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LunaSea ESB - Empyrean Brewing Company

Not Rated.
LunaSea ESBLunaSea ESB

Educational use only; do not reuse.

66 Reviews
no score

(Send Samples)
Reviews: 66
Hads: 114
Avg: 3.69
pDev: 13.28%
Wants: 3
Gots: 8 | FT: 0
Brewed by:
Empyrean Brewing Company visit their website
Nebraska, United States

Style | ABV
Extra Special / Strong Bitter (ESB) |  6.30% ABV

Availability: Year-round

Notes & Commercial Description:
Beer added by: PhantomVodoo on 10-05-2002

Extra Special Bitter is our homage to the best of English beers. Brewed with imported English malts for a bold, caramel-sweet, yet crisp ale. Brewed with English and American grown barley and American hops.

31 IBU
View: Beers (24) | Events
Beer: Reviews & Ratings
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Reviews: 66 | Hads: 114
Photo of BEERchitect
3.58/5  rDev -3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Of the few beers that I've had lately from the brewery, this one fared the best. A part-malt, part-hop balance set the stage for a crisp, flavorful, refreshing brew. Looks amber in color with some golden highlights and a modest haze. Good head formation and retention released lots of carbonation and lightening the body. Spicy, pine and grassy hops rest on a sweet, biscuity malt taste and offers some subtle fruitiness (peaches, pears, apples, and nuttiness), and leaves finishes modestly crisp and with a hint of caramel sweetness. Light apple flavor chases the hops into the aftertast, otherwise a fine beer.

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Photo of zeff80
3.85/5  rDev +4.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A - Poured out a clear, copper color with a one-finger, white head of foam. It left sudsy trails of lace on the glass.

S - It smelled earthy and spicy. Some caramel and toffee aromas, too.

T - It had a nice spicy bite upfront with some earthy tones. Some caramel maltiness and toffee sweetness.

M - It was crisp, sharp and smooth. A medium bodied ale with a dry, clean finish.

O - This is a nice ESB. I'm glad I picked it up at Goebel's in Wichita, KS.

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Photo of BuckeyeNation
3.68/5  rDev -0.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

"Of all the lunacies earth can boast
the one that must please the devil the most
is pride reduced to the whimsical terms
of causing the slugs to despise the worms."

-Robert Brough

Glowing coppery orange with honey highlights and sheets of fine bubbles zipping up to a two finger crown that is lightly toasted skinned almond in color. Enough sudsy sea foam lace sticks... and most of it stays.

The aroma is toasted-earthy-nutty, so it's obvious that Munich malt (or something along those lines) is present. The hops don't stand out, which is a concern, but it might be a different story on the palate. Full disclosure: the 'best by' date is this month.

LunaSea is still acceptably hoppy beer, so it's great that the brewery's 'drink by such-and-such a date' suggestions are spot-on. If you like your ESBs to pay as much attention (and maybe more) to malt flavor as hop flavor, then this English-style ale should be right up your alley.

Specifics include heavily toasted whole grain bread, steely caramel, bitter peanut skins, and a woodiness that has nothing to do with wood aging, which obviously has no part in this beer's creation. The finish is nice and tight, which is amazing since there were 'only' 31 IBUs when the beer was superfresh.

No complaints about the mouthfeel. It's plenty big for the style/ABV and the bubbles are neither too scarce nor too abundant. In fact, the zestiness that they add to each and every mouthful is welcome.

LunaSea ESB is quality beer that failed to reach the next highest flavor score because of my dislike of melanoidin-heavy malts like Munich. Your mileage, as always, may vary. It wouldn't be one bit surprising if this is one of Empyrean's biggest sellers.

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Photo of mikesgroove
3.9/5  rDev +5.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Big thanks goes out again to swid who sent me some very solid beers from Nebraska. I popped this one open right after the vanilla to get a nice taste of what else they could do. Served cold, and poured into a pint glass. This one was consumed on 11/23/2008.

The pour was very nice. A rich dark amber color with a nice amount of clarity to it. A good two inches of white foam coming up over the top settled down nicely into a thin layer of white crown that capped it and brought down tons of side glass lacing.

The aroma was highly charged. Nice light hop profile was highlighted by hints of grapefruit and fresh grass. As it warmed it got tremendously more balanced, with a light bready malt character coming through and a light herbal like quality to it. Smooth flavor here, though the hops did seem a touch off to me. Light, with a grapefruit, peach, lemon like tartness coming through in the front and an almost green tea leave like flavor in the mid palate. Intresting mix of flavors here, some biscuit and a touch of light grain coming through now. Smooth, mellow, and consistent carbonation never failed and allowd this very sessionable lager to really be a smooth and easy drinker.

Overall yet another solid brew from them. I am most impressed with what is going on here. I cannot waiot to try the brown ale, this is a great brewery who seems to be setting the bar pretty darn high here.

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Photo of NeroFiddled
4.1/5  rDev +11.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A rough pour brings up a thin and foamy ivory-colored head atop a hazy copper body. The retention is good and the head maintain a thin but creamy surface covering throughout most of the glass. Some nice lace is present but it doesn't stick... it's formed each time you sip, but erodes shortly always keeping just about an inch above the surface. Fruit and butter-laced caramel mingle in the soft, pleasing nose with just a slight hint of hops. A firm, malty body and fine natural carbonation accentuate its maltiness in a flavor that's fruity (apples, berries) upfront, displays caramel across the middle, and follows with a gently floral and grassy hop flavor. The hops linger with some sweetish malt and a gently balancing bitterness in the finish. Very nicely done! Quite enjoyable with enough character and complexity to keep it interesting throughout several pints.

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Photo of russpowell
3.86/5  rDev +4.6%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Best enjoyed by October

Pours an effervescent amber/caramel with 2 fingers of tan head. Superior lacing & head retention

S: Biscuitty malt, woody hops & a bit of pear. Fruittyness increases as this warms

T: Follows the nose, along with herbal hops up front along with some apple tartness. More fruittyness as this warms, more woody hops. Finishes crisp & fruitty with a touch of dryness & a bit of herbal hops

MF: Medium bodied, slightly over carbonated at first, calms down as it warms. Good balance

An alright take on the style, nothing to really brag about, but solid & very sessionable. Worth a try

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Photo of feloniousmonk
4.27/5  rDev +15.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Appearance: clear, deep amber hue, with a shortish head atop.
Aroma: abounding! Rich and malt-accented, flowing out from the instant the cap is cracked off, sweet, fruity, caramelly, toasty, and just damned nice.
Taste: those very same flavors continue and treat the tongue, on down to the tummy. Hops provide a tidy, tasty shuffle on the tastebuds up front, then slowly fade. Malt is copious and constantly delivers rich, complex flavor.
All ESBs should at least try to be this good, and it's a pity that most don't. I could sit with these for a spell, that's for sure!
A grand Thank You to the Champion Advocate of Nebraska beer, Mr. bditty187!

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Photo of mothman
2.88/5  rDev -22%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.5

Pours a white head. Leaves some nice lace rings. Color is a clear golden bronze.

Aroma: Caramel and bready malts. Grassy hops. More malty than hoppy.

Taste: Grassy, earthy hops. Some citrus. Lots of bready/pale malts.

Mouthfeel: Bitter and smooth. Medium bodied with a medium amount of carbonation. Ends dry.

Overall, an average bitter, but a little too malty for me. Not enough flavor for the amount of bitterness that this beer brings.

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Photo of Mora2000
3.68/5  rDev -0.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

The beer pours a hazy orange-brown color with a white head. The aroma is full of toffee and grass and is fairly sweet overall. The flavor follows the aroma, with a lot of toffee and a hint of biscuit malt coming through up front, and a hint of grass and a very low amount of bitterness coming through from the hops. Easy to drink with a medium mouthfeel and medium carbonation.

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Photo of Stinkypuss
3.55/5  rDev -3.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

A special thanks to Kris in the service, for lugging it to Zach's, who provided me with this well traveled sample.

LunaSea ESB
Empyrean Brewing Company

Pours a hazed bright amber in color, with a creamy, well retaining head. In the aroma, floral and citrusy hops, with a bit of toffee. In the flavor, more mellow flavors of toffee and caramel, with slight citrus and toasted notes. Pretty well balanced and easy drinking, anyone could find a brew like this approachable. Medium bodied, smooth feel with moderate carbonation. Overall, a touch more American than English, but still a fine ale, worthy of the brewer's pride.

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Photo of Georgiabeer
2.69/5  rDev -27.1%
look: 4 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2

I received this bottle in a trade with Redhaze. Thanks for the opportunity to try this beer. Pours a hazy reddish-golden with a decent head that leaves some lacing and settles to a ring. Smells strangely fruity for the style and a bit like acetate. Taste is better, but there is still a strange fruitiness underlying everything. Some biscuity malt above that and well as a mild bitterness. Smooth, but tangy in the wrong way. I didn't enjoy this.

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Photo of Wasatch
3.85/5  rDev +4.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Thanks to jhammerly for this brew.

Pours a cloudy dark amber color, nice carbonation, little fizzy off-white head, not much lacing at all. The nose is malty, slightly hoppy, some spices, and lots of caramel. The taste is malty, with a slight hoppiness thrown in, some spices, and a good dose of caramel. The finish is dry and slightly bitter. Medium body. Drinkable, a nice ESB.

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Photo of Viggo
3.83/5  rDev +3.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Acquired via trade with RedHaze, thanks Chris!

Pours a slightly hazed dark copper, some orange in the edges, thick off white head forms, nice and dense, drops some solid lacing, good retention, settles to a thin layer and doesn't quit. Smell is sweet and toasty, some caramel, light floral, bit of citrus, biscuits, nice maltiness in this one, light herbal spiciness rounds out the malt sweetness. Taste is nice, rich toffee, bread, biscuits, floral, bit of yeast, bit of a lemon poppyseed cake finish, real malty but nice. Mouthfeel is medium to light bodied with medium carbonation, very drinkable. Solid ESB, wouldn't have guessed its 6.3% as well. Thanks Chris!

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Photo of ZAP
3.68/5  rDev -0.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

The first thing I noticed with this one is the impressive amber color as it pours out....settles in the glass nicely with minimal head...nose is fruity like apples and pears...body is medium...a little slick and sweet in the mouth...not much hops or bittering to this...tasty though....flavor profile includes caramel and the same fruits on the nose (apples/pears)...the mingle nicely...I really like the flavor of this (and would definitely drink more of this) but prefer my ESB's with a bit more assertive hopping...this seems ot be maybe more of a red ale or even a mild...

Thanks a bunch to bditty187 for this beer I would have never gotten a chance to try...

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Photo of tavernjef
4.2/5  rDev +13.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

Nice copper color thats slightly chill hazed with a solid cream colored head thats about a finger high and recedes fairly slowly and some lace shows up but drips back and clears up quickly. Smell is a pretty nice ESB style nose with a toasty sweet malt, slight caramel and balanced well with floral dried hops; Cluster variety maybe. Taste is more of the same with a nice mixture of toasty caramel malts and floral dried hops, bitterness kept in a calm even manner, nothing overwhelming, simple yet subtle and enjoyable. Starts out toasty sweet with light quick fruitness that gives away to caramel toasty biscuit flakes. Finishes easy and lingers some floral hops bitterness thats very smooth and easy. Good medium body feel, lightly creamy and very quaffable and enjoyable. A decent ESB I'd have again. Thanks to bditty187 for the bottles.

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Photo of blackie
3.68/5  rDev -0.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

appearance: The pour gives a very low white head that recedes to a thin ring. The beer is a hazy medium-amber in color.

smell: Buttery caramel upfront with hints of a toasted malt sweetness. Some light fruity hints, especially sweet apple. Nondescript, lightly herbal hop aroma.

mouthfeel: The carbonation and the body are both around medium.

taste: Toasted caramel malts with a light sweetness and note of apple juice. Some leafy, earthy notes. Low, grassy hop flavor and a light to moderate bitterness that slightly dries out the finish.

drinkability: An enjoyable beer, and pretty easy to drink.

received in a trade with jhammerly

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Photo of tpd975
3.25/5  rDev -11.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

A: Pours a nice light amber hue with an nice solid off white head. Okay retention with light lace noted.

S: Somewhat light nose. Hints of grain, caramel, and a touch of apple.

T: Fairly malty, with notes of caramel, and yeast. Slight bitter hops on the somewhat dry finish.

M: Medium to light in body, okay carbonation with dry finish.

D: If I lived in Nebraska I would drink it.

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Photo of Vancer
3.65/5  rDev -1.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

This ESB arrives with an orangy amber, along with an ivory head that pooped out too quick. Now, I can’t believe it, but chocolate malt pops up in the aroma! Weird.

The taste reminds me of cooked chocolate bread, this is freakin me out a bit. Bits of woody herb pop in there, just enough to settle the brew down. One of the strangest brews quaffed to date. Still, drinkable and enjoyable – I’d have another, if offered.

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Photo of sulldaddy
3.83/5  rDev +3.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

This was an extra bonus thanks to bditty187. I actually visited this brewery in my pre BA days. Good times.
The beer is chilled and in a pint glass.
Pours a clear amber with a tightly packed off-white head foaming up and fading to an edge layer quickly.
Aroma is mild with some caramel and toffee, but also a nice floral and grassy hop character.
First sip, average bodied brew with fine yet prickly carbonation. Flavor is toffee and caramel that rolls to a nice earthy hop finish. None of the flavors are very strong which allows for a very smooth and easy to drink brew. Could be a great session beer. I would imagine this would be good with a nice turkey sandwich.
Thanks again bditty187!

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Photo of philbe311
3.62/5  rDev -1.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

I love me a good ESB... Let's see how this one measures up...

A - One finger's worth of late-to-rise slightly lopsided off white colored head with a couple of big chunky bubbles mixed in... Limited retention gives way to a mostly full lacing that has some carbonation bubbles bursting through the surface... The color is a mix of pale gold and light amber... Loaded with small bubbled slightly sluggish carbonation...

S - Pleasant, but slightly understated aroma... Toasted malts... Warm fresh baked bread... Caramel... Maraschino cherry juice... Perhaps some faint golden raisins as well...

T - A bit fruity to start... Next is an over abundance of malty goodness mostly in the form of light breads and toasted malts... There is also a faint hint of toffee and caramel mix in as well... Lots and lots of bread crust on the finish... Just the faintest earthy hop presence as well...

M - Medium bodied... Some prickly carbonation... Sleek... Perhaps even a bit sticky... Starts a tiny bit lush, but the finish is surprisingly dry...

D - A very respectable and enjoyable ESB from Empyrean... It's a style that I wished more brewer's would take the time and effort to produce... This one is fairly text book... Lots of good things going on, but nothing outstanding... I would gladly drink again, but it's not a must have...

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Photo of bditty187
3.95/5  rDev +7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Empyrean Ale’s landed a bull’s-eye with this one! It was served to me on tap; it came with a creamy off-white head, one finger’s worth. The body was coppery-golden. The aroma was blended perfectly, lovely hops (bitterness) and malt (sweetness) in the nose. The flavor was what I expected, hoppy bitterness mixed with sweet malt and a hint of butterscotch. The carbonation was ideal as well and overall the beer was very drinkable and very tasty.

I can see myself drinking more of these! (and I have!)

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Photo of BretSikkink
3.88/5  rDev +5.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

This would be the best Nebraska-brewed beer that I've ever had. Copper-colored brew, not a ton of head, but decent lacing and retention.

Very balanced, classic ESB nose, some toasted malt as well as a fair amount of hop bitterness. The hops vacillate between fruity and a slightly spice/herbal aroma.

Again, great balance on the palate, hop bitters matched perfectly with caramel malts and a little diacetyl alcohol flavor. Very well done, finish and mouthfeel are solid. Just a good all-around drinkable ESB and a quality craft beer.

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Photo of MinorThreat
4.18/5  rDev +13.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 5

Poured from a 12oz bottle purchased when back at home in Lincoln Nebraska.

A-Copper/rust color with a murky low clarity (still very appealing) with a strong pour about 1/2 an inch of super dense off white head.

S-Yeasty with aromas of freshly baked bread slight raisen sweetness and subtle earthy hop tones

T-God I missed this beer! Nice biscuit maltiness nice pop of yeasty goodness slight dark bakers chocolate and all of the sweetness is balanced with earthy mossy hops. Very well balanced.

M-A bit watery for my tastes but the taste makes you forget about it being slightly thin.

D-Yes please. I only grabbed a 12 pack and won't go back to Lincoln for at least 6 months, my mistake. I could drink this by the gallon if it wasn't fairly big (6.3% ABV).

Hold friends and family, this beer is one of the few things I miss about Lincoln. Great sessionable beer brewery and this is their best offering as far as I am concerned.

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Photo of joe1510
3.61/5  rDev -2.2%
look: 2.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

12oz Stubby

Best by: 1/09

Empyrean's ESB, Luna Sea, fills an imperial pint glass with a liquid the color of a tarnished penny but when backlit the copper glows like it was freshly polished. A fat finger of dense, incredibly creamy white head formed on the pour but soon thereafter fell to practically nothing. A few huge carbonation bubbles explode to the surface here and there. The look of this ESB leaves a lot to be desired.

There's a ton of fruity esters coming off of this beer. The fruitiness is mildly berry like with a little sweet pineapple roaming around in the back. Those esters add a sweetness to the nose that seems to be a little overdone but isn't off-putting. Biscuity malts and a touch of caramel make an appearance as the malt base. The more my nose is in the glass the more those esters lean toward blueberry. The smell isn't all that traditional but it is good.

Each drink starts off with the biscuity malts that have a light drizzling of caramel to sweeten the deal. The hopping brings a mild but enjoyable floral quality but the esters really are the star of this beer. The berriness comes back but is much quieter and a squeeze of lemon follows closely behind. This is an enjoyable ESB from Empyrean.

The mouthfeel fits the beer well. Mellow carbonation and leaves a touch of snap but lets the beer work through at its own pace. There's a ghost like hoppiness on the back of the tongue and the body seems moderate.

I can put this beer away pretty easily, going through a couple a night without a problem. It's a refreshing brew with a nice ester quality.

While the look of this brew could use a some help everything else seems to fall in place nicely. I could see myself picking this ESB up occasionally if I were stuck in Nebraska for whatever reason.

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Photo of budgood1
3.82/5  rDev +3.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

pours out of the 12 oz. stubby bottle a hazed glowing bronze colour with a bit of a head and some slight wispy lace. aroma is malt heavy with notes of cocoa, nougat, caramel and some green apple. definitely some "box of chocolates" smells going on. flavour profile reinforces the malt-centric profile...after having the brown last night...it doesn't seem like the malt profile has changed much...these brewers like the choco and caramel malts a lot. certainly it has the traditional english bitter characteristics...justed ramped up a bit with a cleverly hidden boozy note. hops are all flowery and herbal without adding much bitterness...very nice. it all works well in making a tasty brew. medium bodied with a well rounded mouthfeel. it has a nice drinkability...questionable sessionability due to the malt heaviness...lingering sweetness is another wild card.

overall....i can see where this might be a popular choice amongst the thirsty Nebraskans. this breaks the mold for an ESB. tasty...i keep thinking that this could be an Extra Special Brown...whatever that is.

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LunaSea ESB from Empyrean Brewing Company
83 out of 100 based on 66 ratings.