Extra Special Ale (ESA) | Yards Brewing Co.

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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 pezoids on 12-01-2001

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Reviews: 266 | Ratings: 632
Photo of DrinkSlurm
4.04/5  rDev +7.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Poured from cask into standard pint glass at standard tap in Philadelphia. Pours a nice see through brown golden with creamy head. It looks awesome...but how can a brew poured from an engine look bad...
Smell is strong noble hop and nice sweet malt. Taste is smooth easy hop and malt. So smooth and drinkable. Really nice brew on cask. Just not sure how it would translate to bottle...very worth it from cask.

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Photo of gr0g
3.13/5  rDev -16.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.25

Review from notes taken on 01/15/2012.

Dark mahogany in color with a one-finger white head. Some lace curtains are left behind. Aroma is primarily of caramel and toffee notes from the malt, while a floral hop note backs them up.

Toffee malt and fruity esters on the palate. Hops contribute a a pronounced bitterness, but one that's well below IPA levels. A slight solvent presence on the finish detracts from the experience. I think I'd pay a little extra and pick up some Fuller's ESB over this.

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Photo of cbutova
3.67/5  rDev -2.1%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Had a few bottles of this out of my variety case so far. Yards is a solid brewery most definitely.

A- Poured into a pint glass with a very dark red, brown-looking body. A small light tan head forms to about a finger in size with decent retention. The foamy, creamy cap ends up with nice thick ring leaving nice webs of fairly thick lace.

S- This beer certainly has the feel of an English Ale. An interesting toasty, nutty and roasted malt profile is inviting. The yeast gives a nice dark fruit aroma along with bread and spice notes.

T- Fairly malty and yeast forward here too but the hops join in on it all. Dark fruits with a very slight medicinal taste are the main flavor I get along with a mix of yeast bread, spices, raisin, toast, roasted malts and some buttery caramel malts. Hops give off that European herbal, spicy and floral taste.

MF- Moderately thick body with a creamy and smooth overall consistency. Moderate level of carbonation with a silky feel. Slight spicy bitterness on the palate in the finish.

A fairly solid ESA/B but the dark fruit seems to get a bit more medicinal feeling than I would like it to be towards the end of the experience. Still another addition to a solid Yards lineup from what I have tasted.

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

Poured into a pint glass.

A: Clear dark amber with one-and-a-half-finger, off-white, creamy, foamy head that lasted several minutes and left a nice film. Pretty good lacing.

S: Caramel malt and a hint of dark fruit.

T: Light sweetness and light to moderate bitterness. Toasted malt. Light butter and nut flavor.

M: Medium bodied with fizzy carbonation. Slightly smooth.

O: Pretty good ESB. Looks nice in the glass and has the right flavor. A bit mild though.

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

Pours a clear deep amber with a frothy half inch cream head that dissipates slowly, leaving spotty lacing.

Deeply toasted malt, dark fruit, and caramel form the initial aroma. Nuttiness, a touch of roast, and earthy and floral hops round out the profile.

Floral hops abound in the flavor, carrying throughout, into an earthy, fairly bitter finish. A backbone of toasted malt ties in with fruity esters and a minerally character, adding complexity.

Body is moderate to full, with moderate carbonation and noticeable alcohol warmth. There's a bit of astringency at the finish.

Kind of an odd combination, with fruity esters and floral hops really dominating. Don't think I've had a beer with more floral hop flavor. The minerally quality and pretty bitter finish make things even weirder.

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Photo of Electros
4.15/5  rDev +10.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Penn State is different, even coming from Canada, when it comes to beer sales. I picked up a 2-4 mixed, and actually, it was a sound investment for the hotel after Sesame Place. LOL.

Honestly, all of there beers were steller including this one. Colour, taste, smell, and mouth feel I wouldn't put at a traditional ESB (British), but for a American take, 'pretty spot on eh'. This had a great balance of the malt and hops as per par, and for most British ESB's in the 5% - 3.5% range, at 6%, they hid this very well!

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Photo of Skepticalfriend
3.42/5  rDev -8.8%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

A hint of staleness, but the flavor grows on you. There's an interesting tangy-ness. In the first one I drank, it seemed stronger. Maybe it's what I was eating. Airy bitterness on the finish. Lingers nicely. Tangy-ness yes, but very little sweetness - which is something I like. First drinks felt flat, but then it got a bit more body. Do beers change like wine after they're open?

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Photo of socon67
3.6/5  rDev -4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

A - Amber pour with a biege foam. Clumps of lacing around the pint glass. Foam retains well.

S - Smells of caramel malt, spices, and a little hoppy scent.

T - Flavors of caramel, light malts, and brown sugar. Finish has a mild bitterness. As with all the Yards beers I've had, this is a surprisingly complex beer.

M - Very sessionable. Light bodied, and has a raspy bite in the finish. Nothing fancy; just a light feeling ESB that starts sweet and ends bitter.]

O - If I had the option of Yards on Long Island I'd be happy. A nice craft beer that could eaily lure the BMC crowd.

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Photo of TheMultiYeast
3.66/5  rDev -2.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Pours clear amber with a big honkin head. Great layers of lacing down the glass.

Smell is sweet, figgy, strangely metallic...

Taste is also metallic, grassy, sweet again, overripe dark fruit, quick bitter jab at the end.

Substantial brew but not my favorite from Yards.

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Photo of larryi86
3.96/5  rDev +5.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

12 oz bottle poured into a pint glass

A- A Dark copper color with a two finger off-white head.

S- Floral and earthy hops, toasted malts, some caramel malts, a little weak.

T- Again floral and earthy hops in the finish with a touch of dark fruits, toasted malts, caramel malts, roasted notes, much bolder than the nose.

M- Smooth, a little creamy, medium body.

O- A solid beer that I would love to try on cask. I am really starting to try ESB and I am really enjoying this. Definitely will be pick this up again.

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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 57md
3.94/5  rDev +5.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Copper color. Bready nose indicative of the style. Hearty body for the style. Malty but not with the caramel sweet notes that generally come in an ESB. Drier and more bitter than the average beer of its style.

A bit out of step for the style but a nice effort nonetheless.

Paired well with my dinner of pork, mashed potatoes and gravy.

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Photo of jman42
3.95/5  rDev +5.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Grabbed the bottle from the fridge thinking it was going to be a 2X IPA for some reason... As I poured, smelled, tasted, etc I figured out it was an ESB

A = Rich amber color. Nice fluffy off-white head that was pretty persistent. Lacing hung onto the sides of the glass even now that the level is 3 inches lower.

S = Thinking it was an IPA, I was wondering why I was noticing so much more of a maltiness to it. Some hop-inspired floral undertones, but the malts prevail.

T = The maltiness really comes through with a fair amount of an ESB's bitterness at the end.

M = Definitely not watery. Good body with the bitter taste lingering long after I swallowed.

O = Now that I verified it is an ESB, I'm quite impressed.

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Photo of Darkmagus82
3.38/5  rDev -9.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Served on cask in a 10 oz chalice glass

Appearance – The beer is served a deeper amber color with a big off white head. Upon fading the head levels a moderate amount of lacing on the sides of the glass.

Smell – The nose is mainly of roasted malt, but mixed with it are notes of dark fruit (cherry and prune) as well as some light earthy hop aromas.

Taste – The taste begins heaviest of roasted malt with some sweeter caramel notes. As the taste advances however the caramel sweet fades and more hop flavors come to the tongue. The hop begins with just some more earthy like flavors, but then lighter floral flavors develop as well. In the end of the taste the roasty flavors and hop flavors with the lack of sweetness leave a slightly bitter aftertaste on the tongue.

Mouthfeel – The body of the beer is on the light to medium side with the low cask carbonation giving it the classic cask creamy feel. The smoothness of the brew really suits the roasty flavors as well as the more floral and earthy hop flavors and overall suit the beer quite well.

Overall – Easy drinking and a pretty good taste. A brew and one to try if you get a chance.

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Photo of Stinkypuss
3.33/5  rDev -11.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Extra Special Ale (ESA)
Yards Brewing Co.
Style: Extra Special / Strong Bitter (ESB)
ABV: 6.30 %

LOOK: Dark amber colored brew with a fine clarity. Pours with a soapy off white head that leaves lace on the pint.

SMELL: Caramel, toffee, flowery hop, burnt sugar. Smells like an English session ale.

TASTE: Upfront sweetness of caramel and candy sugar. There is more depth of flavor with lightly roasted malts, toffee, tree nuts and mellow herbal hopping. Tea like hops with a mild but complimentary bitterness, this brew actually finishes a bit on the sweet side.

FEEL: Medium bodied ale, medium carbonation, malt flavor lingers into the finish but more or less clean example of English ale.

OVERALL: A pretty good attempt of the style, but hop character was a bit withdrawn and the malt sweetness was big. Almost could be considered a dessert beer, this would pair best with sweet and savory dishes.

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Photo of jifigz
3.7/5  rDev -1.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Bottle poured into a pint glass.

The beer pours a rich and deep caramel/reddish brown with a tiny head that lingers for quite a while. It left some lacing on the glass. The aroma is rich with candy sweet malts with just a touch of hops noticeable. The flavor is very well balanced between bold and robust malt sweetness with flavors of molasses and twizzlers noticeable that is very balanced with a delicate and lingering hop bitterness. The hops taste earthy and grassy but are mostly just noticeable through the bitterness. The MF is medium bodied and very smooth. Overall this is a decent "E.S.A" and quite enjoyable.

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Photo of Buggies
3.63/5  rDev -3.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

I actually picked this out of the cooler thinking it was an extra pale ale. I was surprised when I poured it all the while in my head saying "extra pale my ass".

Either way, I like a good ESB so I'm not all broken up about the confusion. Nice aromas of malt and dark roasted grains. Also a slight fruity aroma as well.

Tastes really good. All the roasted grain goodness and a slight caramel tastes. Just a hint of fruitiness, but the roasted grains dominate. Nice sharp bitterness that lingers and keeps this from being too sweet on the pallet.

Very nice attempt at the style.

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Photo of NiceTaps
4/5  rDev +6.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured from a 12oz bottle into a room temp pint glass.

A-truly an amber ale. About a one-finger head, good lacing and carbonation. It keeps the malty tan head as it goes.

S-dark roasted malts dominate. The malts are strong and sharp as the name implies; it has English Bitters written all over it. I wish that I could identify the sweetness in the aroma; mocha...caramel...hard to tell.

T-all those malts are full of flavors. A little dry grass, some roastiness, some fruit. There is a slight hoppy finish.

M- full body and carbonation. It is tart and oily.

O-quite good. It is an English Bitter Ale to me.
Tasty and drinkable. I'm glad that I have some bottles left.

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Photo of MONKandTUCK
3.28/5  rDev -12.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

A - Deep golden hue. On draught it would be clearer and lighter, probably also carry more head. Darker than Pilsner Urquell, but much lighter than most Pale Ales.

A - Some malts, kinda fruity and vegetal. It reminds me more of a flower than what you think of when you imagine flowers. Definitely not bright and juicy, like American Pale Ales.

T - Buttered bread and a little honey, some sturdy hops. This is remarkably balanced and refreshing. The hops add some depth, but they're not harsh. There's a refined character about this beer. Then.... the finish. Wow, funky. Maybe it's this batch. Maybe it's something that goes unnoticed when this beer is chilled. But damn, there's something fierce that sneaks up in this batch. Ya know how athletes chew food for the taste, then spit it out? That's how I felt with this one.

M - It's no shrimp. Considering the ABV, this beer is substantial. But the malts are staight forward, so the beer is actually refreshing.

O - It was never gonna be stellar; however, this beer lost its opportunity to be my go-to-beer with the lousy finish. I'll try it again, but I suspect the bittering hops had a lot to do with that fresh-cut-lawn taste. gag.

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Photo of jtierney89
2/5  rDev -46.7%
look: 2 | smell: 2 | taste: 2 | feel: 2 | overall: 2

Nice garnet color with perfect clarity and a tall peach colored head. Slightly roasted malt on the nose with underlying earthy hops and dark fruit. Kind of complex nose, not over bearing but lots of scents. Bread crusts, toast with jam, buttered biscuit, smells like an english tea house.

Burnt slightly bitter malt up front. Body's on the lighter side, lots of carbonation. Tastes of biscuits covered in very jammy jelly on the mid palate. Finishes extremely dry but leaves a deep fruit after taste. The fruit presence is by no means big but in my personal opinion too big for the style. The bitterness employed primarily by the roasted malt though is very nice. Unfortunately the fruit aspects of this beer do not play well with the earthy hop finish or burnt malt presence. If it was gone I'd love this beer. Oh well.

Clean and dry, just that damn overbearing fruit.

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

The brew pours a dark amber/brown color with a one finger khaki colored head which is retained in some form until the end. The is light lacing which also remains in the glass until the end. Good carbonation.

The smell is malty with carmel, light hay or grassy smell. Light floral hop smell too.

The mouthfeel if full, bready and a little chewy. Hop oils also coat the tongue.

The taste starts with malt, then a grassy, wet hay type of taste, which is not unpleasant. Then some carmel light toasted malt, bread the light orange tasting hops.

Overall, this is fairly well balanced. Yards claims this is their first ale and it is a good start.

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Photo of BARFLYB
4.08/5  rDev +8.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Out of a firkin, at (The Bottle Shop) @ Local 44, in a glass.

Extra Special Ale came to me looking real nice out of the firkin. The color is a bold brown with light golden hues towards the sides up to the light. Rising bubbles with a off white dense head that stuck around. Smell is on the malty side with caramel and some faint pale malt. This fresh version brings out nice earthy hoppy appeal with some citrus. I've never had this as fresh before and it shows. Taste hits the spot, refreshing with a mix of malt a apparent English yeast strain, some nutty appeal and some earthy hops towards the end. It all melds nicely leaving me sipping more. Feel is mediumish with some bright bubbles felt on the tounge. After all the hubbub, the aftertaste is earthy and fresh and nice. I was pleasantly surprised in this one. A beer I always thought was sub par actually has class, it all depends on the serving type and freshness. Bottles of this would be a no go for me, as they degrade quickly.

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Photo of Fcip78
4/5  rDev +6.7%
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 CowsCanBark
4.13/5  rDev +10.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Poured from a 12. oz bottle into pint glass.

Appearance: Pours a brown oak hue with a one-finger light tan head. Nice lacing left as I drink.

Smell: Pretty balanced smell of sweet malts and hops, but that's about it.

Taste: Also very balanced, an equally strong taste of dark malts and flowery hops, with a slight metallic tinge at the back, and a light bitterness that certainly isn't cloying. Alcohol is hidden well here.

Mouthfeel: Heavy bodied and creamy, moderate carbonation.

Overall: A very good ale that I'd undoubtedly have again. Dark and robust in flavor, it's definitely a beer that I'll continue to enjoy throughout the holiday season.

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

A dark amber beer with a lasting head, good lacing, and the same excellent clarity I experienced in all of the brewery's tap offerings. The aroma is full-on toasted caramel malt, mildly sweet and biscuity, with faint herbal hop undertones.

The flavor begins quite malty, with lots of toasted bread and sweet caramel, but finishes with a surprising dose of bitterness. Hops are mostly of the grassy, herbal variety, and are very much in a traditional English style to my palette. This beer has a particularly long and lingering aftertaste with strong bitterness and herbal flavors hanging around for some time. Carbonation and body and both moderate; making this an easy one to drink; although it's a bit higher on the abv scale than its counterparts. Booze is not noticed in the nose or taste.

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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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