Winter Storm Imperial ESB | Heavy Seas Beer

Winter Storm Imperial ESBWinter Storm Imperial ESB
1,027 Ratings
Winter Storm Imperial ESBWinter Storm Imperial ESB

Brewed by:
Heavy Seas Beer
Maryland, United States

Style: Extra Special / Strong Bitter (ESB)

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 7.50%

Availability: Winter

Notes / Commercial Description:
Formerly Winter Storm ("Category 5" Ale)

Added by stirgy on 02-17-2004

Bros Score:
User Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 1,027 |  Reviews: 523
Photo of secondtooth
3.78/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Caramel-amber upon pouring into my ale glass. Bountiful tan head, and some nicely ornate lacing.

Aroma is slightly sweet, with a hint of overripe fruitiness, and maybe some maple tones.

Flavor is bitter, but balanced with the sweet malts providing a pillow for the sharper hoppiness.

A well-done Wintertime Imperial ESB.

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Photo of mattgreger
4/5  rDev +5.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

The look on this brew comes out a nice hazy reddish amber color, with streaks of yellow and orange highlights when held up to the light. It poured with a nice thick and deep, off white head that has pretty good retention. It left nice patches of foamy lace as it when down the sides of the glass.

This brew had a very decent nose. The front is a nice caramel malt. It is then followed with a nice bread/biscuit flavor that feeds well in the touch of grapefruit and other citrus aromas. Its really seems to develope a bit as the brew warms. Smells very balanced.

The flavor on this brew is very tasty. There is a great flavor of dry malts of caramel and nice biscuit flavor that seems to feed well into the citrus flavors that were present in the aroma. Its very balanced and the grapefruit flavors give it just enough bitterness. It has a nice, small punch of alcohol in the flavor, that balances it out very well.

This is a medium bodies brew that has a nice smooth and dry finish. Its has a bit of an alcohol touch that gives it a nice warming feel, but allows the flavors to hold on and give it a nice filling touch. I liked it.

This brew has pretty decent drinkability, its a nice well rounded brew. Its a nice hardy winter brew. I would surely reach for this brew again.

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Photo of Dmorrison
2.4/5  rDev -36.8%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 2 | feel: 3 | overall: 2

Drinking this beer reminded me of smoking a clove cigarette. The mouthfeel was nice and solid, like other Heavy Seas beers, but a bit too chewy. I like this kind of chewy feel in Heavy Seas' Weizenbock, where it combines with banana, molasses and light spice. In Winter Storm, it combines with an overpowering range and intensity of spice. I didn't find it to be a pleasant experience.

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Photo of Jesse13713
2.8/5  rDev -26.3%
look: 2 | smell: 2 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Best by date in February

Appearance - Pours a clear caramel with a red hue. Slight transparent with no head and poor lacing.

Smell - Slight chocolate notes covered by barley malts. Not very bitter or hoppy smelling. Slight grassy hints.

Taste - Tastes like ice was melted to make the water used in this beer. It tastes crisp and purified. Slightly bitter with spice notes. The flavor is slightly hard to describe here. Quite a bitter alcoholic swallow.

Mouthfeel / Drinkability - A slight crisp hot that still tastes like the water was melted from ice. I liked this beer a little more than I anticipated.

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Photo of tjsdomer2
4.18/5  rDev +10%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Appearance: Nice solid amber. Pretty thick as well. Definitely a nice beer.

Smell: Nice balanced notes of caramel and a bit of hops as well.

Taste/Mouthfeel: Nothing amazing about the flavor, but overall the combination of sweet and bitter works very well, especially with the smooth, thick mouthfeel.

Drinkability: Definitely an above average beer.

Overall: See drinkability.

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Photo of shand
3.97/5  rDev +4.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured from a 12 ounce bottle into a mug.

Pours a hazy brown color with a finger of thick, creamy head that retains and laces well. The smell is bready malts and dark fruits with some hops and citrus. The taste hits with the bready malts first with a touch of fruits and citrus, then some earthy and herbal hops come in the background and slowly fight their way up to the front, leaving a bitter aftertaste on the back of the throat. Absolutely devoid of traditional Christmas ale spices, they wisely let the herbal hops handle that feel. Very nice.

The mouthfeel is satisfyingly medium bodied with a medium level of carbonation. The drinkability is also quite good, the ABV is completely hidden, I'd peg this closer to a 5% based on taste. I was all prepared to write a terrible review of this. This was the last of a six pack I bought a few months ago, which quickly became my "drink when already wasted" beer because I really didn't enjoy it. I thought it was a bit of a mess with too-strong hops fighting with dark fruits and assertive bready malts - pulling in every direction but never quite reaching anywhere approaching good. Now, with three months of age on it, the flavors have considerably mellowed out and melded together to something that's actually quite nice. Give it a shot, especially if you see any lingering bottles on the shelf now.

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Photo of Chaney
4/5  rDev +5.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

My neighbor just gave me two entire 6-packs of this stuff because she got it for a party that never happened and didn't know what else to do with it.

A: Fairly clear, yet extremely dark maroon in color. The ridiculously robust and dense head was about 2 inches this and stayed afloat for a good long while.

S: Sour-dough bread and then some, with maybe a few chocolate notes as well. A mild, yet musty fruit presence poked through after I sniffed for a while.

T: Bitter on the uptake, yeasty in the middle, and very smooth on the finish. It had just barely enough sweetness to be detected by my palate and no more.

M: The lacing was ridiculous and made my glass look like it was the proud home of a marshmallow factory. Bitter for sure, but in a pleasant way. The carbonation was just right for the style.

D: I've grown fond of this style in the last couple of years, and this is a fine example of that. Jeez... an ESB with a 7.5%ABV... WOW!!!!

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Photo of spinrsx
3.73/5  rDev -1.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

12oz Bottle

Appearance - The beer pours a clear reddish brown colour with a large size frothy beige coloured head. There is a low amount of carbonation showing and there is some really nice lacing on the sides of the glass. The head lasted for around 5 minutes before it began to dissipate.

Smell - malts, raisins, hay/straw, caramel

Taste & Mouth - The beer has a below average amount of carbonation and it has a full bodied taste. There are lots of malts mixed with a caramel sweetness and some dark fruit flavours. I also picked up on notes of chocolate/coffee, hay/straw, and some fruit esters. There was also a fair amount of hop taste. The beer finished with a malty slightly bitter aftertaste.

Drink - There are a whole bunch of flavours going on with this beer and that definitely makes it interesting to drink. The alcohol was well hidden and it fairly enjoyable. It was the first Heavy Seas beer I've tried and I'm looking forward to trying others from their lineup.

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Photo of CuriousMonk
3/5  rDev -21.1%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Poured from 12oz bottle into dimpled mug. Poured a transparent honey brown/amber pour with creamy bubbly off-white head with sticky lacing and soft carbonation. Very sweet and fresh earthy hop aroma. Flavor is of a slow starting, but ultimately potent grapefruit and pine hop finish; the alcohol is well hidden. Medium bodied on the palate with a nice bitter drag; soft with the decent amount of carbonation.

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Photo of CaptDavyJones
4.3/5  rDev +13.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Poured a clear, dark reddish-brown from a 12 oz bottle into a pint glass. The ABV content and 'best-by' date are on the label.
Little to no head, but good carbonation.
Aroma is of malts, bread/yeast with hints of hops coming through intermittently.
This ESB hits the nail on the head when it comes to taste, at least in my humble opinion. The dark fruit flavor is well balanced with the malts and the bittersweet finish is just perfect for my taste. Mouthfeel is good, medium to full bodied, coats the palate nicely. Crisp ale with a dry finish that leaves you wanting more.
Very good lacing along the insides of the glass.
Definitely not regretting getting this ESB, in fact I am glad I got one. Would definitely try this again, if I get a chance.
Ah, and the alcohol will slowly but surely warm you up.

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Photo of Shrews629
4.09/5  rDev +7.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Appearance - A hazy reddish amber color with some orange and yellow highlights around the bottom and sides. An off white head that was none too large nor did it have much retention. Did leave patches of lace down the sides of the glass.

Smell - Very nice nose of some caramel malt, bread, biscuit and some nice flourishes of grapefruit and orange citrus. Seems very well balanced and really developes as the beer warms.

Taste - The taste brought forth some balanced plumes of bitterness from the grapefruit. The dry malt of caramel and biscuit seems to fit together nicely with the citrus. Small touches of alcohol do come through in the flavor, but it's nothing I can't handle.

Mouthfeel - Mouthfeel is medium. Smooth and dry. Nice bit of warmth from the alcohol. Doesn't over do it with flavor on the palate, but does leave enough for me to savor for a bit.

Drinkability - This brew is really pretty good I think. Very solid and well rounded. Obviously this is a "Winter" beer, but I think I could enjoy this on occasion throughout the year.

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Photo of drtth
4.07/5  rDev +7.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Served in a shaker pint glass. Glass of cold water on the side to sip from periodically.

Appearance: As served the beer is a clear, dark, almost burnt orange color with an off white ¼" head that recedes leaving some sheets of lacing on the sides. A lot of the ring of foam persists for much of the beer and sipping leaves bits of lacing on the sides of the glass.

Smell: The aroma is mixed grapefruit and pine and earthy character from the hops. A faint hint of alcohol is present.

Taste: The flavors include a nice caramel malt backbone that supports the floral, earthy, citrus and pine hop flavors, all in a nice balance with none really dominating the others.

Mouthfeel: The mouthfeel is medium bodied and the carbonation persists nicely throughout the beer. The finish begins with the malt hop balance and then trails off to a nice dry bitterness that invites another sip.

Drinkability: I rather liked this beer and wished I'd had the time for a second. The balance of flavors is very good but I would have to say it is basically a mixture of an English and an American style ESB since it includes the American hops. Not quite what I'd expected in an ESB but I enjoyed it none the less.

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Photo of drcarver
3.76/5  rDev -1.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A - deep amber/copper color with a small fluffy head that fades quickly. fine lacing lines the glass all the way down

S - not much to say about the aroma. bit of alochol, smidge of hops.

T/M - herbal hop followed by hints of citus. aftertaste hangs for a while. not much alcohol to the nose, but it is present. a definite yeast flavor is evident but is quickly taken out by the hop bitterness.

D - goes down nicely but the alcohol slows you down.

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Photo of billab914
3.85/5  rDev +1.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Poured from a 12oz bottle into my Dogfish shaped pint glass. It poured a dark amber, almost mahogany like color. The head started off full and frothy and lasted pretty well into drinking the beer. Some nice lacing was left as I drank it as well.

The aroma shows a good amount of caramel and malty flavors to it. An herbal hoppiness is there as well and adds some spicy notes to the aroma. Pretty nice balance to all the flavors going on in it.

The taste has a pretty big malty base to the beer with some caramel coming through in the sweetness. The hops add an earthy spice and some herbal qualities to it. The hops give it a nice spice on their own without having to actually add the "winter" spices so many others versions have.

The mouthfeel is medium bodied with moderate carbonation. drinkability is decent, it was a nicely flavored winter seasonal. It was malty, hoppy and spicy and worked all of those flavors together nicely. Nice beer for the style and season.

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Photo of IceTrey9785
4.02/5  rDev +5.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Got a six-pack on sale since the spring seasonal brews are starting to hit retail stores...$7.49.

A: Poured the ale in to an English pub glass, medium to full body, really nice cherry/chestnut hue, with a nice pearl lacing that remains for the whole ale. The creaminess and the rich color remind me of a Smithwick's initially.

S: Spicy, citric hops, pine resin, rosemary, sage, bread pudding, and toffee round out the nose. Perhaps a hint of spiced black tea on the end. A hint of alcoholic spice, but nothing overwhelming. Big, robust, and very complex.

T&M: Very rich, creamy, and full. Lots of flavor, initially very sweet. The caramelized malt dominates the palate with flavors of salted toffee, peanuts, with a hint of milk chocolate. Halfway through the hop bitterness takes over and you're left with a candied, spicy ginger taste with orange peel, clover honey, and rosemary needles. I enjoy the contrast. Very crisp and clean on the finish, rather refreshing for such a huge beer.

I really like this one. It is much more balanced than a lot of ESB's I've had before and I think it is nice for a change. There is hop spice, but not the elaborate "coriander, ginger, nutmeg, etc" that you find with other winter brews. I prefer when a brewery can let the hops speak in the beer without tweaking the natural aromas and flavors. I'd buy this again -- definitely a beer to keep you warm when it is below freezing outside...

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Photo of hippityhops85
3.98/5  rDev +4.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Poured from a 12oz bottle acquired from a mix case. Looking forward to this one more than the other 23 other boring looking "winter" beers.

Pours a nice mahogany/amber hue that pairs nicely with the tan head that slowly dissipates but leaves it's remnants on the ring of the glass. Looks good.

Definitely dried fruits on the nose. This is backed by some serious biscuitty malts and crisp hop backings. Really a nicely tasting beer.

Mouth feel is almost perfect I just think this beer has a little too much carbonation.

I really enjoyed this "new" style of an imperial ESB.

Now if only breweries in the USA would brew a REAL ESB.

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Photo of alleykatking
3.88/5  rDev +2.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Had on tap at Fiddler's last night.

A- Pours a deeper amber color..very nice looking color wise. One and a half finger light tan head shows fantastic retention. Ringy lacing on the sides of the glass as I drink this one down.

S- There is a distinct darker fruit tone to the aroma which I didn't expect for some reason. Caramel malts with a light floral hop make up the rest of the scent. This wasn't at all what I was expecting let alone the I would say plum like front aroma. I was pleased with the aroma overall though.

T- Caramel malts with some plum like darker fruits in the front with a light hop bite. Middle of the beer opens a little more with light caramel and toffee like tones. There is a spicing on the backend that I couldn't get a hold of fully as it was deep in the background. Floral bitter hop in the tail end with a sprinkle of medicinal like alcohol.

M- Light mouthfeel. Carbonation was good for the beer. Caramel malts and light plum left on the palate. This along with a earthy hops and alcohol left in the aftertaste. Flavors were a little muted but overall balanced when I tasted them fully. Crisp and clean with medium drying on the palate from the alcohol.

D- This was a good beer don't get me wrong. It seemed a little watery for the style or I should say because they made it seem big that I figured it would have a big body. The ABV makes no real fuss in the beer at all which once again I expected. Overall a nice wintertime beer that is a little out of the norm.

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Photo of williepep
4.75/5  rDev +25%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

A-Reddish amber with a medium head which retained itself quite well, leaving rings around the glass on the way down.

S-Distinct,aromatic hops mixed with some sweet malt.

T-Malty with a good hop finish. Very little alcohol taste.

M-Medium bodied brew. Just right for a bitter.

D-Goes down very easy for a beer that's 7.5% alcohol.

Had this last year and couldn't wait for them to put it out again. This should be available all year round. It's just what I imagined an imperial bitter would taste like. Domestic bitters tend to be a bit too dry for my liking. This one is slightly sweet, somewhat similar to a Fuller's. Heavy Seas has made another excellent beer. Baltimore should be proud.

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Photo of DrDemento456
4.35/5  rDev +14.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A - Dark copper tones with a bit of foamy head that leads to a moderate lace ring.

S - You get some nice hops, herbal not bitter with a touch of caramel

T - I like it. Comes off earthy in hops bitter yet smooth with a toffee/caramel sweetness. Finishes with no bite of alcohol yet a bitter finish.

M - Medium bodied. Hard to believe it so smooth.

D - I am actually thinking about getting a six pack as I type if its still around my local place I should get it for around 10 bucks. Not a bad price for such a great brew!

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Photo of PhageLab
4.05/5  rDev +6.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

On tap at Taphouse in Hampton. Served in a pint glass.

A - Thick, reddish-brown coloration, slightly murky. Small head, low retention, some visible lacing.

S - Faint aroma of sweet plums and malt. Not a lot going on here, but what is present is nice.

T - Rich and flavorful. Has characteristics of an ESB, but amplified and exaggerated. Double ESB? I'm not sure, but it is fairly good.

M - Sharp, and the alcohol is present in the aftertaste.

D - Pretty good. Was it necessary to have such a high abv? I'm not sure, but despite the faults, it was enjoyable enough to order another.

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Photo of woodychandler
4.8/5  rDev +26.3%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Back on The Bottle Beat, thanks to my regular trade buddy, tone77.

From the bottle: "With a full ruby hue, rich malty character, and earthy hop aroma, Winter Storm is an original - an Imperial ESB for the winter months."; "Clean Water Fund [-] A portion of the proceeds from each case of beer we sell goes to help, a national organization dedicated to protecting the quality of the water we drink and the water we use to brew. Can't make great beer without clean water! Finds from the sale of this beer go back to the region where it was purchased."

I was impressed by the two rocky fingers of light-tan head that I got off of my pour. Not only was it markedly different than the fizzy head that I usually see from AmeriCAN Adjunct Lagers, but its retention was fabulous. Color was a deep coppery-amber with ruby highlights and NE-quality clarity. Nose was initially big with malt, but there was also a good bit of piney hops in the mix. Yum! Mouthfeel was medium with a wild juxtaposition of caramel sweetness and pine hops on the tongue. Dang, but this was really good and wayyyy too smooth. I could see putting a couple of these away before I even knew what had happened. Finish was more hoppy than malty, but it was the interplay between the two that really made this a unique beer. I really should not pooh-pooh bottled beers the way that I had been. I would drink this pretty routinely during the winter.

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Photo of gfreed
3.75/5  rDev -1.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

I'm normally wary of anything labeled "imperial" that doesn't have "Russian" to the left and "stout" to the right, especially if it comes from an American brewery-- that will practically guarantee that it's overly boozy and ham-fistedly hopped. However, the imperial part of this beer was nearly absent: none of the usual smelly alcohol; no thick and gooey body; no black-hole gravity; none of the smack-your-face hops. In fact, this was as light and fruity as a good UK ESB and only slightly more alcoholic. 7.50% seems generous, in fact, as there was very little warmth to this brew. Worth a try, especially because it is *not* "imperial" anything.

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Photo of thekanna
3.8/5  rDev 0%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A: Ruddy copper bordering on light brown with a medium white head.

S: Strong hops, brown sugar, and a bit of skunk.

T: Overtones of caramel, astringent herbal medicine and phenols. Hoppy taste is pervasive throughout and provides a bitter undertone.

M: Smooth and under-carbonated.

D: Nice run-of-the-mill beer, but nothing to write home about.

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Photo of nhindian
2.91/5  rDev -23.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

12oz bottle poured into a Delirium Noel snifter.

A - Pours a robust mahogany, almost deep ruby color, crystal clear with some streams of carbonation. Only garners about a finger's worth of head with alright retention. Lots of lacing spackles the glass, however.

S - Smell is sweet and malty up front with some caramel to it. Slight traces of bittering hops, but altogether not very aromatic.

T - Taste is a bit underwhelming. Malts are bready yet shortlived and give way to the more noticeable English hops in the profile really shine. As in the nose it's a quick one-two punch of malts and hops and then... a relatively long, bitter finish.

M - Mouthfeel is medium with moderately low carbonation. Thus, it gains a bit of smoothness and cream texture, but the bitter finish is a stark contrast.

D - Drinkability is moderate. The flavors, while there, are decent, but disappear much too quickly in lieu of the bitterness and overall, I would best describe this beer as relatively bland.

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Photo of Blueribbon666
4/5  rDev +5.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

I chased a Celebration Ale w/this fine ESB. Drank this straight from the bottle as it was from the fridge @ a holiday party w/a very interesting mix of craft beers. I had my doubts about following the Celebration Ale w/this ESB but it actually was a nice brew that was actually a perfect step back if only slightly from the Celebration Ale which is hop cone right off the branch. Would definitely have again and recommend to all those looking for a winter/holiday beer that's just that BEER, w/o the trimmings. Clove, nutmeg and the like. Good drinkability for a stronger beer w/a hop kick

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Winter Storm Imperial ESB from Heavy Seas Beer
Beer rating: 3.8 out of 5 with 1,027 ratings
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