery, fairly yeasty almost like a double. Traditional English dry bitter character with some sweetness coming through.

M-Not harsh, by up front with the flavor components apparent over time as well as varying sensations on the palate.

D-Complex enough to keep you interested without over doing it. A good balance of character and subtlety.

Serving type: bottle

04-05-2010 20:47:57 | More by mjgarrett2
Photo of FreshHawk


4.33/5  rDev +9.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A - Light orange amber color. Large, bubbly, foamy white head. Good retention with a decent amount of lacing left.

S - A bit of caramel malt as well as some fruit (apple, lemon, and orange). Slight hop smell.

T - A fair amount of caramel and toffee malt. Also a good amount of bready taste. Some fruit flavors, a lot of apple and a little berry. Also a good amount of lemon taste. Good amount of hops that are pretty prominent. Floral, herbal, and earthy taste. Good balance. Finishes with a little bit of a mineral and medicinal taste.

M - Medium body with slightly above average carbonation. Slight chewy feel, but smooth overall.

D - Very drinkable beer. The body is full but not overly filling, and it goes down easy. There are plenty of taste with a new combination each sip.

Notes: Really nice balanced beer. Not as bitter as other ESBs, but definitely is as tasty and drinkable as other ones (ABV is a little high for a session type beer though). Lots of balanced crisps flavors that I would gladly drink again. Solid beer that isn't too light or too heavy.

Serving type: bottle

03-01-2010 22:27:54 | More by FreshHawk
Photo of Thehuntmaster

South Africa

4.1/5  rDev +3.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

500ml bottle 6.4%abv

Appearance: Golden apricot orange beer with a good dense, creamy white head that leaves a good amount of lace.

Smell: Caramel malt, marmalade and great floral hop aromas, typical of the English hop varieties.

Taste: A wonderfully hoppy beer, the hops give a lovely citrus bite. Traces of marmalade, pine and apricot.

Mouthfeel: Medium body, perfect carbonation.

Drinkability: A very drinkable beer, the best ESB I've had thus far.

Serving type: bottle

02-28-2010 21:27:14 | More by Thehuntmaster
Photo of mulder1010


4.22/5  rDev +6.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

500 ML poured into a SA Perfect Pint

A-- Poured a near opaque light orange color, half a finger of egg white head that went away to just being film. Made sure to let sediment settle as it is bottle conditioned. No lacing at all.

S-- Malty and biscuit like. Has a floral nose to go along with it. Nice balance of hops, malt and sweetness.

T-- Fairly hop forward at first and then the malt kicked in. Thought it be a bit sweeter to offset the hops but still pretty good. The warmer this became the more the beer opened up and the hops toned down.

M-- Maybe could be a tad less carbonated and a little dryer in the mouth. Wish it had more sweetness as the fruit quality is very soft at the end. Still very nice feel in the mouth and very creamy and has a good floral touch in the mouth.

D-- The more I drank, the more this grew on me. Got better as it got warmer. A little bit of alcohol warmth but this is a very sessionable beer at 6.4%. Very high regards for this puppy.

Serving type: bottle

01-21-2010 13:42:31 | More by mulder1010
Photo of Pbomb


3.88/5  rDev -2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

My friend brought me this beer from England in a bottle. The color is a pretty golden amber; there is a slight cap to this ale and very little lacing. The smell is very nice; it is hoppy enough that you smell some floral notes, and the malts bring out a nice fruity smell. Also, there is a slight metallic smell. The taste carries some of the same smells, and has a nice bitter/hoppy finish. It's mild in its carbonation, and I think it is a great session beer.

Serving type: bottle

01-20-2010 04:59:01 | More by Pbomb
Photo of ivanwatling

United Kingdom (England)

4.13/5  rDev +4.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Apprearance: Rich amber colour, clear, but little head
Smell: Little aroma
Taste: Balanced hops and malt, with the biterness slightly more prominent
Mouthfeel: Pleasant aftertaste
Drinkability: Wonderfully tastly and refreshing

Carefully poured from a bottle to ensure the sediment was not distureded (this is a bottle conditioned beer). Beautiful amber colour, but since it's from a bottle there's no head. First taste reveals rich malt and ditinct bitterness. Futher mouthfulls enhance the experience, and leave a pleasant taste in the mouth, retaining the malt/bitter balance.

Served at 55 degrees farenheight.

Serving type: bottle

12-27-2009 14:26:11 | More by ivanwatling
Photo of jarmby1711


2.78/5  rDev -29.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2.5

I was disappointed with this beer.
It had all the look it required and maintained a healthy white head and sustained its carbonation however it all went downhill.
The flavour , what there was of it was pretty damn dull.It had no pleasantness or particular unpleasantness just a bland vaguely vegetative taste.
The alcohol seemed to dominate and for me this was not a good beer

Serving type: bottle

12-08-2009 06:28:21 | More by jarmby1711
Photo of fullsweep

United Kingdom (England)

3.93/5  rDev -0.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

500 mL brown bottle poured into a pint glass.

A: great colour as the lbubbles ris up and twist underneath the gently-forming foam. Amber in clour and great fuzzy-clarity. 2-finger head of off-white, lots of lacing.

S: malty (biscuity?) with grainy and floral undertones at first. Later in the glass I'm picking up some orange/citrus peel.

T: sharp/bitter up front with some spiciness (a la mild black pepper) in the hops. Also some distinct orange rind in the bitter-sweetness.

M: nice carbonation feel but with some tacky-stickiness on the tongue.

D: this is a great beer that definitely should be sought out. The higher ABV makes it less sessionable though for those seeking moderation.

Serving type: bottle

11-12-2009 23:13:05 | More by fullsweep
Photo of jeranbrews


3.98/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A - The poured a low somewhat thin head, it has a vaguely cloudy wheat and maple color to it. There was some fizzyness through the continued bubbling long after the pour.

S - Initial smells were some nice caramel malt tones, and then some yeast, and then the hops, in that order. After sitting for a while I picked up some pleasant mild fruity tones probably due to the "real ale" live yeast. Much later I found some toasted whole-wheat bread aromas too.

T - Initial flavor didn't agree with me. Hoppy, but pretty good for this style. I found those caramel malts again and later on some sugars, and what I think was something like peanut oil. The aftertastes were sour bitter and hoppy as well. But I could pick out some wheat flavors and at the very end something like peanut butter. It's worth noting that the flavor also improved after the hops shorted out some of the taste receptors.

M - Medium thick, fizzy, and a touch of yeast texture.

D - This beer was not bad. Hoppy enough to placate the hop head types, but still relaxing, filling and complex enough for other types too. Too hoppy for my personal tastes, but it does grow on you. A fine sipping beer.

Serving type: bottle

11-08-2009 10:18:32 | More by jeranbrews
Photo of JohnfromDublin


3.98/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

I bought a 500ml bottle of this in Molloy's Dublin for €3.25. Best before 14/05/10, tasted on 01/09/09. The label says "bottle conditioned ale".

Poured into a pint glass, a tawny brew with a slight haze and a foamy head. Bubbles rising. Not much evidence of yeast deposit in the bottle.
A pleasent scent of floral hops rose immediately.
The taste was quite satisfying; a nice balance of sweetness from malt with a nice hop bit in the finish.
Nice in the mouth, definitely drinkable.

Serving type: bottle

09-07-2009 11:08:18 | More by JohnfromDublin
Photo of juju7


4.13/5  rDev +4.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A unique little beer this one. Plenty of interesting herbal hop action on the nose which is hard to place or compare to any other beers. The balance on the palate of the malt sweetness, the bitterness and hop flavour is really quite cool. It's a beer I'm happy to only have occasionally but it's be a pleasure on each occasion.

Serving type: bottle

09-06-2009 09:09:42 | More by juju7
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 dgilks


3.98/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Slightly hazy golden pour with a creamy white head. Good head retention with the one and a half finger head dissipating to a persistent 1/2 cm. Decent lacing.

Aromas of tart pineapple and sweet malt are assertive. Some spicy notes also come through.

Plenty of hop presence is here along with sweet pineapple and some spicing. Alcohol is noticeable along with a strong malt backbone. Slightly buttery. The hop malt balance is quite good here.

Above average body with vibrant carbonation. The carbonation is actually a bit high for style and takes away from this beer's smoothness.

This is a drinkable beer with a good bit of flavour. It goes down relatively smoothly and offers enough to justify drinking it.

Serving type: bottle

06-27-2009 09:10:47 | More by dgilks
Photo of joe1956

United Kingdom (England)

3.9/5  rDev -1.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

50 cL bottle. Pours clear and golden orange with a lacing white head. Fruity to spiced hops and light malty aroma. Flavour is mildly spiced but mainly sweet caramel malt. A light fruity hops note appears before the finish. Goes rather dry and bitter into the finish, mild wood note too.

Serving type: bottle

06-26-2009 22:38:18 | More by joe1956
Photo of LittleCreature


4.1/5  rDev +3.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Appearance - 4.0
Poured a smallish cream coloured head that had good retention. The body is a hazy amber-orange. I just noticed after pouring that the brewery recommends leaving the yeast in the bottle. Oh well.

Smell - 4.0
An aroma that while less intense than that of the fruity, American-style ales, still entices with rich malt, pineapple and spciy hops.

Taste - 4.0
Good. Damn good. This is a strong and tasty beer, smooth, rich and malty with flavours of candied fruit and sweet cakey malt, balanced by a good dose of spicy, slightly steely hops and warming alcohol. There is a faint, savoury ham-like flavour lurking in the background.

Mouthfeel - 4.0
Carbonation is moderate, but a little more lively than I was expecting from an ESB of this strength.

Drinkability - 4.5
For one so strong it is a very easy beer to drink.

OVERALL - 4.05
Not outstanding in any area, but good to great in all. I feel that I am underscoring this beer, it is certainly one of the best ales available in England, rivalling Fuller's for the title of best Extra Strong Bitter.

Serving type: bottle

05-24-2009 10:12:43 | More by LittleCreature
Photo of Stavage


3.8/5  rDev -4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Poured with a finger of off-white head. Retained well and reduced to a very thick lacing for the remainder of the drinking session. Colour was a dark orange amber, slightly hazy.

Smell was malts, esters and floral hops. The esters were on the dried fruit side of the scale.

The dried fruit esters carried on into the taste and blend well with the malty backbone. Ends with a nice floral hops with a deep bitterness at the end. I enjoyed it quite a bit though I found the bitterness a little overbearing towards the end. Not sure if it had something to do with yeast sediment or if my palate just wasn't in the mood for the hops used. I didn't notice any sediment, but it is a bottle conditioned brew. In any case I definitely didn't find it watery.

Mouthfeel was fullbodied for the style and had a nice creamy smoothness about it. Good carbonation.

Went down fairly easily for a strong ale. Not something that I think would be wise to chug down, but you could quench your thirst during a meal with it or savour it depending on your mood. Just got a little bit over the particular bitterness towards the end of the bottle. I do enjoy a nice strong sharp bitterness but this was something different.

Overall quite enjoyable. I'd definitely drink it again.

Serving type: bottle

05-24-2009 07:32:16 | More by Stavage
Photo of vancurly


4.08/5  rDev +3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

a) Pours a nice pale amber, with a foamy white head, which leaves a sudsy lace as it sinks.

s) Musk candy, lemon. Bready crusts. Slightly briney.

f) Floral hoppiness, sweet spiciness that hints at licorice. Slight nuttiness. Warms into a marmalade citrus profile, sherbie lollies. Medium bitterness anchors it all in place. Great complexity and many interesting points.

m) Medium, chewy body, slight tingly tongue & palate. No hint of alcohol heat.

d) I could drink this in the same way I drink Cooper's Sparkling i.e. all day. A good drop.

Serving type: bottle

05-23-2009 05:43:17 | More by vancurly
Photo of asabreed

New York

4.1/5  rDev +3.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

12 oz. bottle into a pint glass. Best before 10/05/05, so considering this is about three and a half years old, let's see how it holds up.

Appearance: A nice darker amber body, and a good amount of yeast on the bottom of the glass. Some swirls and a pour later, and you have a cloudier version of said beer. Off-white settles down fairly quickly, but it leaves nice snail-like raindrops around the glass.

Smell: A combination of lighter apples and maybe some strawberries in there, maple syrup, nuttiness, doughiness, some grains, and hints of raisins and vinous characteristics.

Taste: Nuttiness and bread start this out, but then it slides into apples and strawberries, some raisins and sweeter malt flavors, ripe strawberry, a bit of biscuit dough, and finishing with some nice hops to curb the sweetness. Long and interesting finish with a lot going on.

Mouthfeel: Medium-bodied and fairly creamy, with the yeast adding a nice bit of grittiness to the body.

Drinkability: Yes, this has held up quite nicely, as I hoped it would. I don't have a fresh bottle to compare, but this is definitely great stuff, and it's probably great fresh too.

Serving type: bottle

04-16-2009 03:43:31 | More by asabreed
Photo of cavedave

New York

4.2/5  rDev +6.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Pours a cloudy medium amber into my nonic. Big beige head despite a careful pour. Sheets of delicate lace cling after a gentle swirl.

Smell is a wonderfully muted mix of sweet biscuit, toffee, and lightly floral bitterness. My favorite style, the smell is nostalgic as I haven't had this old friend in a while. Welcome back buddy. Mmmm.

Taste is a complex mix of biscuit, toffee, flower, and herbs. It plays on the tongue and lasts into a finish that is dry and pleasing. No hint of alcohol, just wonderful flavor that ends in a tantalizing zest of sweet and bitter. Gotta love the British and their long practice at doing this. If I had never tried Fullers I would say this is the best.

Drinkability is probably the best thing. Mouthfeel is perfect, carbonation and thickness exactly right, the best thing about this beer. I could drink this all day, and start tomorrow off with more.

Serving type: bottle

04-13-2009 20:54:30 | More by cavedave
Photo of TubaManJack


3.23/5  rDev -18.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3


Appearance- Misty Amber Gold colored body, A very vigorous head and by far the most intense lacing I have ever seen, it makes be honestly wonder how much beer was lost to the sides of my mug.
Smell- A wee bit of spicy hops, the majority of the smell is coming from the herbal British hops and the bottle conditioning. Very limited bitter malt.
Taste- A surprising lack of hop in the taste. A strong sourness from the bottle conditioning. The malt is there. It almost is a complete reverse of what the smell indicates.
Mouthfeel- Medium Carbonation and a moderate body coming from the hops.
Drinkability-I would not go out of my way to find it but its interesting to see compare it with a Non BC ESB. It went down smooth and the ABV is well hidden. Cheers

Serving type: bottle

04-06-2009 00:20:20 | More by TubaManJack
Photo of BierFan


3.85/5  rDev -2.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

This is an old bottle from the old brewery, Young & Co.'s Brewery P.L.C. It has a "best before" date of April 13th, 2007, which I think means that the beer was bottled April 13th 2004. Poured from a 16.9 ounce brown bottle into a pint glass.

Appearance: Big off white head. Clear reddish orange body. Sparse carbonation.

Smell: The smell is mostly toffee and caramel. Smells dry instead of sweet, slight alcohol aroma.

Taste: A lot more toffee and caramel is in the flavor. Pretty malty, little to no bitterness.

I wasn't planning on submitting a review for this because it's an older bottle of a style that's not supposed to be aged, but it was so good even 5 years later that I thought I should let it be known. I'm surprised how well this has held up over time. Thank god for bottle conditioning.

Serving type: bottle

02-12-2009 04:15:01 | More by BierFan
Photo of lacqueredmouse


3.88/5  rDev -2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a lovely bright golden hue, with a slight hint of haze. Head is a yellowish film of pancake bubbles - some fine, some larger. The lacing is excellent, just what you like to see in an English Ale.

Nice fruit notes and sweetness on the nose - pineapple and a little tropical, with an underlying molasses maltiness and a light bread/grain character. Hint of something dusty as well, a little Fuggley English hop character perhaps. Nice.

Nice initial sweetness on the palate is quickly superseded by a wonderful dark and dusty English hop robustness which clears out any residual stickiness. For me, this showcases brilliantly those English hops, quite a pronounced bitterness, but not quite the sharp resiny or fruity characters of their American brethren. It's deeper and more mellow.

Mouthfeel is smooth on the initial palate but reaches a crescendo of exciting effervescence to complement the rise of the hops bitterness nicely.

Great beer this one. Fabulously drinkable despite its 6%.

Serving type: bottle

01-30-2009 06:16:04 | More by lacqueredmouse
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
Young's Special London Ale from Wells & Young's Ltd
89 out of 100 based on 391 ratings.