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 sfprint
4.09/5  rDev +3.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Had on the Southbank near the Tate Modern

A: Almost syrupy orange with suspended microsediment on the top 1/3rd otherwise transparent, basically no head, no rising carbonation with a soapy lacing.
S: IPAish but not really bitter, cloud of mild inviting hoppy sweetness. Beautiful smell.
T: Mild to moderate bitterness, has a watery quality, well blended, mild flavor slightly citric.
M: Smooth and sleek and virtually absent of carbonation.
O: Pretty good.

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Photo of mrfrancis
4.18/5  rDev +5.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A: Poured from the bottle into a pint glass, this beer displays a rich golden amber hue beneath a creamy white head. Honestly, I was expecting this beer to be darker, but whatever.

S: Aromas of toffee, lemon jelly, orange marmalade, and earthy English ale hops fill the nose. It smells like most English ales. Far from bad, but nothing out of the ordinary.

T: The entry is smooth and rich, giving way to pronounced notes of leather, oranges, lemon, heather, almonds, toffee, heavy cream, pepper, and herbs. The finish is complex and hoppy with a prolonged swirl of cream, toffee, and peppery, herbal hop flavors.

M: Full-bodied and substantial in the mouth. Upon entry, the beer is silky, smooth, and not all that dry, but dries out nicely on the fade.

O: I love this beer, and it gets even better after it has been in the bottle for about a year. I'm not sure I'd call it an ESB though. I've always thought of it as more of an English strong ale.

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

A - Clear, light golden brown, with a one finger head that has nice staying power.

S - Fresh fruit/citrus/apple, malts, breads.

T - Much the same as the smell but the fruits are far more pronounced. Also there is a dry spiciness and a touch of alcohol adding much depth to the flavours.

MF - Medium-light foamy body with a fairly intense carbonation.

O - Quite a nice beer, and one of the better ones from this brewery.

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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 bylerteck
3.15/5  rDev -20.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Bottle from a grocery store in Warsaw. From notes.

A - Poured a hazy dark gold with a thin white cap of head. Lot's of visible carbonation and good retention but no lacing.

S - Good juicy hop with some spicy hops too. Bready malt. Fairly standard.

T - Malts with a nice hop kick. Otherwise fairly plain and bland.

M - Medium tingly carbonation and a medium body.

O/D - Meh. Fairly run of the mill. Didn't jump out at me and I was happy to move onto something else.

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Photo of snogglethorpe
3.2/5  rDev -19%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

An oddly disappointing beer from a famous brewery; maybe the bottle I had wasn't fresh enough.

Nice looking enough, a copper color with a small head. Smell is nice, a little fruity, but indistinct.

Taste is a big let-down ... it's just ... bland. There's very little obvious malt or hop presence, it's a tiny bit fruity, but very much less so than typical English ales, there's a hint of mineral taste and maybe a little hop bitterness. There's a strong taste of yeast.

But mainly it's just sort of blah, nothing stands out, it's not particularly refreshing, although it's not actively bad. The alcohol is evident, and makes it somewhat less drinkable than it might be otherwise. I drank the whole bottle, but I can't see much reason to ever order another one; hopefully it's better on cask or tap...

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

Beer bottle (50 cl.), tasted in 2010.

Appearance : a light brown color, with white lovely creamy head.
Smell : sweet fruity aromas (orange zest)
Taste and mouthfeel : spicy hop with bitter finish moderated by fruity flavors.
Drinkability : a good beer in the style Extra Strong Bitter (ESB).

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Photo of CrazyDavros
3.58/5  rDev -9.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Pours amber with a creamy white head and nice lacing.
Nose shows lots of juicy, fruity, floral and spicy hops along with some sweet caramel malt. Almost an APA.
Same story with the flavours: aggressive hops, some sweet crystal malt and some alcohol that makes me think of brandied kumquats and marmalade.
Carbonation is higher than I would have chosen but not by much.

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Photo of brendan13
4.42/5  rDev +11.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A - Poured into a Youngs pint glass a pretty clear dark orange with a small 2cm white head that slowly falls.
S - A Fruity, almost marmalade like hop character with some floral perfume touches. Some biscuity malt notes also come through.
T - The fruity hop character also comes through quite strongly in the taste along with a biscuity and nutty malt character.
M - Lighter side of medium bodied with moderate carbonation.
D - A very tasty Ale. I was very suprised that it took me so long to review it.

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Photo of JohnnyP3
3.98/5  rDev +0.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

500ml bottle poured into an imperial pint glass. Bottle has a date stamp of 23/10/10.

This ESB pours a dark gold/copper color with a creamy white head that is about 2 fingers in width. This head ain't going nowhere. Minutes after the pour, it has not budged. Leaves a lovely coating on the glass as the beer is consumed. The top 2/3 or so of the beer are somewhat hazy, with the bottom 1/3 being clear. Inhaling this delicious looking beer reveals hints of candied fruits, some classic hop bitterness, notes of diacetyl, and perhaps a trace of malted sweetness--caramel of toffee-like.

Tasting this beer reveals that it is much as the nose suggests. Very smooth and well-rounded, there are candied notes and bitterness up front, rounded off with some smooth malt flavors. Or maybe the other way around. Either way, the transition is there. A sweeter/rich malt taste nicely contrasted with a more bitter and fruity flavor. Not an extreme hop flavor by any means...rather, this ESB strikes a solid balance. Almost a little bit of a mineral taste in there as well, perhaps from the water.

[note: the bottle says the malt is up front and that the finish features a "powerful spicy hop" conclusion--I had not thought about describing it as spicy, but as I drink more, that's not a bad adjective.]

Mouthfeel--this bottle-conditioned ESB has much more carbonation, probably from the bottle conditioning process. I imagine that would help its pairing with certain fatty foods, like cheeses. Drinkability is good. I find this beer to be a nuanced offering from Young's that is a fine way to enjoy a quiet evening. Even at 6.40%, you barely notice the alcohol in the taste.

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Photo of mjgarrett2
4.03/5  rDev +2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A-Pale tangerine, a bit cloudy with minimal head.

S-Fermented yeast, quite pungent. Touch of alcohol, aroma like other English bitters.

T-Coppery, fairly yeasty almost like a double. Traditional English dry bitter character with some sweetness coming through.

M-Not harsh, by up front with the flavor components apparent over time as well as varying sensations on the palate.

D-Complex enough to keep you interested without over doing it. A good balance of character and subtlety.

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

A - Light orange amber color. Large, bubbly, foamy white head. Good retention with a decent amount of lacing left.

S - A bit of caramel malt as well as some fruit (apple, lemon, and orange). Slight hop smell.

T - A fair amount of caramel and toffee malt. Also a good amount of bready taste. Some fruit flavors, a lot of apple and a little berry. Also a good amount of lemon taste. Good amount of hops that are pretty prominent. Floral, herbal, and earthy taste. Good balance. Finishes with a little bit of a mineral and medicinal taste.

M - Medium body with slightly above average carbonation. Slight chewy feel, but smooth overall.

D - Very drinkable beer. The body is full but not overly filling, and it goes down easy. There are plenty of taste with a new combination each sip.

Notes: Really nice balanced beer. Not as bitter as other ESBs, but definitely is as tasty and drinkable as other ones (ABV is a little high for a session type beer though). Lots of balanced crisps flavors that I would gladly drink again. Solid beer that isn't too light or too heavy.

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Photo of Thehuntmaster
4.1/5  rDev +3.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

500ml bottle 6.4%abv

Appearance: Golden apricot orange beer with a good dense, creamy white head that leaves a good amount of lace.

Smell: Caramel malt, marmalade and great floral hop aromas, typical of the English hop varieties.

Taste: A wonderfully hoppy beer, the hops give a lovely citrus bite. Traces of marmalade, pine and apricot.

Mouthfeel: Medium body, perfect carbonation.

Drinkability: A very drinkable beer, the best ESB I've had thus far.

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Photo of mulder1010
4.2/5  rDev +6.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

500 ML poured into a SA Perfect Pint

A-- Poured a near opaque light orange color, half a finger of egg white head that went away to just being film. Made sure to let sediment settle as it is bottle conditioned. No lacing at all.

S-- Malty and biscuit like. Has a floral nose to go along with it. Nice balance of hops, malt and sweetness.

T-- Fairly hop forward at first and then the malt kicked in. Thought it be a bit sweeter to offset the hops but still pretty good. The warmer this became the more the beer opened up and the hops toned down.

M-- Maybe could be a tad less carbonated and a little dryer in the mouth. Wish it had more sweetness as the fruit quality is very soft at the end. Still very nice feel in the mouth and very creamy and has a good floral touch in the mouth.

D-- The more I drank, the more this grew on me. Got better as it got warmer. A little bit of alcohol warmth but this is a very sessionable beer at 6.4%. Very high regards for this puppy.

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Photo of Pbomb
3.88/5  rDev -1.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

My friend brought me this beer from England in a bottle. The color is a pretty golden amber; there is a slight cap to this ale and very little lacing. The smell is very nice; it is hoppy enough that you smell some floral notes, and the malts bring out a nice fruity smell. Also, there is a slight metallic smell. The taste carries some of the same smells, and has a nice bitter/hoppy finish. It's mild in its carbonation, and I think it is a great session beer.

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Photo of ivanwatling
4.06/5  rDev +2.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Apprearance: Rich amber colour, clear, but little head
Smell: Little aroma
Taste: Balanced hops and malt, with the biterness slightly more prominent
Mouthfeel: Pleasant aftertaste
Drinkability: Wonderfully tastly and refreshing

Carefully poured from a bottle to ensure the sediment was not distureded (this is a bottle conditioned beer). Beautiful amber colour, but since it's from a bottle there's no head. First taste reveals rich malt and ditinct bitterness. Futher mouthfulls enhance the experience, and leave a pleasant taste in the mouth, retaining the malt/bitter balance.

Served at 55 degrees farenheight.

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Photo of jarmby1711
2.81/5  rDev -28.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2.5

I was disappointed with this beer.
It had all the look it required and maintained a healthy white head and sustained its carbonation however it all went downhill.
The flavour , what there was of it was pretty damn dull.It had no pleasantness or particular unpleasantness just a bland vaguely vegetative taste.
The alcohol seemed to dominate and for me this was not a good beer

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Photo of fullsweep
3.93/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

500 mL brown bottle poured into a pint glass.

A: great colour as the lbubbles ris up and twist underneath the gently-forming foam. Amber in clour and great fuzzy-clarity. 2-finger head of off-white, lots of lacing.

S: malty (biscuity?) with grainy and floral undertones at first. Later in the glass I'm picking up some orange/citrus peel.

T: sharp/bitter up front with some spiciness (a la mild black pepper) in the hops. Also some distinct orange rind in the bitter-sweetness.

M: nice carbonation feel but with some tacky-stickiness on the tongue.

D: this is a great beer that definitely should be sought out. The higher ABV makes it less sessionable though for those seeking moderation.

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Photo of jeranbrews
3.97/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A - The poured a low somewhat thin head, it has a vaguely cloudy wheat and maple color to it. There was some fizzyness through the continued bubbling long after the pour.

S - Initial smells were some nice caramel malt tones, and then some yeast, and then the hops, in that order. After sitting for a while I picked up some pleasant mild fruity tones probably due to the "real ale" live yeast. Much later I found some toasted whole-wheat bread aromas too.

T - Initial flavor didn't agree with me. Hoppy, but pretty good for this style. I found those caramel malts again and later on some sugars, and what I think was something like peanut oil. The aftertastes were sour bitter and hoppy as well. But I could pick out some wheat flavors and at the very end something like peanut butter. It's worth noting that the flavor also improved after the hops shorted out some of the taste receptors.

M - Medium thick, fizzy, and a touch of yeast texture.

D - This beer was not bad. Hoppy enough to placate the hop head types, but still relaxing, filling and complex enough for other types too. Too hoppy for my personal tastes, but it does grow on you. A fine sipping beer.

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Photo of JohnfromDublin
3.97/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

I bought a 500ml bottle of this in Molloy's Dublin for €3.25. Best before 14/05/10, tasted on 01/09/09. The label says "bottle conditioned ale".

Poured into a pint glass, a tawny brew with a slight haze and a foamy head. Bubbles rising. Not much evidence of yeast deposit in the bottle.
A pleasent scent of floral hops rose immediately.
The taste was quite satisfying; a nice balance of sweetness from malt with a nice hop bit in the finish.
Nice in the mouth, definitely drinkable.

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Photo of juju7
4.15/5  rDev +5.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A unique little beer this one. Plenty of interesting herbal hop action on the nose which is hard to place or compare to any other beers. The balance on the palate of the malt sweetness, the bitterness and hop flavour is really quite cool. It's a beer I'm happy to only have occasionally but it's be a pleasure on each occasion.

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Photo of TheSarge
4.63/5  rDev +17.2%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Produces 2.5 finger thick off white head, which forms tightly and lasts a good amount of time. Nice lacing sticks well to the glass. The body is slightly hazy and is amber gold in color.

Aroma is dominated by floral hops, with a hint of spruce/pine.

The taste also leans to the fruity/hoppy side, surprisingly. There is some lemon zest along with a light tea and biscuit taste.

MF is medium in body. Wetting to the palate. Very enjoyable with seafood I'd suppose, rather than the recommendations on the label.

This is a totally well balanced brew and a great hops profile. I'm slowly becoming a fan of these British ESBs.

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Photo of dgilks
3.98/5  rDev +0.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Slightly hazy golden pour with a creamy white head. Good head retention with the one and a half finger head dissipating to a persistent 1/2 cm. Decent lacing.

Aromas of tart pineapple and sweet malt are assertive. Some spicy notes also come through.

Plenty of hop presence is here along with sweet pineapple and some spicing. Alcohol is noticeable along with a strong malt backbone. Slightly buttery. The hop malt balance is quite good here.

Above average body with vibrant carbonation. The carbonation is actually a bit high for style and takes away from this beer's smoothness.

This is a drinkable beer with a good bit of flavour. It goes down relatively smoothly and offers enough to justify drinking it.

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Photo of joe1956
3.88/5  rDev -1.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

50 cL bottle. Pours clear and golden orange with a lacing white head. Fruity to spiced hops and light malty aroma. Flavour is mildly spiced but mainly sweet caramel malt. A light fruity hops note appears before the finish. Goes rather dry and bitter into the finish, mild wood note too.

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Photo of LittleCreature
4.1/5  rDev +3.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Appearance - 4.0
Poured a smallish cream coloured head that had good retention. The body is a hazy amber-orange. I just noticed after pouring that the brewery recommends leaving the yeast in the bottle. Oh well.

Smell - 4.0
An aroma that while less intense than that of the fruity, American-style ales, still entices with rich malt, pineapple and spciy hops.

Taste - 4.0
Good. Damn good. This is a strong and tasty beer, smooth, rich and malty with flavours of candied fruit and sweet cakey malt, balanced by a good dose of spicy, slightly steely hops and warming alcohol. There is a faint, savoury ham-like flavour lurking in the background.

Mouthfeel - 4.0
Carbonation is moderate, but a little more lively than I was expecting from an ESB of this strength.

Drinkability - 4.5
For one so strong it is a very easy beer to drink.

OVERALL - 4.05
Not outstanding in any area, but good to great in all. I feel that I am underscoring this beer, it is certainly one of the best ales available in England, rivalling Fuller's for the title of best Extra Strong Bitter.

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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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