LunaSea ESB | Empyrean Brewing Company

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LunaSea ESBLunaSea ESB

Brewed by:
Empyrean Brewing Company
Nebraska, United States

Style: Extra Special / Strong Bitter (ESB)

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 6.30%

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

Added by PhantomVodoo on 10-05-2002

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Ratings: 124 |  Reviews: 69
Photo of scarfield
3.09/5  rDev -16.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

App- amber/copper in color as it pours it leaves a half inch head. nice lacing throughout the glass.

Smell- A bit musty, some citrusy and hops comes through as well.

Taste- Very bready taste here for me. Malty and the hops are subdued. Some sourness also coming through with a bitterness on the finish.

Mouthfeel- the beer has a nice balance to it. Not too carbonated, thick, runny or chewy, but if you concentrate you can get any of these.

Drink- it is fine for a couple, but there really is not anything that stands out to me about this beer. I think that Empyrean has better offerings.

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

A - slightly hazy (perhaps from bottle conditioning) orange color with a thick white collar head that leaves a nice lacing

S - sweet biscuity malt aroma with a touch of yeasty esters and faint earthy hop in background

T - rich malt characterized by bread and biscuity flavors with mild herbal and earthy hops; finish is moderately dry with modest hop bitterness lingering

M - medium-full body with moderate carbonation

D - This is a fine beer. I think it stacks up to the ESB style fairly well. It definitely goes down easy and would make a good session beer. This beer has me curious about the brewery's other offerings (as it's my first from Empyrean).

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Photo of TheOtherMike
5/5  rDev +35.5%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Another vacation discovery surprise. It seems the central plains are producing some exceptional IPAs ans similar brews. Although this is not an IPA, I think it fits in quite well.

I was on vacation in the Black Hills / Rushmore area and dined a few nights in a small town restaurant. I tried several offerings that were new to me. This wasn't one of them, but the locals directed me to a local grocery store that carried a decent selection. As I prefer IPAs, I grabbed a six of this and struck gold. Not my #1 discovery on this trip, but a close tie for second. Time for a road trip!

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Photo of StoneTSR
3.74/5  rDev +1.4%
look: 4 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

APPEARANCE: Poured on tap at the brewpub in the Haymarket District in Lincoln. The LunaSea was a cloudy, copper color with a thick, almost creamy, half-inch head. Good looking beer. Very thin lacing clung to the glass from top to bottom, not much coverage area, but what did stick did not budge throughout the whole pint.

SMELL: Mildly bitter nose, but not very much umph behind it.

TASTE: A mildly bitter flavor to start, followed by a pleasant and mild citrus finish. Rather light tasting at first, but the hops and citrus seemed to build throughout the glass.

MOUTHFEEL: Very light and refreshing. Delightfully bubbly. The tickled palate only adds to the refreshing, citrus flavors. Great feel.

OVERALL: This was hands-down one of my favorite beers on tap at Lazlo's. It was a pleasure to be back in Lincoln at one of my old college stomping grounds, even though they moved the bar next door to where it used to be. This is not a very intense beer, but the word that seems to keep coming up in this review is refreshing. Fantastic beer for the hot, summer day that I enjoyed it on. Glad I found this in my notes on my phone.

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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 eclaycamp
3.42/5  rDev -7.3%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

12 ounce shorty bottle. Interesting name, Luna Sea ESB (a play on Lunacy, perhaps?). Breaking out the ususal basic tumbler for this beer. Pour is a very hazy red to orange, super-cloudy. It doesn't appear to be condensation on the glass so I will chock this one up to the filtering, of which there doesn't appear to be any. I'm guessing this could be bottle conditioned as well, though the label didn't do me the courtesy of a heads up. Small fizzy head that fades pretty quickly. Low to mild levels of carbonation. Aroma is of light grains and gym socks with some honey sweetness. Mouthfeel is more robust than I expected, with an unsweetened black tea finish. The flavor reminds me of honey and biscuits, like I used to have when I was a kid. Some citrus and floral notes are mixed in with the malts. Not bad for an ESB, but I've had better.

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Photo of JohnQVegas
3.42/5  rDev -7.3%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Bottle into shaker pint. Another thank you to Chris (RedHaze) for sending this one on its way from Nebraska here to Nashville!

Pours murky dark copper leaning towards amber, with little to now head on top.

Nose carries light notes of caramel and some citric hops underneath, straightforward but pleasant enough.

Taste follows suit. Caramel body is satisfyingly simple, with a light, snappy citric hop bite coming towards the finish, and perhaps pairing with the slightly over-aggressive carbonation. Just a bit toasty. Finish is moderately long, snappy hop astringency sticks around alongside a bit of grapefruit rind, almost tea-like.

Mouthfeel is a bit aggressive on the carbonation side, could be toned down a hair, with a dry, almost tannic (grainy?) mouthfeel.

Straightforward and nicely drinkable after several hours of work in the outdoor heat.

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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 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 Goliath
3.37/5  rDev -8.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Pours a murky amber color with a one inch off white head. Decent retention and a little soapy lace.

The nose is weak. Kind of iced tea like, herbal, earthy, fruity, and slightly malty.

The taste is ok. A decent malt presence giving a raw grain feel. A bit of the tea and herbal qualities linger in the mouth. A bit of a phenolic bite comes towards the finish and seems a bit out of place. A slight bitterness finishes this beer out.

Mouthfeel is thin to medium bodied, and slightly watery. The carbonation is fairly low. All in all, the mouthfeel isn't very satisfying.

Drinkability is decent. The flavors are ok, but it's certainly not the best ESB I've had. Seems pretty average to me.

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

Poured a mahogany red with a small head without any retention, as expected. The nose is fruity, yet a bitterness comes out through the malts. Some subtle dark fruits come out while drinking the beer while the main portion of the beer tastes like a combination of bittering hops and some caramel/toffee notes. The balance in this beer is perfect, just like most ESBs. This is an incredible session beer. The mouth feel is kind of watery and a let down.

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

Got this one from Mr. Met himself number1bum. Thanks man, Phillies suck.

12 oz. stubby bottle poured into a nonic. BEST ENJOYED BY 09/08 notched in the side.

It's an ESB kinda night in Syracuse. My first beer from Nebraska, nice.

Pours a very murky rustic orange with a big three finger off-white head that dies down to a creamy foam. This beer is defintely unfiltered and unpaseurized. Stickiness is decent, a thin wall sticks here and there on the sides. Smell is very light and enjoyable. Toasted grains, sweet malts, and a touch of sugary grapefruit. Taste begins with creamy honey and an interesting cherry sweetness. A nice balance of caramel malts and earthy hops midway. Aftertaste is sweet citrus with a hint of leather. Solid flavors with this one for sure. Creamy medium bodied feel with a weak carbonation. I like my ESB's with more bubbles, I bet this would improve on tap. I was surprised by the abv, I was thinking more around 4.5-5%. Drinkable beer for sure. I'm very interested to try more beers from this brewery. Thanks again Josh for hooking me up with this one.

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Photo of Reanimator
4.15/5  rDev +12.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

LunaSea ESB, brewed right here in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Light, enticing aroma upon opening. Sweet and quite fruity, some malts perhaps. A rather thin head tops the unfiltered, cloudy golden orange brew.

The flavor is balanced and deliciously sweet, and the mouthfeel is smooth and creamy yet dry on the finish. The initial fruity and piney hop bite is followed by a weighty feeling malt. At 6.3% there is some slight alcohol on the finish as well. Not as much caramel as the website describes, and still very enjoyable despite uncharacteristic fruitiness.

This is my new favorite Empyrean ale, I'll be sure to bring some of these home to Iowa with me. If you're new to the Empyrean lineup go for this ESB or their DarkSide Vanilla Porter, both are absolutely awesome.

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Photo of atigerlife
3.27/5  rDev -11.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Pours the color of light ice tea. Small white head that dissipated rather quickly. No carbonation rising.

Aroma of honey, fruits, passionfruit, hops and malts. Nice.

Taste of honey, malts, caramel and some fruits.

Mouthfeel is medium bodied and dry.

Overall, a decent brew that is drinkable. Seemed a little confused as to where it was going, but I would have another without hesitation.

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Photo of number1bum
4/5  rDev +8.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Had this both on tap and in bottle while visiting Lincoln. Pours a slightly hazed copper color with a couple inches of creamy light tan head. Retention is pretty good and it leaves some stick, too.

Smell has some caramel malt, a hint of toasted malt, and some light fruity and grassy hop aromas.

Tastes of slightly buttery, caramel malt with a nice level of sweetness. Well balanced with some fruity, grassy hops that have a low-moderate level of bitterness.

Mouthfeel is medium bodied, quite smooth with a nice creaminess.

4's across the board. A very solid, drinkable beer.

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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 tayner
3.95/5  rDev +7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

12 oz stubby bottle marked with best by date of 08-08. Thanks to jhammerly in the april powerball for this beer.

Poured into my murphys stout pint glass. Very hazy dark amber color with a white head that stayed for a long time and left a skim coat for the entire beer. not a ton of lacing, but some.

Smell was sweet and biscuity with slight hop aroma, but overall could use a bit more aroma hops.

Taste was sweet adn biscuity just like the nose, only much more flavorful than it smelled. It was then hit mid palate by some pine/earthy hop notes which dried away the sweetness and make it more balanced.

There was plenty of carbonation in this one, and the mouthfeel was light to moderate.

This one is super easy to drink. I did not realize it was 6.3%, i could easily drink more of these than i should at one sitting... very nice beer from a brewery i have not heard of until now. I shall keep this one in mind for future trading :)

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Photo of brewjones
4.32/5  rDev +17.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Pours a cloudy medium amber in the glass with good head retention and a creamy white head. A wonderful aroma of noble hops and toasted malt come through. I am going to say Maris Otter....ok I cheated, it's on the bottle. At first sip you get a lot of the Maris Otter flavor so there is no mistaking that. A bounce of hop flavor and bitterness round it out and make it really easy to drink. This is a very nice ESB and is a nice surprise coming from a brewery I have never even heard of.

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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 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 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 BadRockBeer
4.08/5  rDev +10.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

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!

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LunaSea ESB from Empyrean Brewing Company
3.69 out of 5 based on 124 ratings.
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