Extra Special Ale (ESA)
Yards Brewing Co.

Extra Special Ale (ESA)Extra Special Ale (ESA)
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Yards Brewing Co.
Pennsylvania, United States
Extra Special / Strong Bitter (ESB)
3.72 | pDev: 12.1%
Aug 17, 2019
Dec 01, 2001
Extra Special Ale (ESA)Extra Special Ale (ESA)
Notes: 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.
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Photo of HattedClassic
Reviewed by HattedClassic from Virginia

4.18/5  rDev +12.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25
Beer pours a nice head. Beer is a nice brown color. Good strong malty note in the smell. Caramel with a light toffee roast comes upfront. Hops are florals but dominated by the malt. Taste is a bit more balanced but still malt heavy. Caramel notes upfront and a floral yet earthy hop note to keep it from being too sweet. Good medium body with nice thickness to it and a biting carbonation. Delicious and a great ESB.
Aug 17, 2019
Rated: 4 by FrancisM12 from New Jersey

Apr 27, 2019
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Reviewed by JA_26 from Pennsylvania

4.06/5  rDev +9.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4
One of the first local craft brews I had starting many years ago, so it holds a fond spot in my heart, but I've noticed some batch inconsistency with ESA. When it's on, it's really on - superb balance of malt and hops. But sometimes I've gotten an off batch - not just a bottle or two, but the entire six pack or case. Fortunately that's only happened twice so far in many years of drinking ESA. But when it happened it was really disappointing.
Feb 08, 2019
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Reviewed by mynie from Maryland

4.27/5  rDev +14.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25
This is basically an older-school ESB only slightly Americanized. That is extremely something I enjoy.

Pour is brown and medium hazy with a nice head. They give you full imperial pints at the Yard's brewery.

Aroma is malt-heavy: toasty and nicely ashen. Not biscuity to toffee-sweet, like most English ESB's, although that works here because it compliments the dry, spicy goldings hops.

Tastes like it smells: malt-forward but with a lovely hop balance. It's a milder ale, and not particularly bitter even by the standards of the late 1990s when it was introduced, but it's still a fantastically brewed beer that's a delight to drink.
Jan 14, 2019
Rated: 4.27 by SeymourDunn from Wisconsin

Dec 23, 2018
Rated: 3.79 by Stofko1992 from Pennsylvania

Nov 14, 2018
Rated: 3.1 by BigMustyElbows from Pennsylvania

Nov 10, 2018
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Reviewed by Skywave from Oklahoma

2.82/5  rDev -24.2%
look: 4 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.75 | feel: 2.75 | overall: 3
Pours to lacey buff head and clear red amber
Sweet crystal malts and...bubblegum?
Starts sweets ends tangy
Somewhat sugary and astringent. CO2 high for style.
Drinkable but heavily stylized. Not a true ESB.
Oct 24, 2018
Rated: 4.5 by kcc from Pennsylvania

Aug 09, 2018
Rated: 3.48 by Jbalintjr from Pennsylvania

Mar 27, 2018
Rated: 4.2 by Smilsteen from Pennsylvania

Jan 04, 2018
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Reviewed by nick_perry from North Carolina

3.15/5  rDev -15.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3
Orange color, rising bubbles, and a lingering ½ finger head. No noticeable aromas. A little bitter at first, transitioning to an interesting dank earthiness.
Dec 31, 2017
Rated: 3.63 by rcwilliamsjr from New Jersey

Sep 30, 2017
Rated: 3.5 by Urk1127 from Pennsylvania

Sep 23, 2017
Rated: 3.5 by Furley80 from Pennsylvania

Sep 16, 2017
Rated: 3.15 by wmcgar01 from Pennsylvania

Sep 03, 2017
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Rated by HoppingMadMonk from New Jersey

4/5  rDev +7.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4
Crisp,well carbonated ale.great balance between the malt and hops which made it an excellent easy beer to drink
Aug 19, 2017
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Reviewed by thebeers from Pennsylvania

3.78/5  rDev +1.6%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75
Clear orange amber with a couple fingers of tan-tinted head.

Yeasty, bready aroma aroma and taste, with some sweet caramel malt character, a hint of spice (nutmeg or cinnamon maybe?) and a modest hop bitterness on the back end.

Medium bodied with a prickly feel. Nice, quality brew.
Aug 19, 2017
Rated: 4.25 by dfconnor from Pennsylvania

May 16, 2017
Rated: 3.69 by Taphouse_Traveler from Florida

Jan 22, 2017
Rated: 3.75 by paulish from New York

Jan 15, 2017
Rated: 3.77 by tdm168 from Pennsylvania

Oct 26, 2016
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Reviewed by GreesyFizeek from New York

4.34/5  rDev +16.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5
On tap at Yards Brewing Company in Philadelphia, PA.

This one pours a dark, slightly hazy amber, with a small head, and a good amount of lacing.

Smells like grassy hops, orange, caramel, and toasted brown bread.

This is one of the better ESBs that I've had. It's got a nice clean bitter finish, with grass and orange as the dominant hop flavors. There's a great malt backbone, it's nicely toasty and warm tasting, a little bit of not too sweet caramel, etc.

This is light bodied, with a very crisp mouthfeel, and a good level of carbonation.

They pretty much nailed the style here. It's quite wonderful.
Oct 11, 2016
Rated: 3.79 by madelf66 from Pennsylvania

Sep 19, 2016
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Reviewed by dacrza1 from New Jersey

4.14/5  rDev +11.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25
DATE: September 2, 2016... OCCASION: much work was done today, of the spreadsheet variety... GLASSWARE: Barley Creek pint... dark amber, almost opaque body that evokes a black and tan... the creamy head, off-white and smooth, almost lactic... tough to see, but bubbly enough... nutty, caramel sweet, slightly buttery with some suggestion of citrus and hop... the first sip is sweet, soft, smooth and savory--easily can see how this "helped establish" a cask ale following... flavorful, caramel-empowered, malt-forward profile... the nuttiness is also pronounced, with a lingering citrus--orange, mostly , with grapefruit--with pear strengthening the flavor... glass lacing is thick, filmy and significant... a delicious, full-bodied ESB that finishes strongly and invites the next... at 6% ABV, substantial but drinkable...
Sep 03, 2016
Rated: 4.94 by jimscafs25 from New Jersey

Jun 08, 2016
Rated: 3.62 by EMV from Pennsylvania

May 22, 2016
Rated: 4.09 by mfowler314 from New York

May 08, 2016
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Reviewed by Jacobier10 from New Jersey

3.82/5  rDev +2.7%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75
On cask @ Half Moon Restaurant & Saloon in Kennett Square, PA.

Deep amber/brown color and good clarity around the edges. Average sized white head with good retention. Mild aroma of lightly toasted malt and light fruity hops. Smooth, biscuity and caramel malt flavor balanced with ample hop bitterness. Medium bodied with low carbonation, as this was from the cask. A great candidate for being served on cask.
May 05, 2016
Rated: 3.72 by ZachT from Canada (BC)

May 04, 2016
Rated: 3.83 by ummswimmin from New Jersey

Apr 26, 2016
Rated: 3.5 by bmcl16 from Pennsylvania

Feb 26, 2016
Rated: 3.67 by Mo_fro from Connecticut

Feb 01, 2016
Rated: 4.04 by Lambdon from Pennsylvania

Dec 11, 2015
Rated: 3.5 by waddellc2 from Pennsylvania

Dec 02, 2015
Rated: 3.66 by jgido759 from New Jersey

Oct 30, 2015
Rated: 3.5 by zhrike from Pennsylvania

Oct 17, 2015
Rated: 3.69 by hozersr from Pennsylvania

Sep 06, 2015
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Reviewed by PA-hunter from Pennsylvania

3.74/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75
Poured 12oz bottle into snifter glass. 6% abv

Appearance- Pours a dark brown with a reddish tint. Heavy two finger head that steadily dissipates. Very clear.

Smell- Caramel, roasted malt, with an extra layer of molasses like sweetness. Some grains in there as well.

Taste- A toasted cracker taste is evident of a roasy malt which lingers on to a quite nutty flavor, still carrying on the toasted flavor. Sweet caramel mixes in with very faint chocolate notes, yet still has a slight medicinal taste. Hop bitterness is well present on the back end, but also never loses that sweet taste.

Mouthfeel- Medium in body with lively carbonation.

Overall- An interesting style not common which makes this beer stand out. Very complex. It has characteristics of a brown ale, a pale ale, and a porter all in one which is very interesting. Worth a try for sure.
Sep 04, 2015
Extra Special Ale (ESA) from Yards Brewing Co.
Beer rating: 84 out of 100 with 648 ratings