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Schlafly Winter ESB - The Schlafly Tap Room

Not Rated.
Schlafly Winter ESBSchlafly Winter ESB

Educational use only; do not reuse.
very good

155 Reviews
no score

(Send Samples)
Reviews: 155
Hads: 323
Avg: 3.8
pDev: 18.42%
Wants: 6
Gots: 30 | FT: 0
Brewed by:
The Schlafly Tap Room visit their website
Missouri, United States

Style | ABV
Extra Special / Strong Bitter (ESB) |  5.80% ABV

Availability: Winter

Notes & Commercial Description:
Beer added by: maxpower on 01-09-2002

Our Winter ESB (Extra Special Bitter) may have the word “bitter” in its name, but the key to this style is balance. The combination of malts and hops creates a toasty, fruity flavor. Our ESB is dry hopped with a US grown hop varietal called Williamette, which has a pronounced spicy, lemon flavor.

In the early 1970’s, brewers in London and the south of England expanded the range of beers available in pubs, reacting to the wave of European lagers moving into the British pub scene. In addition to the ordinary bitters and pale ales, brewers developed recipes for stronger premium ales like ESB, special bitter and special pale ale. These beers contributed to the English traditional ale revival of the 1980’s, making their way into the beer portfolios of many American craft breweries.

30 IBU
Beer: Reviews & Ratings
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Reviews: 155 | Hads: 323
Photo of BerkM
1.21/5  rDev -68.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 1 | taste: 1 | feel: 1 | overall: 1

I love ESBs and most “winter beers” in general. This sounds and looks great. I was really looking forward to trying this. I’m from Missouri and I like to support the locals. BUT…. This is Awful, syrupy sweet and undrinkable for me. It seems purposely aggressively flavored to cover up any redeeming qualities. It reminds me of their Christmas Ale. They are both way too flavored and they both taste like how a cheap Christmas candle smells.

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Photo of onansalad
1.42/5  rDev -62.6%
look: 3 | smell: 1 | taste: 1 | feel: 3 | overall: 1.5

I was surprised by this beer considering the great balance and flavor of Schlafly's Kolsch style ale (one of the best American Kolsch-styles I've tasted). I've come to expect at least a touch of diacetyl in an ESB (and a bit more than a touch is acceptable in the style), but there is none here. What IS in this brew is a huge mouthful of hops - way more hops than belong in any low gravity english style ale. This is not an ESB; it's an an american "IPA" posturing with a fake accent. If you tried to drink this beer at cellar temps, the hops would saturate your palate so you couldn't taste any malt at all. That's not to say others won't like it. If your idea of craft beer is yet another IPA, you'll probably like this, too. Considering the shelves in my area are overflowing with IPA's, my opinion of this beer is almost definitely in the minority.

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Photo of Eagleyes
2.88/5  rDev -24.2%

I remember this beer being a lot more bitter last year and having a much better overall flavor. I'm not sure if they changed up the recipe or what but it was definitely better last year. Not much flavor, disappointed.

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Photo of pmcadamis
2.98/5  rDev -21.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

A - Slightly hazy orange/amber brew with a big three finger off white head. Some lace sticks to the glass, and the head has really good retention. I took quite a while to drink this beer, and there was always a thick cap on top of the carrot juice hued brew.

S - Big pine hops with a touch of lemon grass. I can't really smell any malt notes, but the Pine-Sol hop aromas are nice enough.

T - Again, pine is the major player here without much support from the malt tones. Christmas tree needles and sap. Grassy, acrid, and very bitter.

M - Light in body with quite a bit of carbonation and an extremely bitter and acidic finish.

D - A very average and uninspired brew IMO. Nothing really wrong with that, but I don't really see why it's considered a Christmas beer.

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Photo of bigone4
3.07/5  rDev -19.2%
look: 2.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

Poured a clear light orange yellowish color. Decent carbonation. Thin one finger egg shell white color head that dissipated rather quickly. No real solid retention. Smell was rather light and malty slight hint of rye in the back ground. Mile scent of hop oil and a slight citrus touch. Hints of dough and a mild fold of caramel. Decent taste. Upfront caramel malt flavor followed by a nice hint of rye with a strong dry hop finish. Leaves a nice hop essence in the back of the mouth. Rather light bodied but also makes up for that in the nice after taste. Over all a very drinkable brew.

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Photo of rangerred
3.07/5  rDev -19.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.75 | overall: 3

12oz bottle into a pint glass.

Pours a hazy dark orange with quite a bit of sediment from the bottle making it into the glass. The saving grace is the thick, rocky head. Excellent retention and lacing.

Aroma is extremely fruity. Lots of orange with some grape and cherry as well. Maybe just a touch of biscuit but it is faint behind the fruit.

The taste has even more fruit. I know pretty much every Schlafly beer has this fruit note from what I assume to be the yeast but this is just a little overdone. Heavy dose of orange and cherry along the same lines as what is in the aroma. Lots of malt in the way of caramel and biscuit but it lends a bit too much sweetness. Mouthfeel is quite sweet and sticky.

Overall, this one just doesn't do it for me. Too much fruit and overly sticky make this a bit of a mess. Drinkability is very limited and it just doesn't seem that well put together. I'll pass next time.

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Photo of Beerandraiderfan
3.08/5  rDev -18.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.25

A mix of copper and light brown flow out the bottle. A good amount, 1.5 finger head. Smells like a lot of malt heavy midwest beers.

Taste isn't as sweet as most esb's I've had, tastes a little more earthy substantial instead of the sweet I've come to notice in my fave esb's.

Mouthfeel, begins to take on tobacco notes with the dark, almost doppelbock light feel to it. Remains drinkable, doesn't overwhelm the palate with a negative heavy effect.

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Photo of Yetiman420
3.08/5  rDev -18.9%
look: 3 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

Consumed 10 months from bottling date.

Light copper color, foamy one-finger head.

No initial aroma of note. Unable to detect the "plenty of hops to balance the sweetness" as indicated on the label.

Clean finish with a touch of sweetness. Pedestrian for a winter ale - lacked the complexity and robustness I come to expect with this style.

Easy to drink, to a fault.

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Photo of taylor714914
3.1/5  rDev -18.4%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3

I’m a schalfly fan boy, but  have to say, this was disappointing.  A rich translucent brown with a thin cap, this beers smells sweet and bready.  The flavor is somewhat off….there is almost a buttery characteristic to this beer midpalate that I can’t seem to shake.  Sweeness starts, but the buttery note cuts right through.  Finish is caramel with a touch of hop bitterness, but the butteriness just lingers forever.  Can’t say I’d pick this up again. 

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Photo of RickS95
3.15/5  rDev -17.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Medium white head, fluffy. Copper in color, just dark enough that you can't see through it.

Hops and rye in the nose, malt in the background, along with other cold weathers spices.

A crisp feel in the mouth, leave it too long and you'll feel a burn.

Taste is similar to most bitters, but the rye element adds a little something. Like all bitters, I could drink and enjoy one, but no more than one in an evening.

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Photo of myelo
3.26/5  rDev -14.2%
look: 3 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.25

Poured into pint glass on Jan 19, 2015 from a bottle with a bottling date of "11/04/2014". Thank you Schlafly for providing a clear bottling date -- why can't all brewers do this? I don't need to decipher some secret code to try and figure out how old my beer is.

Look: Hazy light amber with some sediment and tiny bubbles. 1 inch white head that dissipates leaving prominent lacing. A bit lighter in color than a typical ESB.

Smell: Fruity hops with a hint of lemon, lightly toasted malt

Taste: Sweet, lightly roasted malt, mild to medium bitterness, earthy hops

Mouthfeel: smooth, medium low carbonation, minimal ethanol warmth

Overall: slightly lighter, more fruity than most ESBs with a lighter roasted malt flavor. Very drinkable and nice, but not really a typical ESB.

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Photo of Enola
3.28/5  rDev -13.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

I got this beer as a trade from wcudwight who got a couple from dertbert. Thanks guys.

The beer poured with minimal head. The color is a light reddish amber. The smell is fairly bitter. The taste reveals hops. Lots of 'em. As far as ESB's go, this is among the better ones I've had. The mouthfeel is lacking any harshness. The drinkability is good as well with one exception. This is the last one I got. Without driving to St. Louis. I could drink more if they were more readilly available. I would like to explore this brewer better.

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Photo of abrand
3.3/5  rDev -13.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

On tap at local bar.. Poured into pint glass.

This pours a hazy golden color with not much head. Some lacing is on the glass. Some visibility through the pour. Smells of lemons, soap, some hops as well as floral notes. Not overpowering but enjoyable. Taste is pretty smooth. Nice hop presence with lemons and doughs up front. Mouthfeel is fairly thin with mediocre carbonation from the tap. Overall this is a decent brew. Definitely sessionable.

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Photo of Birchgrove77
3.31/5  rDev -12.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Bottle gifted from a friend in St. Louis.

Appearance: Dark amber/copper color with a quite a bit of cloudiness. Looked similar, but not as sparkling as other ESB.

Smell: Horrible almost leather-like smell. I really thought the beer would not be tolerable based on the smell.

Taste: Pretty good. Nice hoppiness in the aftertaste. A bit of maltiness, but not enough to be out of style. A slight bit of diacetyl, but that seems to enhance the taste, not detract from it.

Drinkability: Quite drinkable and I definitely enjoyed the beer. Didn't discern any spices, but that may have faded over time. Good beer, but I also have trouble with ESB's because I really enjoy some Goose Island Harvest Ale.

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Photo of rastaman
3.32/5  rDev -12.6%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Nose is intense sharp hops and it shines through on the palate. Syruppy, sharp hoppyness, and a bit one dimensional, not really elegant or rounded or anything, just a bunch of phat, syruppy, cloying hops that kick you in the face. Let down by the lack of balance and complexity, there is lots of flavour there, but its a bit ugly, not too bad though.

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Photo of TheCondor
3.33/5  rDev -12.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

I grabbed this as part of a create-a-case at teh store the other day. I like winter seasonal beers, I like bitter beer, so what's not to like about this?

Appearance - Poured from a bottle into a pint glass. Poured almost an orange color, quite hazy and difficult to see through. We're off to a good start here. One can easily see the particles floating around in the beer. Decent head, little lacing.

Smell - Nothing special here. Gives an aroma of fruity and floral. The face that it pours orange and smells floral is not lost on me.

Taste - The smell and appearance of the beer match the taste and the style. Strong grapefruit flavors throughout, only a hint of bitter at the very end. This brew is exceptionally fruity on the palate.

Mouthfeel - Medium carbonation, which is what it's supposed to have. I really didn't like the sickly sweet aftertaste though. It didn't make me want to drink the rest of the beer. It was like drinking Mountain Dew when your mouth is really dry, with that stickiness.

Overall - This beer does match it's style well. The only problem is that I am not a big fan of the style, at least in the ESB's I have drank so far. I thought the fruit flavor was a little overpowering, although I am sure some find this to be a redeeming quality. Enjoy it for what it's worth, it's not bad.

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Photo of Bierwolf
3.34/5  rDev -12.1%
look: 2.75 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

This beer poured quite a bit cloudy with a lot of suspended yeast and such. Slightly off white foam that laced nicely. The cloudiness was a bit much for the style.

The aroma was more sweet and fruity than anything else. Not much in the hop area and a light malt aroma was evident.

Tastes more sweet than bitter, mildly hoppy, fruity with a dry finish.

Medium light body, slick and smooth

This is apparently an Americanized version of this style. I will say this is the only brew of this style that I have had but I would bet a weeks pay that I would find a better one pretty easily.

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Photo of Gehrig
3.36/5  rDev -11.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

One and one-half fingers of white foam on a dark golden body with burnt orange trim; moderate lacing is a plus. I smell apricot and lightly toasted malt and, despite persistent coaxing, little else emerges. Caramel joins apricot in the taste, yet the flavors are...meek, just like the smell. It isn't just that the flavors of Winter ESB--whatever the hell that is--lack gravitas; they lack even decent presence. No component takes charge to define the taste. The mouthfeel is a saving grace for Winter ESB, creamy and smooth, quite nice texture.

When I had this, I felt that it smelled and tasted somewhat like Schlafly's Kolsch, just a tad maltier and darker in color. I don't think that's too far off. I expected some spice and malt heft with the moniker "Winter" preceding ESB. The ESB part I get and it isn't bad. The Winter part mystifies and disappoints me. I'd beef up the malt and spice considerably. That would get it rocking. As it stands, it's just OK.

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Photo of boatshoes
3.38/5  rDev -11.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Received this in an awesome package of generosity from rsyberg01 as a received in the recent holiday sponsor a BA. Thanks again Ric!

Appearance- Pours a darker shade of amber with about a half finger of beige head sitting on top. Dies back pretty quickly but leaves a coating across the top of the beer that lasts throughout. Lots of beading and some mild amounts of lace left.

Smell- Fairly muted nose with a mixture of sweet malt and some piney hops showing through. Somewhat understated.

Taste- Very mild. Lots of sweet caramel and bready malt showing through initially. However, a fair amount of balancing piney bitterness shows through on the finish. Pretty straightforward and not the most impressive example of the style I've had but nice all-around.

Mouthfeel/Drinkability- Mouthfeel is good and adequately carbonated. This one is a little strong to session, and I find the flavor a little to lacking to drink too many, but it did go down easy.

Overall, an unoffensive and fairly easy drinking beer. Not my favorite ESB however, and I would have hoped for more in the flavor. Nonetheless, nothing really off about this one.

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Photo of bort11
3.38/5  rDev -11.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

12 oz bottle pured into an Imperial pint glass. Massive chunky off white head. Had to wait a moment for the head to go down to finish the pour. Head receded to a light lace. Clear amber color. Sweet malt smell with a bit of hops bitterness. Taste is mildly bitter, mostly in the back. A little floral. Mouthfeel is very mild. No real carbonation bite, more of a creaminess. This is a nicely refreshing beer. It doesn't really seem like a winter beer to me though.

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Photo of orangemoustache
3.39/5  rDev -10.8%
look: 4 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

Pours a bright copper with some light golden accents around the edge. The bone colored cap is light and fluffy and leaves some nice even lacing marking my pace with each sip. The nose is rye bread lightly toasted and buttery,with some light hoppy esters. The flavor profile is not nearly as bitter as I had expected,nor that flavorful either. It is good and not offensive in any manor of the word,I just expected something a little bolder in flavor. Subtle caramel and rye offset one another in a sweet and salty sort of way. Not a lot of hop,but just a touch of citrus keeps this interesting.An odd subtle spinach tang on the finish is unique and enjoyable,something I've never tasted before in a beer. The mouthfeel is velvety and course at the same time and is really where I think this deserves its highest marks. Not what I expected,yet very interesting and enjoyable.

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Photo of jujubeast6000
3.4/5  rDev -10.5%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Reviewed 11/15/2008 (Tap @ Pi Restaurant, St. Louis, MO):

Pours a clear red color body. Creamy white head, some lacing, lasting. Effervescent, malty aroma, some bitterness. Not a strong aroma. Grainy taste, sweet, with a sweet aftertaste. Fresh maybe rye-like. Watery palate. A nice hoppy taste. More like an IPA.

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Photo of MTNboy
3.43/5  rDev -9.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

The aroma is very mild with hints of caramel and toffee. Maybe some hops. It has a hazy brown body with lots of tiny bubbles and sediment. It had a rocky head at first that settled nicely and quickly. Overall, I would say this is a mediocre beer. It has a bitter taste that is more in the aftertaste than the primary flavoring. Nice malt flavor with some spiciness! The mouthfeel is smooth and pretty slick.

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Photo of spinrsx
3.43/5  rDev -9.7%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

12oz Bottle received in trade with cfrancis - thanks!

Appearance - Copper colour with an average size fizzy off white coloured head. There is a low amount of carbonation showing and there is some faint lacing on the sides of the glass. The head lasted for around 2-3 minutes before it was gone.

Smell - Malts, caramel, hops

Taste & Mouth - There is an average amount of carbonation and I can taste caramel and malts mixed with light hops. There is also some toffee and a light nuttiness.

Overall - Pretty decent and quite drinkable. Seems to the fit the style well.

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Photo of tetonka4kzoo
3.43/5  rDev -9.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

A copper, amber color with a lacy head in a snifter.

Has a grainy, malty aroma. Aroma is mild and not overpowering.

A malty taste with hints of rye. This has a caramel sweetness and light citrus hops. The hops give a slight bitterness. Also has a slight spicy finish of pepper.

Well-balanced medium body ale with decent carbonation.

Thanks to Rob for bringing this up from St. Lous. I am not normally an ESB fan but this is an easy to drink beer and have good things from this brewery.

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Schlafly Winter ESB from The Schlafly Tap Room
85 out of 100 based on 155 ratings.