Extra Special Ale (ESA) | Yards Brewing Co.

very good
267 Reviews
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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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Reviews: 267 | Ratings: 632
Photo of Sammy
3.73/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Fresh bottle from Super Buy Right. Extremely generous off white head on a golden body. Creamy, yeasty on English hops. Great drinkability. Drying finish. Not the style bang on, but a good Englished up ale.Above average mouthfeel. Satisfying, and good by itself or with food.

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Photo of kylehay2004
3.83/5  rDev +2.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Thick circumferential lacing on a c;ear amber body.

S: musty earthy hops with caramel malts and a light citrus note.

T: very nicely hopped ESB with a full toasted and caramel malt base. Very flavorful for the style.

M: medium body and light carbonation.

Overall: Flavorful ESB, true to the style for sure.

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Photo of Knapp85
3.03/5  rDev -19.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

This beer pours out as a brownish copper color that looks quite nice in the glass. The head in pretty good too, it kinda shrinks down to a thin film that lays on top of the beer as you drink. The aroma wasn't too bad. I found it to be pretty good on the nose. The flavor kinda disappointed me a bit. I felt that the bitterness of the beer wasn't all there. I feel that it was kind of avoided or forgotten. To me this just didn't taste much like an ESB. The mouthfeel is pretty good, it's a medium body with some light carbonation.

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Photo of metter98
3.68/5  rDev -1.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

A: The beer is very dark reddish amber in color and has a moderate amount of visible carbonation. It poured with a finger high light beige head that gradually died down, leaving a thin head covering the surface and lots of lacing down the sides of the glass.
S: Light aromas of herbal hops and earthy yeast are present in the nose.
T: The taste is similar to the smell, except that the malts impart light amounts of toasted malt flavors and faint hints of sweetness while the hops lend a very slight amount of bitterness.
M: It feels a bit more than light-bodied on the palate and has a moderate amount of carbonation.
O: This beer is very easy to drink and seems to have a good balance between the malts and hops.

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Photo of brentk56
4.3/5  rDev +14.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Appearance: Pours a hazy medium amber color with a fluffy head that leaves a smattering of lacing behind

Smell: Caramel and earthy English hops on the nose

Taste: Starts out with a nice caramel malt flavor, with the earthy hops making their presence known by mid-palate; mineral flavors appear as well; after the swallow, the tea-like hop flavors continue to pair nicely with the caramel backbone

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied with moderate carbonation

Drinkability: Well-balanced example of the style; a great session beer

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Photo of Thorpe429
3.68/5  rDev -1.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Reviewed from notes.

Pours a medium copper color with an off who're head. The nose is good yet fragile with some light caramel and some herbal and pine hops. The taste brings some slight bitterness to a toasted body with caramel and toffee. Light to medium body with flood drinkability.

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Photo of oberon
4.43/5  rDev +18.1%
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 NeroFiddled
4.35/5  rDev +16%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Yards ESA shines on draft, and a fresh cask or keg can can deliver a marvelous pint that draws you back again and again! This dark amber/copper ale reveals slightly-hazy orange highlights when held to the light, and a creamy dollop of short but long-lasting off-white froth atop. Bright, grassy, leafy, and floral hops greet you in the nose along with the signature Yards fruit and mineral yeastiness and wafts of hop-laced, caramel-accented malt. It's smooth across the palate with a medium body and a delicately zesty, gently restrained carbonation. Fruitiness and malt combine upfront in the flavor before it becomes a bit more complex as the leafy/grassy/floral hop flavors and a solid bitterness arrive to dry things out. It's not overly complex, but this is not a one-sided beer by any means, and that leads to a great drinkability. When it's on, it's on! And it's always worth the price of admission to see if you've found your pint for the night! Always delicious and sometimes brilliant, this is a slightly strong session-ale that's not to be missed!

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Photo of Kegatron
3.68/5  rDev -1.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

On cask, via hand pump, @ Local 44 (Philadelphia, PA) on 4/3/11. Served in a pint glass.

Pours a clear dark copper, topped with a finger of smooth and foamy eggshell-white head. This retains with a rich ½ finger of froth, soaping the sides of the glass with heaving lace. The aroma smells grassy and citric, with a rich underlying mix of caramel and buttered bread. Some earthy hop character adds a touch of bitterness to the nose. As this warms, more and more butter flavor starts to emerge.

The taste is a smooth tangy mix of caramel malts, light toast, and earthy citrus. A light green and spicy bitterness gives this a gentle kick, leading into a mostly dry finish of lingering roast, sugars, and even a light smack of butter. The mouthfeel is medium bodied, with a lighter feeling smooth crispness that keeps this flowing easily in the mouth.

This was easy and flavorful drinking here on the cask (especially for the size) and I'm glad that I gave this Yards take on an ESB a shot. I think that I could have put a couple of these down easily.

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Photo of TheManiacalOne
3.68/5  rDev -1.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Acquired from Tiklmelmo courtesy of the Hometowm BIF, so a big "Thank You" goes out to him. Poured from a 12oz bottle into a US tumbler pint glass.

A: The beer is a medium brown color, with a thin off-white head that fades slowly and leaves a thick lace on the glass.

S: The aroma contains caramelized malts, nuts, honey, a good amount of hops and a touch of citrus.

T: The taste starts out bready with a hearty malt character that is quickly followed by mildly sweet flavors of caramel, honey and a little bit of citrus. The hops presence is decent for the style and brings a good balance. The after-taste is slightly bready and slightly bitter.

M: Crisp and smooth, medium body, medium carbonation, finish is clean and dry.

D: Tasty, goes down easily, not too filling, decent kick, good representation of style, although there are better beers in the style, this is still a solid beer worth drinking for a while.

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Photo of Rifugium
3.53/5  rDev -5.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

First had: bottle from a sampler case

Pours a slightly hazed amber with a good-sized fluff of white head that recedes a bit, leaving some moderate lacing behind. Nice smell, basic, caramel malts and a good balance of non-threatening hops. Good caramel hops on the tongue, earthy and herbal hops, giving a great mild bitterness to balance the malty sweetness. I really like this beer. Medium body and quite good for a relaxing session.

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Photo of mactrail
3.01/5  rDev -19.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

Large and malty. Great big flavors of juniper, resins, dank malt. Tastes like it's been sweetened and spiced, like some kind of holiday grog. Tastes good at first sip, but gets weirder as you drink.

Served in a big English imperial pint nonic. Pulled from the fake hand pump. Plenty of carbonation and a nice sudsy foam, with lots of lacing in the glass. No aroma to speak of. Winey and tastes like some new kind of Long Island Iced Tea. On the cask at Local 44 in Philadelphia. Interesting but I don't get it. [Transcribed from notes written on 05/30/2012 visit.]

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Photo of russpowell
4.14/5  rDev +10.4%
look: 2.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Cheers to GomeKing for this one!

Pours amber/copper with a 1 finger offwhite head. Minimal lacing & head retention

S: Some fruittyness & earthy hops

T: Caramel malts, fruittynes & herbal piney hops up front. Grainyness fills in as it warms along bitter chocolate notes. Breadyness & fruittyness dominate the middle. Finishes fruitty & bitter (down the throat especially) & dry

MF: Medium bodied with medium carbonation & excellent balance

Drinks pretty easy, a nice english-influnced ESB. This would be easy to session on if the 6.3% abv doesn't sneak up on you!

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Photo of mdaschaf
3.61/5  rDev -3.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

A: Pours a clear brown with with a two finger, tan foamy head. Reduced to about 1/2 finger of dense foam which lasts for the rest of the time drinking the beer. Thick lacing left behind.

S: Some caramelized malt, some nuts, and a touch of toffee. There is a hint of some spice as well.

T: Hearty malt bill on this one. Some bready malt upfront with some caramel afterwards that gives a bit of sweetness. A little bit of hop bitterness on the finish.

M: Medium bodied with medium carbonation. Pretty smooth, clean drinking, slightly dry finish.

O: Pretty good beer, heavy on malt as it should be. Not incredibly drinkable, but tasty nonetheless.

D: Tasty, goes down easily, not too filling, decent kick, good representation of style, although there are better beers in the style, this is still a solid beer worth drinking for a while.

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Photo of mikesgroove
3.33/5  rDev -11.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Poured a cloudy dark burnet amber, almost brown in color. No real head, but there were some visible chains of bubbles streaming up the sides. No lace present on the glass, although there was a decent film left on top for a little while. Smell was a little light, but what was there was not too bad. Breads and grains predominated, as it warmed a slight caramel sweetness started to come out, as well as some hints of spices, maybe a little cinnamon, overall not bad. First impression of the taste was a bit slick,oily, and somewhat watery and thin. Aside from that which would be more of a mouthfeel observation, there is a decently bitter hoppiness to be found here, albeit a bit muted. Bread flavors as well come into the fold, and it did leave a slightly lingering aftertaste which was nice. Again though the feel fell a bit flat, with no real carbonation, and the slick feeling, was a bit of a let down. Overall I could see this as a sessionable brew, though a little flat for me.

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Photo of Slatetank
3.61/5  rDev -3.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

I had this from the bottle, enjoyed chilled in a teku purchased from Giant Beer Garden & eatery

The color is walnut brown with translucent clarity and thick beige head with average bead and lace. The smell is toasted grain with mild yeast esters bringing a slight creamy sweet aroma. The feel is good with moderately high carbonation mild roasted texture and creamy semi-dry finish with mild sweetness in general.

The flavor has a subtle toffee and toasted malt presence with yeast bringing out a woody hop flavor near the middle with a slight alcohol warmth in the taste with slight spice and creamy caramel. Overall not a bad beer, pretty malty example of the style and on the high end of the alcohol for and ESB, but pretty tasty I would enjoy this on draft if offered.

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Photo of woodychandler
2.7/5  rDev -28%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

The gravity pour created only thin wisps of head. Color was a hazy amber, kind of like weak tea. The nose was lightly malty, definitely on the sweet side. Mouthfeel was medium with a mild bitterness on the tongue. Finish had a mild bitterness, but mothing worth getting excited about. Personally, I felt it was the least of the three, to include Brawler and PHL PA, on that particular Cask Night.

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Photo of WVbeergeek
3.53/5  rDev -5.9%
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 stakem
3.55/5  rDev -5.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Poured from a brown bottle into a pint glass. No identification as to the freshness. It appears a somewhat clear amber color that has some noticeable small particles stuck in suspension keeping it from being totally clear. Presents 2 fingers of slightly tanned fluffy head with fair retension that leaves a sticky about of lace clinging to the glassware in patches. Aroma is quite malty, grainy and has a little bit of mineral character to it before the hops come into play. Taste is slightly bitter upfront with a nice malt presence and again some mineral flavors come into play along with the flavors of the hops. This beer leaves a lingering hop flavor in your mouth without having much bitterness. Hops are somewhat spicy and herbal which exaggerates the mineral flavor in this beer. Light feel with moderate amount of carbonation. Nothing overly exciting about this beer but nothing to complain about either. As it warms the 6% alcohol starts to come through a bit.

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Photo of BeerForMuscle
3.61/5  rDev -3.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

Hand-pumped at The Abbaye.

A - Deep, dark brown with a ruby glow through the light. Super sticky and rugged hand-pumped cream head. Two fingers and rocky ontop.

S - Some grains and malts in the nose. Some sweetness in the head.

T - A bitter ale with a nice dry bite. Sweet grains, dry hops, sweet malt.

M - Nice creamy, slick body. Very smooth on the tongue and the slightly warmer temperature added to the drinkability here. Low carbonation.

O - A great mixture of flavor and texture. Nice chewy grains and a slick ride.

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Photo of RblWthACoz
3.88/5  rDev +3.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a clouded amber that has strong orange tones and a bit of brown in the mix as well. Nose is a slight sugary leaf. Flavor is pretty smooth with a staying power that holds a mildly mature sweet woody tone. Very slight bitter edge on the end. Feel is smooth on liquid and pretty standard on the carbonation. This is a very drinkable brew. Nothing wild or crazy, but it is fairly even and smooth. Would probably be interesting on cask.

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Photo of smakawhat
4.03/5  rDev +7.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured from the bottle into a nonic pint glass. Thanks to mdaschaf for the extra!

She pours chestnut brown giving a good solid three finger head, light caramel in appearance, foamy, and dark amber brown with cherry red hues. Thick clumpy cap resides on top. Love this body color, I really like the look of this beer. Spider like lacing while drinking takes the cake!!!

Nose is a good strong roasty toasty malt, smells like a brown ale. Aggressive, clean. Fairly solid.

Taste is buttery bitter, with a good simple ordinary hop backbone. Texture has a good thickness to bring a buttery feel. Not that carbonated either which is nice. The head sticks around and adds some cream tastes too. Dark malts and roast kick in on the aftertaste reminiscent of malt brown ales.

Ovrerall, solid. Sexy looking and tastes great.

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Photo of GreesyFizeek
4.34/5  rDev +15.7%
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.

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Photo of stevoj
3.55/5  rDev -5.3%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.5

Cask offering at O’Neal’s Pub. The cask variety adds an element of sourness to the normally bitter nature of this beer. Nice woody, dried fruit aroma, more dried fruit in the taste. This is more of a sipper, bringing to mind dubbels and sours. Nicely done!

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Photo of Wasatch
3.83/5  rDev +2.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Thanks goes out to G311 for this brew.

Pours a nice golden brown color, nice carbonation, nice one-finger creamy off-white head, with some nice sticky lacing left behind. The nose is malty, slight hop note, and caramel. The taste is slightly sweet, malty, nice little hop note, and caramel. Medium Body, nice little bitter/dry finich. Drinkable, this is a pretty tasty brew, glad to have had a chance to try it.

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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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