Young's Special London Ale | Wells & Young's Ltd

very good
329 Reviews
Young's Special London AleYoung's Special London Ale

Brewed by:
Wells & Young's Ltd
England, United Kingdom

Style: Extra Special / Strong Bitter (ESB)

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 6.40%

Availability: Year-round

Notes / Commercial Description:
No notes at this time.

Added by BeerAdvocate on 01-14-2001

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Reviews: 329 | Ratings: 439
Photo of Sammy
4.29/5  rDev +8.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Wonderfully refreshing ale. Not that bitter. Seems to be offset by substantial malt, as noticed in aroma of head along with fragrant forest of hops, although less so in the drink itself. Features of a nutbrown in an amber colour. Bitterness and nuttiness and malt in aftertaste.
Had a 5-year old bottle a year later, and still had kick, aroma.

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Photo of metter98
4.05/5  rDev +2.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

A: The beer is relatively clear dark copper in color and has a very slight amount of visible carbonation. It poured with a thin off white head that quickly died down, leaving lacing covering the surface and a thick ring of large bubbles around the edge of the glass.
S: There are strong aromas of fruity yeast in the nose.
T: The taste has fruity flavors from the yeast along with notes of apples and toffee along with hints of butter and caramel.
M: It feels medium-bodied and a bit chewy on the palate with a low amount of carbonation (almost like it was served on cask).
O: This beer is very easy to drink and quite sessionable. I wouldn’t mind drinking a few of these in one sitting because it’s very flavorful compared to other beers in the style.

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Photo of BEERchitect
3.88/5  rDev -1.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Like a lot of other Young's brews, the beer is big for it's style. It has a heavier, bolder look than the typical copper-brown and tanish head retention. It's darker, fuller looking and that translates into the aromas, flaovors, and body. Very malty for the style. Though bittered well, the hops fade behind the bold caramelized malt. Because of the sweetness and heaviness, the delicate ESB flavors and textures are lost, making this beer a little harder to palate. Though not a session beer anymore, it's still a quality brew.

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Photo of brentk56
4.15/5  rDev +5.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Appearance: Pours a clear honey colored body with a modest head and a paucity of lacing

Smell: Nice nose of caramel malt and a whiff of hops

Taste: Opens with the smooth, sweet caramel malt; mid-palate brings the arrival of some earthy hops; finishes with a nice degree of bitterness and a touch of warming alcohol

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied with a moderate amount of carbonation

Drinkability: Extremely well-balanced; a very enjoyable ESB

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Photo of largadeer
4.05/5  rDev +2.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Appearance: Clear amber with an everlasting pillowy head, which leaves a thick cake of lace.

Taste & smell: Piney hops and a bit of sweet fruits come through in the nose. Extremely hoppy for an English beer, with some subtle flavors of grapefruit and lemongrass. This reminds me a lot of a Pacific Northwest style IPA. Malts are present, but only briefly before the hoppy finish. Despite the somewhat intense bitterness it has a fairly clean aftertaste.

Mouth: Pretty thick and creamy for a pale beer. Light, crisp carbonation thanks to the bottle conditioning.

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Photo of Phyl21ca
3.73/5  rDev -5.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Bottle: Poured a medium brown color ale with a large foamy head with pretty good retention. Aroma of sweet malt and subtle hops is quite enjoyable. Taste is a well balance mix between caramel malt and crisp English hops. Body is above average and carbonation is good. Very well done for the style and very refreshing overall.

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Photo of zeff80
3.81/5  rDev -3.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

A - Poured out an orange/amber color with a foamy, caramel-colored, huge head. It left tons of foamy lace on the sides of the glass.

S - It smelled of grasses and malt.

T - It was bittersweet and very malty. It became more bitter as it warmed.

M - It was crisp and sharp. A medium-bodied beer.

D - This was a very nice ESB. I really like how it good more bitter as it warmed.

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Photo of oberon
4.3/5  rDev +8.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Along with Fullers ESB my favorite English ale.Great amber color wirh nice thick head,has a yeasty orange-like smell.Nothing bitter about this ale,mellow easy drinking for the alcohol content.Has a slight bitter ending wich compliments this beer greatly.Always savor this when get a chance to get one.

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Photo of NeroFiddled
4.42/5  rDev +11.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Clear, deep amber with a bright-white creamy head that quickly settles into a thin but solid foam which leaves Belgian- lace throughout the pint. The aroma is cleanly malty with some light caramel, and displays the classic house yeast character as a faintly tart and lightly fruity (berries, apple). There's a fairly distinct aroma of earthy Fuggle and Goldings hops. Very inviting. The medium body and fine, moderate carbonation leave it smooth and creamy in the mouth. The flavor is of a semi-sweet, lightly honeyish, bready, and mildly nutty malt (Marris Otter), balanced by an aggressive bitterness and earthy hoppiness. The finish is not as hoppy as might be expected, but long lasting with a gentle maltiness coating the tongue. The alcohol is well hidden within the flavor but tends to make itself known towards the end of the pint. A classic!

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Photo of ChainGangGuy
3.76/5  rDev -4.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Appearance: Pours a clear, light copper body with a small, fizzy, white head.

Smell: Light aroma of toffee-scented maltiness, spice-minded hops, and a fine, delicate yeastiness.

Taste: Sweetish toffee malt flavor tempered by a spicy, earthy hoppiness. Splash of mineral water. Still manages to finish a bit on the sweet side.

Mouthfeel: Medium-bodied. Medium carbonation.

Drinkability: Not a bad lil' English ale that's certainly quite easy to drink.

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Photo of BuckeyeNation
4.35/5  rDev +10.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Bright apricot with a generous dusting of fine particles and the odd, slow moving bubble or two. Atop the beer is a lovely cap that is three fingers in size, creamyfirm in consistency and orange-tinted Devonshire cream in color. The lace assessment will have to wait since the head isn't noticeably falling at present (one fat ring at mid-glass, as it turns out).

The fruit-and-spice nose is wonderful and consists of oranges and peaches sprinkled with a pinch or two of musky spice, balanced by an undercurrent of lightly toasted malt. It needs to be stronger though. I prefer to get a noseful (of the aroma, not the actual liquid) every time I take a drink of good beer and that isn't the case here.

Special London Ale is a delicious ESB to be short and to the point. It isn't quite as hoppy as the label claims however. 'A phenomenal amount of hops' is relative I suppose, but this beer doesn't qualify in my estimation. That's not to say that it isn't hoppy or that it isn't damn good, because it is, on both counts. A good bit of buttery smooth pale malt provides a solid base for the fruity, herbal, tantalizingly bitter hops (Fuggles and Goldings) to strut their stuff.

I'm again reminded of a fruit salad consisting of oranges, lemons and peaches stewing in a juicy, hop-flecked marinade. The hop quotient is being ratcheted up as the beer warms and I'm enjoying the puckery, tangily fruity, lip smacking flavor more and more with each sip. The body is medium, with aspirations toward full, and possesses a lightly velvety smoothness that makes drinking this fine ale as effortless as breathing.

I was amazed to discover that I haven't given any of Young & Co's offerings a flavor score as high as 4.0; not even the much-ballyhooed Double Chocolate Stout (which I have to revisit one of these days). Special London Ale is a corker though, a wonderful old school ESB that I am enjoying immensely as the bottom of the bottle approaches. Classic and delicious.

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Photo of russpowell
3.35/5  rDev -15.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Bottle Conditioned with a BBD of 16 Apr 2006

Starts of with a huge white head that drops to nothing. Body is amber almost like iced tea in appearance with some haze. A modicum of lacing clings to the pint glass.

Smell: Maltiness, fruitiness and some buttery notes.

Taste: Fruitiness, butter-like notes, dryness and a slight hop bitterness sits on the edge of the tounge & throat. Was getting more profile as the ale warmed up.

Mouthfeel: Balanced, but more hops and carbonaton needed.

I will buy another bottle or two & let this mature & see if I think more of it, expected better

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Photo of Slatetank
3.65/5  rDev -7.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Young's SLA Millenium edition -best before December 2002
I must admit this ale is old, but I am entering this one mainly for my notes and for a 5 yr old ale it shows little signs of age, it was stored well.
Poured cool from a 16.9oz brown into a tulip.
A - An amber w/ good clarity and an inch of off white head that becomes about one finger tall.

S - A mildly fruity apricot-like scent w/ a subtle spiced quality.

M - A spiced yeast in the feel w/ a medium bodied ale fruitiness. There is a dry finish and moderated carbonation.

T - The taste is a mix of sweet malt w/ a fruity yeastiness and nutty, toasty malt. A fruity apricot taste and hints of cranberry and clove flavors as the hop woodiness spreads across the tongue. A very crisp malt flavor pervades w/ a tannic apple-like flavor and a slightly chalky, powdery dryness.

D - A very tasty strong ale. The flavors are great and there is a mellow sweetness that makes this very drinkable. This is an ale I could enjoy multiple servings of, perhaps a 750ml would do.

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Photo of Jason
3.7/5  rDev -6.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Semi-aggressive carbonation that foams quickly when first pouring. Tawny bronze hue with a very faint haze from the yeast, light tan head drops down to a thin lace. Woody aroma with hints of hops and a musty grain showing some faded sugary sweetness. Thick and slick mouth feel, smoothness has to force its way through the viscous body. Juicy fruity and a tad buttery with a thick maltiness which brings a heavy hand of sweetness. Hops are bitter enough to counter the sweetness as well as a spicy alcohol. Ripe fruity flavours throughout. Drying husk toasted grain in the end. An eclectic strong ale that would be better paired with a rich meal than to drink it alone.

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Photo of woodychandler
4.02/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Millenium Edition bottle on the Fourth of July 2011! Wow! Let the fireworks begin! The CANQuest (TM) is on hiatus, bottle be returning to it shortly.

From the bottle: "If you crave a real beer to celebrate the Millenium, look no further. From the heart of London comes one of the world's greatest beers, Young's Special London Ale, a wonderfully balanced, deep-golden, full-bodied bottled beer, brewed from pure malt and a phenomenal amount of hops. Special London Ale continues to mature in the bottle to create a unique taste experience - the definitive real ale in a bottle. Serve cool and pour slowly to leave the sediment in the bottle."

I poured as gently as possible, resulting in only wisps for head. Color was a slightly hazy orangish-amber. Nose smelled of honey and caramel. Mouthfeel was fairly thick and the hops were long gone, but it had a very pleasant caramel/honey flavor on the tongue. Finish was relatively sweet with the caramel flavor really standing up. It had aged well and I enjoyed meeting up with it after all these years.

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Photo of Gagnonsux
4.06/5  rDev +2.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

The color is rusty copper with a good-sized head. The head is moderately creamy and just barely off-white. Retention is very good with solid lacings. The aroma is one-dimensional: just strong, spicy hops. The initial taste is rich and malty with a touch of fruitiness. Then the hops kick in and take control. Hop flavor is a very tasty citrus with plenty of dry character. Great mouthfeel, the bitterness is sharp and quick. Dry hoppy finish seems to last forever. The is plenty of flavor here to go around, the malt profile grabs your attention and the hops keep you interested.

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Photo of jwc215
4.05/5  rDev +2.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

500 ml bottle - best before 07 Sept 07

Pours copper with a thick, foamy head that settles to a lasting, thin cover. Some traces of broken lacing sticks to the glass.

The smell is of malty graininess with some underlying fruitiness and dough.

The taste is of caramelish sweetness balanced by leafy bitterness. Some fruitiness - almost tropical - mixes in, especially in the long, dry finish. There is a hint of a metallic tinge. Very well-balanced. Alcohol well-hidden.

The feel is creamy and smooth in a firm medium body. Some chewiness to it.

This bottle-conditioned beer is drinkable, esp. for modestly high abv. Certainly enjoyable. I pick this up once in awhile as a nice treat, but would probably get more often if it were more available in 4 or six packs.

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Photo of feloniousmonk
4.3/5  rDev +8.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Clear, amber-toned appearance, nice slice of creamy froth atop.

Hoppy aroma, floral and honey-sweet, with a snap of bitter.

Caramel malt pleases the palate, bitter hops gleam the tongue. Ease of drinking is high. Fruit and citrus tastes bounce into the flavor profile, melon and mango, lemon and apricot. Refreshing, and flavorful.

Leaves the mouth lightly, but not forgotten. Medium to light in body, with a pleasant lingering finish of hops. A juicy ESB, quite sessionable, never flagging in flavor.

Oddly, this has never been available in bottles in the Twin Cities market, only draft. But they couldn't sell the kegs, because no-one had had it, and didn't want to tap something without having sampled it first. I enjoy it tonight on tap at the Blue Nile in Minneapolis.

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Photo of Billolick
4.25/5  rDev +7.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

on tap at the Beer Bar/Cafe centro NYC. Nice warm amber, w/ off white, puffy, creamy head. Leaves a ton of lace. Bready nose. First flavors are of a very smooth malty backbone. Understated hop character. As it warms smooth malt continues, grainy, velvet hops gain in strength, to balance things out perfectly. Very British character. Mouthfeel is very creamy and smooth. Classy and well balanced ale. Try it on tap if it comes to a bar nearby.

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Photo of WesWes
4.17/5  rDev +5.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

The beer pours an amber color with a thick frothy offwhite head that slowly fades to lacing. The aroma is excellent. It has a mild malty scent with a wonderful hop aroma; very refreshing. The taste is good. It has a rich malty flavor with a bitter hop finish. It is thick, but easily drinkable. The mouthfeel is awesome. It is a full bodied beer with adequate carbonation. This is a damn good beer. It is full of malts and hops along with a full body. This is a great sessions beer.

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Photo of Wasatch
4/5  rDev +1.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A - Pours a dark golden color, some carbonation, nice foamy head, some nice lacing afterwards.

S - Scents of malts, and slight hops.

T - The taste is kinda sweet and bitter.

M - Medium body.

D - Drinkable. This is a different ESB than an American ESB, not as bitter and kinda watery.

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Photo of Gueuzedude
3.7/5  rDev -6.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Very well carbonated, the combination of highly carbonated & a low flocculent yeast kicked up the sediment even before I had a chance to pour it. It is touch & go just to open this bottle so that it does not gush all over the place. I am not even sure I will be able to open this bottle. Ok, I finally got it open & I lost about half of the bottle to gushing in the sink. So what are the chances that this is not infected, my bet is nil. Ooo, cool It smells like the unmistakable aroma of Brettanomyces infection (can you tell that I am a Lambic fan). This would have been a common bug in English beers of an era gone by, especially the old and or stock ales.

There is a light fruitiness in the aroma as well as a hint of acidity. I can't believe I am going to drink an obviously infected bottle, am I a beer geek or what. Hell it might be good though in a Lambic sort of way. The beer itself is a hazy copper-red color & is topped by a prodigious tan head. The taste of the beer is only slightly sour but definitely has the musty, leathery, barnyard flavor associated with a Brett infection. Though not bad there is not enough complexity in the base beer to stand up to the little critters. There is quite a bit of hop bitterness in the finish, and there is still a slight malt sweetness in this beer as well. Actually this is quite interesting because I can still taste the hop flavor notes of this Pale Ale, this is interesting because there is not Lambic that I know of that with such a fresh hop character. I am not sure I like this better than a fresh uninfected example, but I certainly enjoyed this enough after I was able to get some into my glass.

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Photo of Zorro
3.79/5  rDev -4.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a clear copper red brew. Very clear for a bottle conditioned brew. A really pleasing to the eye brew.

Smell is fruity with mild malt.

Tastes is a pleasant mild malt flavor with mild but complex fruitiness. This is a mild mannered brew that you could serve anytime.

Mouthfeel is good; carbonation isn't a big factor in this one.

A mellow chill out brew. I read some of the other reviews here and I think this is a brew that changes a lot as it ages.

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Photo of BlackHaddock
4.47/5  rDev +13.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Brown 500ml bottle, best before 31st May 2009, drank mid Jan 2009.

Poured into a standard UK pint sleeve glass.

Slightly cloudy it was a tangerine orange/amber colour with a huge cauliflower head very like the ones seen at breweries on open fermenting tanks.

The yeast aroma from the head was very powerful and it overshaddowed the hops and malt smells trying to get out, very impressive.

A deep, traditional English Ale bitterness, grainy and a good balance of hops, malt and yeast.

Depth of flavours hide the alcohol very well and the whole beer seems to be a well balanced blend of good quality ingrediants.

A very good beer, now one of my favourites.

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Photo of Derek
3.96/5  rDev +0.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Coppery-bronze with an off-white head, good retention, leaves some lace.

Subtle aroma of fruity esters, British hops and some underlying malt sweetness.

I expected a little more bitterness for balance, but the sweetness from the malt is still pleasant. Some modest fruity esters, with only a hint of hops in the flavour.

Moderate body has a very slight residual sweetness.

Overall it's a nice British brew. Though for something this strong today, I'd expect a little more hops & bitterness.

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Young's Special London Ale from Wells & Young's Ltd
3.95 out of 5 based on 439 ratings.
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