1. The wait is over! Download the BeerAdvocate app on iTunes or Google Play now.
  2. Get 12 issues / year of BeerAdvocate magazine for only $9.99!

LunaSea ESB - Empyrean Brewing Company

Not Rated.
LunaSea ESBLunaSea ESB

Displayed for educational use only; do not reuse.

103 Ratings
no score

(send 'em beer!)
Ratings: 103
Reviews: 66
rAvg: 3.66
pDev: 13.93%
Wants: 3
Gots: 4 | 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:
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

(Beer added by: PhantomVodoo on 10-05-2002)
Beer: Ratings & Reviews
Sort by:  Usefulness | Recent | High | Low | Top Raters
Ratings: 103 | Reviews: 66 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of BEERchitect


3.58/5  rDev -2.2%

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.

01-18-2008 21:00:12 | More by BEERchitect
Photo of Wasatch


3.88/5  rDev +6%

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.

07-29-2007 00:21:08 | More by Wasatch
Photo of BretSikkink


3.9/5  rDev +6.6%

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.

04-21-2007 01:47:53 | More by BretSikkink
Photo of BadRockBeer


4.13/5  rDev +12.8%

Serving Type Sampled: 12 fl. oz. stubby brown twist top bottle. Freshness date featured on six-pack box.

Appearance: Copper in color, slight haze. Very small ½ finger head. Zero retention but still a little lingering lace.

Smell: Doughy, crystal malt, ting of alcohol.

Taste: The taste is very nice semi sweet malts with mild hop bitterness. I taste a little dried fruit and maybe some apple. I also get a touch of warming alcohol in the finish. But it still manages to finish pretty clean.

Mouthfeel: Light to medium in body, mild carbonation.

Drinkability: Great. I really like this beer other than the slightly high ABV I could put away quite a few of these. Meets all the style criteria, Nice!

04-11-2007 02:47:42 | More by BadRockBeer
Photo of Vancer


3.65/5  rDev -0.3%

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.

04-01-2007 21:11:01 | More by Vancer
Photo of JohnnyM2002


3.18/5  rDev -13.1%

Sampled from a 12 oz bottle, poured into a white wine glass at 50 degrees. Picked up in a trade from swid...thanks!!

A - Pours a clear amber color with yellow highlights and a small, but long-lasting head.

S - Grassy/floral hops tickle the nose, but not very strong.

T - Floral, citrus, and mild hoppy flavors poke through, but never really amount to anything. No real discernable taste or bitterness.

M - Bubbly, medium body.

D - A drinkable brew, but not a strong enough example to make a session beer.

12-17-2006 16:04:42 | More by JohnnyM2002
Photo of blackie


3.68/5  rDev +0.5%

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

10-26-2006 01:18:10 | More by blackie
Photo of IntriqKen


3.9/5  rDev +6.6%

A very pretty golden amber with a half finger head that melts to fine lacing.
Aromas are full of toasted malt and nuts with a hint of caramel
Taste is the toasted malt and caramel at first but the citrus hops come in at the right moment to balance it out and turn it into a very quenching, mild ESB.
Aftertaste of nuts and citrus hops.

09-20-2006 23:59:24 | More by IntriqKen
Photo of thaichile

New Jersey

2.85/5  rDev -22.1%

Pours a clear, darker amber with hardly any head and not much carbonation. Nose is bearly discernable. Flavors are roasted coffee and that dwindles to almost nothing except for some slight bitterness. A thin. watery brew without much support from hops, malts or much else. Not a bad beer, just sort of a nothing. Bottle courtesy of jhammerly.

05-19-2006 12:58:45 | More by thaichile
Photo of MaltyGoodness


3.5/5  rDev -4.4%

12oz. bottle courtesy of jhammerly

Pours a semi-clear amber/copper color with a small white had that fades. Mild lacing on the glass.

Aroma is very malty with caramel notes and just a slight hint of herbal hops.

Very malty tasting upfront with a nice bitter hop bite and a slight herbal hop flavor. Finishes slightly bitter and a bit dry.

Medium body, nice carbonation.

Easy drinking ESB and a good example of the style.

04-24-2006 22:59:30 | More by MaltyGoodness
Photo of bkett01


3.43/5  rDev -6.3%

Thanks to jhammerly for this one...

Pours a rich amber hue with little to no head present. No hops detectable in the scent, just a carmel malt aroma. Almost reminds me of a caramel candy apple smell.

Even harder to detect hops in the taste. A deep roasted malt taste led by the caramel I detected in the aroma. While this does seem to be rather malt heavy, the carbonation does pick up the taste. Definitely sweeter than bitter, contrary to the ESB labeling. Worth a try.

03-15-2006 04:21:35 | More by bkett01
Photo of aforbes10


3.98/5  rDev +8.7%

had this on tap at Lazlo's. Appearance...light brown color. no head, but maybe because it had to be carried form the bar to my table. Odor - malty and not strong. Taste - malty, some sweetness, a bit bitter, retains a good flavor. interesting mouthfeel, good drinkability...bought a sixer to take home with me.

01-11-2006 14:06:40 | More by aforbes10
Photo of neonbrown82


4.38/5  rDev +19.7%

This is a good ESB, though it has more of an American flair to it than the traditional british style. The beer pours to a nice golden amber color with ample carbonation to support a nice pillowy head, which happens to lace quite beautifully down the glass.

The smell is of herbal/grassy/spicy hops. Has a bit of a "burtonized" mineral characteristic to it, but it is not nearly as harsh as real burton water. Has a light caramel backbone to it.

The smell and taste reminds me of a Bluebird XB, though much more fresh and less harsh from the minerals. The taste is of fresh noble hops with a bit of a lemon zest and sharp caramel malts. Very fresh. I love local beer.

I could drink quite a fair share of this in a night, and I recommend you do as well if you are ever in Nebraska (Empyrean doesn't make it beyond the state lines, unfortunately). Nebraska's Ogalala Aquafir hides some great beer making water in its depths.

12-24-2005 07:36:45 | More by neonbrown82
Photo of BigRedN


4.03/5  rDev +10.1%

Appearance: Poured from the stubby 12 oz bottle with no date (6 pack box was date stamped, best by 3-10-06) into a pint glass. The beer is a clear, dark amber liquid with an off-white 1/2 inch head. The head lasted less than five minutes before fading away to a thin ring around the glass. Minimal lacing as well.

Smell: Initial scent of hops, mostly floral yet slightly citrousy (acidic citrous like lemons). As the beer warms it becomes more malty, slight sweetness, aroma of roasted barley (roasted chocolate?) and caramel. While the scents are not overpowering they hint at a very well balanced, well rounded beer.

Taste: Taste is slightly subdued for the style IMO. Not overly bitter, more sweet. I imagine this is somewhat intended as there are a majority of bland macro drinkers who the brewery would be trying to woo with this beer. This beer has a good balance of malty sweetness and hop bitterness, althouogh neither are overpowering.

Mouthfeel: A little light, just enough carbonation to keep it lively, not flat and dull. Relatively low bitterness and no lingering aftertastes.

Drinkability: Highly drinkable, and almost always on sale someplace in Lincoln for a low price it is easily affordable. Not sure about the alcohol content, but this one is near "sessionable". I could consume multiples of this beer and not get tired of it.

12-21-2005 04:55:53 | More by BigRedN
Photo of BeerBob


3.88/5  rDev +6%

Empyrean Brewing Co. "LunaSea" (one word) E.S.B. pours a chestnut brown from a 12oz very dark brown glass bottle. Head went to about two fingers before going poof, gone, nada, zip, nothing.

Nose is a firm floral hops with a bit of sweet barley malt notes. Palate is an assertive well bittered pine that turns barley malt sweet with a drying finish.

Fragrant, tasty, and enjoyable, LunaSea from Empyrean Brewing Co. put a smile on my face, and if you are into ESB’s, then this should be right up your alley

11-07-2005 00:24:34 | More by BeerBob
Photo of Morris729


3.98/5  rDev +8.7%

Pours a deep amber color with a creamy off-white head that slowly dissipates over time. Nose is sweet buttery caramel with some very faint underlying notes of honeysuckle. Creamy texture with a moderate amount of carbonation. Taste begins with a light fruitiness and notes of toffee followed by a rich malitness and finally a moderate amount of hop bitterness towards the finish. Quite nice.

07-22-2005 04:25:22 | More by Morris729
Photo of Bdc


3.83/5  rDev +4.6%

Sampled from bottle. Traded with Bditty187 from NE. Pours a clear copper/amber with a thin, scattered off-white head. Aroma is rich caramel with floral, spice and citrus notes from the hops. Flavor is balanced with s strong, complex malt backbone and some spiciness from the hops. Some fruits are noticable. There is a bit of astringent bitterness that lingers, but it is very subdued. Medium-bodied and moderately carbonated. An enjoyable session bitter.

12-21-2004 01:41:38 | More by Bdc
Photo of swid


3.83/5  rDev +4.6%

The Luna Sea ESB pours a nice amber brown color, and is slightly hazy. A cream-colored 1/2" head appears, and dissipates quickly. Weak lacing. Noticeable bitter or "pine" aroma, whiff of chocolate and sugary sweetness. As the beer warms up, the sweeter smells become more dominant.

The bitterness is initially apparent, becoming slightly sweeter as chocolate and caramel flavors in the malt are picked up, finishing off with a noticeable roasted flavor. This ESB is quite well-balanced. A fairly light mouthfeel, finishes with a slight bitterness.

This is one of Empyrean's best offerings; unfortunately, it's not quite bitter enough to be a proper ESB but is still more special/strong than your average red ale. It's better on-tap or (if you're fortunate enough to be around when available) cask-conditioned, but Luna Sea in the bottle is still an enjoyable beer.

10-29-2004 01:42:48 | More by swid
Photo of sulldaddy


3.85/5  rDev +5.2%

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!

07-18-2004 14:34:09 | More by sulldaddy
Photo of PhantomVodoo


4.08/5  rDev +11.5%

Minimal tan head sits atop this coppery brown beer.
Aroma of caramel malt and fruity, slightly floral hops.

Taste shows a toasty, caramel malt backbone. Good fruity, slightly floral hop balance. Juicy Fruit gum type fruitiness. Good malt and hop flavor that are balanced and meld together well. Light, crisp and clean. Finishes well.

Good mouthfeel.
Very drinkable; definite session beer material.

Overall, a good ESB. Big thanks to bditty for the sample!

03-02-2004 15:22:29 | More by PhantomVodoo
Photo of feloniousmonk


4.3/5  rDev +17.5%

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!

11-07-2003 02:43:00 | More by feloniousmonk
Photo of ZAP


3.68/5  rDev +0.5%

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...

09-26-2003 04:38:02 | More by ZAP
Photo of tavernjef


4.2/5  rDev +14.8%

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.

09-18-2003 01:57:05 | More by tavernjef
Photo of GeoffRizzo


4/5  rDev +9.3%

Plain amber color with little head, some tiny carbonation. Delicate, malty aroma. Sweet malts and some hops are noted up front, ever so bitter, but not offensive. Complex and creative, some fruit is noted throughout, seems to be medium bodied, toasty, some caramel flavors should be noted as well. Finishes a bit dry, pretty good for an ESB as the bitterness doesn’t micro-manage the full flavors of this beast! Thanks to bditty187 for this bad boy!

06-27-2003 19:04:56 | More by GeoffRizzo
Photo of stegmakk

New York

4.22/5  rDev +15.3%

Nice amber color with little off white head. Not much. Very little lacing. Aroma was sweet malt some hops.
Flavor was sweet a little fruity with a nice all round sweet malt and balancing mild hop flavor. Mouthfeel was a little thin.
I could drink a few of these.

06-01-2003 15:55:04 | More by stegmakk
LunaSea ESB from Empyrean Brewing Company
83 out of 100 based on 103 ratings.