Extra Special Ale (ESA) | Yards Brewing Co.

very good
632 Ratings
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Extra Special Ale (ESA)Extra Special Ale (ESA)

Brewed by:
Yards Brewing Co.
Pennsylvania, United States

Style: 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

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User Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 632 |  Reviews: 267
Photo of vonburgey
5/5  rDev +33.3%

Photo of RnRManifesto
5/5  rDev +33.3%

Photo of Pharkle
5/5  rDev +33.3%

Photo of jennib1
5/5  rDev +33.3%

Photo of mquinn919
5/5  rDev +33.3%

Photo of dwoolley1
5/5  rDev +33.3%

Photo of jimscafs25
4.94/5  rDev +31.7%
look: 5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Photo of stirgy
4.88/5  rDev +30.1%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

This was supposedly the first batch of ESA from their new brewery in Philadelphia and The Grey Lodge Pub had a conditioned cask of this beer. I had the second pint poured from it and I must say that it was truly awesome. Very creamy, murky brown color, creamy white head with a subtle malty aroma and dryness. Hints of chocolate. Spicy hop flavor which blends very well with the malts. The nearly six and a half percent alcohol content is really subdued in the flavor. Those pints were some of the best beer I have ever tasted. I have also had this beer in bottles - bought directly
from their brewery and they were excellent as well.
This is definitely a very special ale.

 675 characters

Photo of UnionMade
4.87/5  rDev +29.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

The beer pours medium orangey amber, topped with a modest ivory head. The head diminishes somewhat, yet retains throughout the entire pint. Great cobwebby lacing.
The aroma is malty, with some toastiness and a very light caramel. Some biscuity aroma, with moderate, fruity esters. Hints of pear, cidery apple, and a suggestion of white grape. Mild hopping, mostly a light (fuggles?) citric aroma. Fantastic ESB aroma, with sweet malt and mild fruitiness.
The flavor is initially malty, with pronounced toasted flavor, light caramel malt, and perhaps some crystal. Some biscuity malt comes through in the middle with moderate floral/fruity esters. Light pear, cider, and apricot flavor. Hops come through lightly in the middle, adding a tanginess, building steam to provide some citric bitterness to the finish. Some white grape flavor, with a touch of yeast. Slight biscuit and white grape flavor in the aftertaste, which lingers and demands another sip. Mild, british carbonation, with a medium to full body. Absolutely superb.
A traditional english ale with complexity and flavor that really stands out from the crowd. One of the best versions of an ESB made in the US, I think. I can't begin to imagine how good this beer would be when served cask conditioned.

 1,266 characters

Photo of dennarb
4.76/5  rDev +26.9%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

I had some Yards ESA today hand pumped at Standard Tap. It had a solid finger plus head and a clean red amber color. The first taste was good but the last was exceptional. Lots of malt beautifully complements the tangy hops. I am definitely going back for more.

 261 characters

Photo of JeffTheJuice
4.75/5  rDev +26.7%

Photo of diddith
4.65/5  rDev +24%

Photo of clickpush
4.61/5  rDev +22.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Beautiful amber hue, bordering on ruby. Tight sticky cap of lace that hangs around until it's sucked in. Sticks to glass w every sip. Constant coat of lace an halo.
Soft & subtle aroma, slightly roasted and plenty of floral hops. Touch on tanginess... Citrus essence.
Gentle carbonation. Tons of subtle flavors: bittering hops, somewhat bitter. Lingering roast flavored finish. Lemon peel (citrus oils).

This is one of my favorite beers. Ever. At least on cask...

 467 characters

Photo of Mick73philly
4.6/5  rDev +22.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.75

Photo of nomad
4.55/5  rDev +21.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

In honor of Fergie's, Monk's, the Standard Tap, Grey Lodge, and other fine Philly bars that regularly have this beer on cask. Thank you for this offering, which comforts me week in and week out in my acclimation to this new hometown.

It takes awhile for this sweet thang to calm down after a brisk pump from a cask. Ruddy shades of brown, red, and copper appear, with a tough head that never goes away, and likes to leave stain and lace behind that would make you think it was a nitro pour. In a sturdy pint glass, as most of Philly's finest tend to serve it, this beer looks right proper.

It's a world of fresh odors down the chute that keeps on shrinking down: caramel, toffee, rose water, dried flowers, lemony herbs, a husky hop leaf reminiscent of grapefruit turned grainy, and a faint biscuit sometimes.

Simply put, its like an even, hand-crafted mix of English malts with minty herbal hop flavors washing over. As a lover of ESB's, its very tough to find a good ESB with decent availability on the market, and thats speaking of bottles. Even harder is a draught special bitter, with those fresh, sturdy, but delectable flavors of caramelly malt and refined hops. Easy to drink, as it won't be too largely this or that. Equitable, balanced, and quietly complex, like it should be. The style of ESB is not an American big flavor monster - so don't expect it to be!

A rare item: a regularly available real ale patterned after the originators in England. If you don't understand it, well, that's a shame. If you'd like to, go to Fergie's Pub at 13th and Sansom in Philadelphia, PA where its the cheapest and best beer on draught. Well-appreciated.

 1,664 characters

Photo of Lookingloo2
4.52/5  rDev +20.5%

Photo of NJpadreFan
4.5/5  rDev +20%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Yards- Extra Special

Appearance- Reddish copper with a thick lacing head.
Smell- Malt and cherries?!
Taste- Big malt flavor, like it was slighty toasted and I detect a sweet cherry flavor balancing it all out. Slight oak undertones.
Mouthfeel- Thick and smooth. Big flavor that makes you take big gulps.

Overall- Man, this was good. I drank it in 7 or 8 gulps! This goes into my top 10 easily!!

 403 characters

Photo of dmmcgove
4.5/5  rDev +20%

Photo of Elfastball7
4.5/5  rDev +20%

Photo of FlakyBiscuit
4.5/5  rDev +20%

Photo of chicagoish
4.5/5  rDev +20%

Photo of GratefulJack
4.5/5  rDev +20%

Photo of robdip9
4.5/5  rDev +20%

Photo of ChefSean
4.5/5  rDev +20%

Photo of francisweizen
4.5/5  rDev +20%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

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!

 511 characters

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Extra Special Ale (ESA) from Yards Brewing Co.
3.75 out of 5 based on 632 ratings.
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