Extra Special Ale (ESA) | Yards Brewing Co.

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Extra Special Ale (ESA)Extra Special Ale (ESA)
640 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: 640 |  Reviews: 270
Photo of ElGuapo
3.97/5  rDev +6.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A red amber with a fluffy little off-white head that leaves sticky lace all over the glass. The aroma of this beer is great. There is a blast of spicy hops that almost makes you think you are jumping into an IPA.

The flavor is a tad thin, but I can't complain because there is are a few good things going on. The hops are nice and spicy that could have used a little more help from the carbonation to make this brew even more crisp. I did not find this beer to be really bitter. Maybe the malts balanced out the bitter flavors, but it is not a bad thing. As you get right down to the end of a swallow, then the bitterness comes in. It adds some needed complexity to the brew. I was also picking up a bit of alcohol in the aftertaste of this one. I don't know the abv, but I would hope it is pretty high since the alcohol comes through.

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Photo of budgood1
2.78/5  rDev -25.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2.5

this special ale pours out a very cloudy dark ruby color. yeasty dregs and a foamy head. hard to pin down aroma....almost antiseptic...with some other malty notes. strange, not recognizable flavors. it's like sucking on plastic...slight spice characteristics...hints of belgian like fruity maltiness. hops seem earthy and grassy. medium mouthfeel and smooth in character and finish. either i have little experience appreciating this style of bitter or i'm just not used to it. not really that enjoyable to me.

thanks to frank4sail for the sample!

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Photo of Dogbrick
3.8/5  rDev +2.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Acquired this fine ESB via trade. This one has all of the good attributes any decent ESB should have. Pours a rich amber color with a somewhat foamy off-white head. Thin lacing. Sharp hops aroma. Nicely austere flavor that is both crisp and gratifying. Bitterness is not too harsh but it is definitely there. More complex that a lot of ESBs and I appreciated that.

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Photo of jreitman
3.97/5  rDev +6.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Fresh, clean grapefruity aroma. Pours a hazy copper with a lacy, off-white head that tastes lsightly sweet with a good bitterness to it. Nice malty backbone (the style of ESB I like) forms what is at it's core a hop-dominated brew. Citrusy flavors give way to a dry biting hoppiness at the back of the tongue. Mouthfeel was quite nice. A pretty good brew. Thanks Nero.

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Photo of the42ndtourist
3.85/5  rDev +3.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

For some reason, I figured from the name of this that I was getting a winter warmer or barleywine.... nope.

Pours out a murky brownish colour - some amberish accents but it was mostly brown, with a fluffy head. Nose betrays hop presence, not exceptionally flowery, though. My palate is growing enough that I'll make a guess that these are noble hops, and not North American varieties. Taste is again hoppy, with a bitter finish. Malt presence is good and evident. Tasty.

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Photo of allboutbierge
4.07/5  rDev +9.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Huge fluffy dirty brown white head on top of dark colored amber brown-transparent body. Head seems like its never going to fade away. Carbonation appears to be slightly heavy. Flavor reminds me of a weaker barleywine--hoppy and bitter but dry. Fragerant spicy aromas tickle the nose. Mouthfeel is entertaining--balanced and full.

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Photo of aaronh
3.25/5  rDev -12.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

This dark amber beer pours with a huge loose head and a slight haziness. The head slowly fades and leaves a decent lacing behind. The aroma immediately brings bubble gum to mind, with cherries and citurs notes evident. A hint of hops may be detectable behind the overall sweet, fruity nose. The first sip is more bitter than the aroma would have led me to believe. The wonderful bitterness is lightly supported by some malt in the background. The finish is a little dry, and some metallic aftertastes are present. Also a bit of a medicinal note lingering on the palate. A bit a fruitiness shows through the flavors a subsequent drinks are taken. The beer feels thin on the tongue, but itfeels like it is trying to hold on to the back of your tongue as it gradually fades down your throat. A little distracting when combined with the odd aftertastes. A bit of a disaapointment from Yards.

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Photo of inebrius
3.61/5  rDev -3%
look: 2.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

What a trippy beer. It tastes like root vegetables. There's a nice hop toast aroma going on, sure, but a draught gives you carrots, parsnips and rutabaga alongside the typical ale flavors. It doesn't taste bad, just weird...or should I say unique. It has a bit of that late-summer seasonal pond clarity that makes it less appealing as well, but overall it's a decent enough brew.

Thanks Frank!

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Photo of Gusler
3.33/5  rDev -10.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

On the pour a quite murky yellow-orange color, the head impressive, and the residual lace nice thick sheets to cover the glass. Dominated by the malt, citrus crisp, lightly sweet and a nice nose to treat the senses. Sweet at the start, the top skimpy and the finish perkily acidic, the hops spicy and biting as a “Bitter” should be, quite a quaffable brew.

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Photo of mzwolinski
3.53/5  rDev -5.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Slightly cloudy dark amber, with a finger-thick, off-white creamy head. Aroma dominated by caramel malt, moderate hops, some fruity boquet and a hint of diacetyl. Taste is quite malty sweet, with decent hop flavor throughout and a quite strong bitter finish. Crystal malt also gives off some butterscotch, caramel flavors. Medium bodied with a dry finish. A decent beer, though nothing terribly impressive. Definitely best at cellar temperature -- keep it away from your fridge lest you wind up with a fairly bland beer.

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Photo of MaineBeerMan
4.3/5  rDev +15.6%
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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Photo of stirgy
4.88/5  rDev +31.2%
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.

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Photo of frank4sail
3.85/5  rDev +3.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Clean sweet nose. Dark unfiltered red color with chunks of yeast suspended. Pours with a thick rich white head. Off white sheen and lace on the pint glass. Smooth mouth. Bitter hop original taste followed by a slightly fruity (grapefruit)/flowery finish. Quite balenced.. If lots of sediment turnds you off decant or pour the beer gently!

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Photo of WilliamPhilaPa
4.33/5  rDev +16.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Pours a deep bright orange color with a head sticky, frothy, creamy head. On the nose is a slight fruity. On the palate, slightly sweet, slightly acidic, nicely hopped, slightly malted, fruitiness, hints of caramel, slighty biscuity, and nice bitterness. This stuff is great. I would have to guesstimate that this (ESA) is their biggest seller.

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Photo of marble
3.65/5  rDev -1.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A special ale, yes. An extra special ale, no. This is a very drinkable ale & certainly nothing to complain about, however it's not top-shelf! Don't pass on one if it's offered, but don't go too far out of your way to buy it.

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Extra Special Ale (ESA) from Yards Brewing Co.
Beer rating: 3.72 out of 5 with 640 ratings