Extra Special Ale (ESA) | Yards Brewing Co.

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Extra Special Ale (ESA)Extra Special Ale (ESA)
645 Ratings
Extra Special Ale (ESA)Extra Special Ale (ESA)

Brewed by:
Yards Brewing Co.
Pennsylvania, United States

Style: English Extra Special / Strong Bitter (ESB)

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 6.00%

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.

Added by stirgy on 12-01-2001

User Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 645 |  Reviews: 272
Reviews by MaineBeerMan:
Photo of MaineBeerMan
4.3/5  rDev +15.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Murky dark amber color with a nice big head of off white foam. Head dissipates to a thin layer and leaves some nice lace.
Spicy hop aroma with a bit of caramel and some earthy (yeast?) notes.
Tasty sweet breadlike malt arrives first with some hints of chocolate, then the hops take over with a bitter blast on the back of the tongue that fades slowly on a rather long finish.Nice and smooth on the tongue with a medium carbonation.
This is a nice ESB, I would drink it again given the chance, I think it may be a bit underrated on the site.

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More User Reviews:
Photo of delta490
4.04/5  rDev +8.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Pours a deep, rich, clear brown. Like nice, handmade antique furniture brown. Has a good cap of creamy off-white head that just sits there throughout and provides a lot of sticky lacing. The aroma is dark bread malt and dark fruit sweetness. The taste starts with the malt sweetness and transitions into the nice hops bitterness. There's a great weight to the body and a silky mouthfeel. This is a great ESB.

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Photo of oberon
4.43/5  rDev +19.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

I reviewed this in the bottle and finally tried this out of the machine,very very nice.Poured a amber color with nice medium sticky head the aroma was nice and fruity with a chocolate background.The taste shines in this form very sweet and chocolaty up front with that fruitiness in the rear and the hop dryeness in the wonderful finish.A definent malt based beer just 10 times better on cask a great experience for a beer geek.

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Photo of DavyJones
4/5  rDev +7.8%

Photo of kcc
4.5/5  rDev +21.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Photo of TTripp725
3.5/5  rDev -5.7%

Photo of TimoP
3.75/5  rDev +1.1%

Photo of Fcip78
4/5  rDev +7.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Yards ESA is a Philly classic, one of the beers that got Philly on the map....The beer pours medium amber, topped with a modest white head. The head diminishes somewhat, yet retains throughout the entire pint. The aroma is perfectly malty, with some bready toastiness and some caramel notes. Tastes initially malty, toasted caramel with some biscuit notes - basically a classic bitter. A must have, especially in Philly. It is simply the beer that made Yards and Tom Kehoe famous.

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Photo of Jason
3.75/5  rDev +1.1%

Photo of merlin48
3.56/5  rDev -4%
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.

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Photo of tigg924
3.5/5  rDev -5.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Appearance: minimal head, hazy, orange/brown in color, moderate carbonation

Smell: caramel, tea, malt, and spice

Taste: chocolate, pumpernickel bread, toasted malt, and small hops

Mouthfeel: slightly bitter with a sweet backbone, high carbonation, medium/heavy bodied.

Drinkability: A good beer that tastes like a hearty dubbel. A sipper for a cool night. Maybe one or two per session.

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Photo of Jammyman
3.93/5  rDev +5.9%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Photo of jakester
4/5  rDev +7.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

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.

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Photo of briandaube
4.25/5  rDev +14.6%

Photo of Soonami
3.8/5  rDev +2.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Yards Extra Special Ale, is the original beer that Yards made in 1994, so it has a special significance to Philadelphia and the drinkers that call the city of Brotherly Love home. It was one of the instrumental beers that kicked off the craft beer movement here. This is a classic beer. It has a deep reddish-amber color with a long-lasting film of white foam that sticks around. The beer smells like rich caramelized malt with a earthy woody hop aroma. There is a hint of browned apple skins and lightly toasted bread. The beer tastes malty with a graininess in the front with a slightly molassess sweetness, hints of apple cider, bruised pears and then finishes a little sticky with residual sweetness and a nice herbal hop bitterness. This beer is nice and soft and with a medium-full body. I feel like there are a few defects compared to the bet ESB examples. First, the fruit quality of this beer is a bit too subdued me, and tastes slightly oxidized. The beer is probably also a little too bitter, and the bitterness is too harsh and lingers on your tongue too long, leaving weird, almost metallic aftertaste. This is a solid beer, but I can only imagine drinking this after having only light american lagers to drink for decades and then trying this!

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Photo of gunnerlincoln
3.8/5  rDev +2.4%

Photo of WVbeergeek
3.53/5  rDev -4.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Appears amber ruby brown with a vibrant fluffy copper white head and I must note the marathon head retention leaves a nice trickled lace. Aroma is a full bouquet of pine cone scented hops along with tones of caramel malt underneath the hops. Taste is predominantly hops of earthy, pine cone variety with a trace of buttery caramel malt to complement the bitterness. A little off balanced just way too much hop bitterness in my book. Mouthfeel is medium bodied fluffy textured with hop resins creating a slightly oily texture in each sip. The drinkability is kicked down a notch due to the fact that the hops a tad overbearing, but overall this beer should be experienced.

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Photo of SPRichard
3.5/5  rDev -5.7%

Photo of WCBCFrank
3.85/5  rDev +3.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Yards ESA pours a slightly hazy amber-copper red. There are notes of malty caramel, biscuits, and cereal. Good body in the mouthfeel and finishes slightly mild. A solid bitter!

For the novice: Not to overpowering and great for social drinking.

Personally: The beer that made Yards famous for me....a long time ago I had one of these at O'Neals on South Street and was instantly hooked. ESA is a consistent beer in my fridge.

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Photo of glid02
4.1/5  rDev +10.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

On-tap at Tria on 18th and Samson in Philadelphia.

Pours an amber-brown color with a one-finger tan head. The head recedes into a patchy layer on top leaving solid lacing.

Smells of grainy caramel malts with solid amounts of toastiness. Also present are hints of herbal and leafy hops.

Tastes similar to how it smells. Robust caramel and toasted malt flavors kick things off. The flavor profile dries out relatively quick as leafy hops join in shortly thereafter. The hops and toasted malt flavors carry through to a moderately bitter ending.

Mouthfeel is good. It's got a nice thickness with smooth carbonation.

Drinkability is very good. I finished my glass quickly and could easily have a few more.

Overall this beer is on the higher end of the ABV spectrum for an ESB but at least it leads to a robust and full-flavored beer for the style. Worth a shot.

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Photo of rhoadsrage
3.46/5  rDev -6.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

(Served in an American pint glass)
A- This beer has a deep amber brown slightly dense body with strands of carbonation gliding to the surface in slow motion. There is a beige bubbly head that turns creamy.
S- This beer has a soft malt flavor with a light toast note when it is warm and a soft dry hop finish.
T- There is a soft toasted malt note with soft roasted bite with a slight tartness in the finish. There is a soft hop bitterness that becomes pungent and lingers a bit after each sip.
M- This beer has a medium-full mouthfeel with no alcohol heat.
D- This beer is a smooth drink with nice but soft flavors. The tart hops come through as the beer warms but the malt stays soft.

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Photo of pwoods
3.7/5  rDev -0.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

Big thanks to NJpadreFan for this brew!

12oz. brown bottle poured into an imperial pint.

A: Pours a deep, ruddy amber. A short head on the pour without much retention. Decent lacing, though.

S: A little bit of English hopping, floral and grassy. There's a nice sweetness that is faint but rich at the same time. Very caramelly and maybe a deep as a light molasses. Odd but intriguing.

T/M: The sweetness doesn't have the depth of molasses in the taste but definitely a darker caramel that is controlled. The hops don't really come through too much. Body is medium to medium full with smooth carbonation.

D: Manageable ABV and tasty. Definitely some odd flavors for the style... pretty dark, lower hop profile, lower than average carbonation(for a bottled ES bitter), and the sweetness is a bit deep for the style, even though it's not overly sweet. It kind of sucks to take points off a tasty beer because it's too far out of style.

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Photo of acurtis
4/5  rDev +7.8%

Photo of JMS1512
4/5  rDev +7.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Photo of Jeffreysan
3.57/5  rDev -3.8%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.5

12 oz bottle poured into a pint glass

Appearance: Pours a gorgeous dark caramel/brown color with a quarter of a finger of white-colored head that disappeared into a thin lacing of foam that covered the entirety of the top of the beer.

Aroma: Very malty with some slight roasty notes too. Very bready, with some slight herbal notes.

Taste: Slight malt flavors in the front, followed by a hoppy finish, but not too hoppy. Some good caramel notes too, but overall a little thin in the flavor. Not impressed.

Mouthfeel: Medium. The beer is slightly smooth, with some good carbonation to tickle the tastebuds.

Overall: This is a pretty good beer, but not one of my favorite beers from yards. I much prefer the Tavern Ale, Tavern Spruce and George Washington Tavern Porter over this ESA.

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Extra Special Ale (ESA) from Yards Brewing Co.
Beer rating: 3.71 out of 5 with 645 ratings