Winter Storm Imperial ESB | Heavy Seas Beer

very good
1,025 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

For Trade:
User Ratings & Reviews
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters | Alström Bros
Ratings: 1,025 |  Reviews: 523
Photo of Paul_Zills121
3.8/5  rDev -1%

Photo of winomark
3.8/5  rDev -1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a nice medium copper wiht a small, fleeting light tan head. Lots of hop citrus and spice on the nose. Mild malt tones noticable, but not too strong. Hoppy palate, but not too bitter. Malt gives a good backbone. Hop citrus makes an appearance, but not overpowering. Good, lingering, slightly bitter finish. A solid IPA. Nice hop profile, with some good maltiness. Worth a try anytime.

 389 characters

Photo of Jeff_Benson
3.8/5  rDev -1%

Photo of BBQWhisperer
3.81/5  rDev -0.8%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Photo of KatyBeerGuy
3.81/5  rDev -0.8%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Poured from bottle into pint glass. Head disappeared quickly. Nice smell. Tastes even nicer. Very good.

107 characters

Photo of stockingcpl
3.81/5  rDev -0.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

Appearance: Amazing pour. ery heavy frothy cream colored head. Extensive lacing. Upon pouring, the head foam seemed to cascade similar to a Guiness Stout. Color was a deep amber. Impressive!

Smell: The aroma is also interesting. A strong orange zest with spice overtures were detected. Caramel sweetness mixed with malt aroma. Very pleasant.

Taste: As befits this style of beer, the flavor has a strong character. In this case a heavy malt presence infuses the taste curve. A nice sharp high alpha hops flavor jumps in during mid flavor and remains during the totality of the sustain. Rather impressive. None of the flavors overpower any of the others. Blended quite well.

Mouthfeel: This brew excells in the totality of the taste experience. The flavors remain fairly consistant with a slight afterglow. There is a faint alcohol flavor at the tail o the sustain which leaves a faint aftertaste, but other than that, the brew is well rounded. Turning down the alcohol might help for homebrewers wanting to copy this recipe.

Drinkability: The drinkability is fairly high for this type of brew. Keep in mind however that this is a high alsohol brew with a very hop/malt presence.

Conclusions: This is an excellent brew that was put together well with obvious planning in the design. Others have noted a lack of carbonation, I observed plenty of carbonation...not too much...not too little. This brew is recommended to drinkers, however it will be a little strong for newbies.


 1,493 characters

Photo of SolipsismalCat
3.81/5  rDev -0.8%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Poured into a pint glass. Reviewed alongside Gritty McDuff's Christmas Ale.

A: Clear red-brown with two-finger, off-white, creamy head that lasted a more than a few minutes. Great lacing.

S: Caramel malt with dark fruit, molasses, and hops.

T: Light sweetness and moderate hop bitterness. Malty, a little bit of fruit, and alcohol.

M: Medium to full bodied with fizzy carbonation. Thick but not so smooth. Alcohol and slight dryness.

O: This beer looked fantastic and had a great nose. Taste was a bit more bitter than I was expecting, and the alcohol is noticeable. Close to a tie between this and Gritty McDuff's.

 620 characters

Photo of tlazaroff
3.81/5  rDev -0.8%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

A: The beer looks like perfectly clear dark caramel, topped with a foamy tan head which provides generous lacing, and sticks around for a while after the pour.

S: First thing that hits me is the big caramel aroma. This beer just bleeds it into the room. It smells like homemade sticky sweet caramel.

T: Again, this beer is a caramel bomb because thats what I get on the taste. The alcohol comes through on the finish as well, which kind of helps round this beer out.

M: Sticky sweet, just as it smells. It's full bodied with moderate carbonation levels. A bit cloying, but very nice.

D: Defiantly a beer that you want to let warm as you drink it so the experience changes, a sipper for sure.

 695 characters

Photo of PhillyStyle
3.82/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

The beer appeared a nice reddish brown color, kind of typical of an ESB that produced an oatmeal color head that dissipated into a small thin cap that lasted throughout the beer.

The beer gave off a nice caramel malt aroma with some hints of hops in the background.

The taste of the beer was mostly malty, upfront, with some bitterness at the end. Kind of what I expected from a higher ABV ESB.

The beer had a medium feel, it was smooth and the beer seemed a bit under carbonated, but I suppose that is more typical of the style. Overall, a pretty good beer.

 562 characters

Photo of beerthulhu
3.82/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Imperial ESB.

A: Poured a dark amber with a thin off white head that quickly faded.

S: dark caramelized malting with a moderate hop bitterness and dry earthy aroma.

T: The flavor was very malty and warm roasted with a big sweetness coming from the grain bill. The palate was hearty with some dry caramel, biscuit bread and spicy alcohol fusels (dry cinnamon, nutmeg). Overall was a tad sweet and lacked the big bitterness per style but it did leave a decent lingering hop bitterness but not enough to balance out the sweet malt or justify it as an imperial.

M: lively and highly carbonated with a slight stickiness and creamy, smooth texture.

D: Overall a tad sweet for mulitiples along with the high ABV but was generally a good experience by itself and six pack worthy for future drinkings.

 802 characters

Photo of CraftBeerTastic
3.82/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

Ba Review #81
Served On: 11/09/2011
Glassware: Shaker Pint
Labeled ABV: 7.5%
Date/ Code: Feb

Had to buy a whole case of this one because of PA’s antiquated liquor laws. I’m kind of glad I did though – it turned out to be a phenomenal winter seasonal.

Look: Poured a clear tarnished copper color with red tinges towards the middle. A two finger rocky tan head dissolved to a thin film of random sized bubbles. The carbonation was low. Supposedly this is a bottle condition beer. Not really seeing it so far.

Smell: The aroma was great on this one. I got strong notes of toffee and spices. I could also detect a faint hop citrus. There was a heavy Barley Wine quality in the nose – similar to the Anchor Old Foghorn.

Taste: First was a bitter sweet caramel and toffee followed by roasted malt. The finish proved to be very bitter with some alcohol heat that stuck around into the aftertaste. It was mainly a salt-water bitterness that seemed to work extremely well with the overall complexity and initial sweetness.

At first, the extremely bitter finish hit me unexpectedly – but my palate adjusted nicely after a few more sips. It’s not quite the best ESB I’ve ever had, but certainly an interesting one – definitely ‘imperial’ like the label says.

 1,275 characters

Photo of kkosmoski
3.82/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3

Longneck poured into a tulip style. Bit of haze on this dark amber colored brew. Small amount of cream colored head with tiny bubbles crawling up to the surface. Sticky lacing covers the inside of the glass. Aroma is fruity with hints of pineapple, orange, banana, and a touch of dark toast. Sweet orange flavor to start off followed by some toasty malt and finishing with tropical fruits and an earthy bitterness. Feel is sticky and medium-full with a smooth carbonation. Drinkability suffers a bit from a sticky sweet feel and upped alcohol content.

I do look forward to this seasonal from Clipper City. It is balanced and one of the more approachable brews in their heavy seas series - a solid brew.

 704 characters

Photo of JednoPivoProsim
3.82/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Poured from a 12 fl oz bottle into a rounded old fashioned. For brewery-fresh taste, purchase before Mar 12.

Appearance: Pours a dark amber with a decent white head.

Smell: Rich malts - caramel, molasses, and a slight sherry aroma.

Taste: Molasses in a glass. A malt-bomb for sure. Sherry/port wine flavors. Slight hop spiciness tries to sneak through in the aftertaste.

Mouthfeel: Heavy and rich. Mild carbonation.

Overall: Absolutely appropriate as a winter offering. Nothing too inspiring, but a good beer nonetheless. What is an Imperial ESB? A barleywine junior?

 572 characters

Photo of FunkyFibes
3.82/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A- A pale brownish/copper color. A Fair tan head on a mildly aggressive pour, that whittles down at a controlled rate. Decent lacing clings on it's travel down the glass.

S- Carmel maltiness with very prevalent fruity alcohol esters. A light citrus lingers in the back so you don't forget hops are sailing the seas as well.

T- A real prominent toasted grain flavor is melded with an equally strong hop bite, adding some lemon/citrus into the middle. An exceptionally balanced body that finishes with a slight twinge of alcohol warming and raisin.

M- This brew has a nice full body that that exits strongly, yet very clean and refreshing.

O- This beer has flavors that call to mind the season, yet would be enjoyable all year round. This will probably be near the top of my list for this season...guess it's kind of a shame that we don't really have seasons in Florida to truly appreciate it.

 896 characters

Photo of taylorhamrick
3.82/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Nice Red/Amber color, with a small head, without a whole lot of lacing, but swirls of bubbles stay around for the whole drink. You can smell the sweetness upfront, with a bit of hops in the background, nothing very incredible, but it makes me want to start drinking. The taste is sweet with a good kick of hoppy bitterness. Some of the hop flavor is around, a tiny bit of citrus taste, but primarily sweetness, like a golden raisin I would say. The balance of bitterness and sweetness makes this one enjoyable to drink, and despite the above average ABV for the style, it is still very drinkable.
I've had this beer on multiple occasions from its arrival until now, and it was enjoyable each time. And its worth purchasing - I'd call it a good value.

 750 characters

Photo of bpw28
3.82/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 5 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Appearance: Four finger shaving cream egg shell white head, amazing retention, deep dark amber color, lots of carb, really great lacing.

Smell: Sweet malt, floral hop, light brown sugar, light bread, light whiff of dark fruits.

Taste: Nice full malts, floral, piney hop, fresh dark fruits, light yeast. Nice full and slightly chewy mouthfeel.

Final Thoughts: Very simple but pretty nice. The nose was a little light and the beer itself is more hop forward then what I would consider perfect for a ESB, but on the whole a very simple but good brew. What a great appearance. Worth a buy.

 588 characters

Photo of Jason
3.83/5  rDev -0.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 3.75

12oz brown bottle with a freshness date.

Great lacing from a dissapating three fingered head. Toasted malt, baked apples, earthy, hint of alcohol, & faint caramel in the nose. Big malt character, thick medium body. Herbal woody hop, lots of balance here. Apple skin, dried grass, faint orange pith, brown malt, husky, drying graininess. Finishes dry and toasty.

This is a great rendition of of an ESB, bold enough to be set as their winter seasonal.

 451 characters

Photo of robebo44
3.83/5  rDev -0.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Photo of MaltyGoodness
3.83/5  rDev -0.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

12oz. bottle

Pours a deep amber brown with a creamy head that thins slightly. Nice lacing on the glass. Boy, these DIPA brews really do come in all colors....

Nice light citrusy aroma with a bit of malt woven in. Rather weak compared to other DIPAs I've had. I really have to stick my beak deep in the glass to get a good whiff.

Nice citrus hoppy taste upfront followed by a delicious malt base. Finishes rather dry with a bit of hops at the end. Rather clean finishing overall.

Body seems thin for a DIPA. Baby could use more back.

This is an easy drinking DIPA, although it seems more like just an IPA.

 619 characters

Photo of Viggo
3.83/5  rDev -0.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Enjoyed on a cold evening after a spirited game of hockey.

Porus a clear copper, some reddish hues, thick off white head forms, sticks nicely, very persistent, looks really good. Smell is sweet, some toffee, nice citrus/floral hops, bit of vanilla and chocolate, some yeast, very nice. Taste is odd, malty caramel, citrus, floral, mint? WTF! Weird astringent minty flavour. Spicy, very interesting, almost tingly mouthfeel. Medium body, low carbonation, alcohol warming, not sure what to think. I like the concept.

 517 characters

Photo of thain709
3.83/5  rDev -0.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

A - A very nice amber color...bordering on off white head that leads to a nice amount of lacing

S - Sweet malts...maybe...I can't pick up anything too special

T - A nice balance between hops and malts...the caramel malts from the nose are up front...finishes with a refreshing dose of floral hops

M - Carbonated...medium bodied

D - This is a nice winter beer...I'm looking forward to trying other Heavy Seas beer

 425 characters

Photo of nrbw23
3.83/5  rDev -0.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

A- Pours a clear copper color with an biege head. Head has ok retention and then forms a ring of bubbles that stays the entire brew. Head also leaves some nice layered lacing.

S- First thing that hits me is malts both bready and caramel. Also a little bit of a citrus hop in here.

T- Malts here at front and then finishes with a nice hop bite. A lot of stuff going on here.

M- Medium body and just a little too high on carbonation.

D- I like this one here and a solid brew for sure.

 486 characters

Photo of blakesell
3.83/5  rDev -0.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured from a 12oz bottle from last year's batch (06-07) into an off-centered pint glass with a bevel for added smelling.

Appearance- Beer pours a dark amber with a billowy cloudy fluffy head that goes over the top of the glass but doesn't escape the glass. A perfect pour on this beer. Lacing is very dense and clings to the glass minutes later.

Smell- Rich with malt and hops, favoring the hops more. A bit of pine with a smooth malt aroma. My gut tells me that 6-row or Maris Otter is the base malt.

Taste- Rich and malty upfront with a clean hoppy bite in the background. When I first had this beer I thought it may be a little too hoppy for the average drinker. Now that the hops have had time to mellow out this beer is excellent.

Mouthfeel- Creamy and a bit grainy on the aftertaste. Not warming and nicely carbonated. Full-bodied and balanced.

Drinkability- This beer has excellent drinkability. In fact I'd daresay that this is the most drinkable Clipper City beer in the state of Ohio. Maryland is a different scenario as they can get Balto, but over here, this is the beer to try and enjoy.

The IPA is another easy drinker, but this is my brewers' choice.

 1,174 characters

Photo of Colin32
3.83/5  rDev -0.3%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

Photo of cjgiant
3.83/5  rDev -0.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

On tap:
Pours a deep copper bordering on light brown, with a translucent light haze. Head I nice soapy to foamy off-white, and provides decent lacing. Nose is a tad malty, but that may be the "imperial" coming through. Floral/herbal bittering agents do come through as well, a bit of noble hops feel. I expected more of this "ESB bitterness" than I got.

Taste also starts a tad more malty than expected, but not as much as I would've thought from the nose. Honey-biscuit in nature, it lingers in the background after quickly being countered by the bitterness from the nose. The floral/herbal hops don't come on string enough, leaving this more balanced bitter ale, versus "extra". Body is also heavier than expected, and feel is a bit rough on the tongue (carbonation and dryness).

I actually enjoyed this beer fairly well, just not sure if you were looking for a standard ESB if this would fit. Also, not being overly versed in the style, maybe the offerings I've had are a bit more heavy on the bitter than expected.

 1,028 characters

Winter Storm Imperial ESB from Heavy Seas Beer
3.84 out of 5 based on 1,025 ratings.
  • About Us

    Founded in Boston in 1996, BeerAdvocate (BA) is your go-to resource for beer powered by an independent community of enthusiasts and professionals dedicated to supporting and promoting better beer.

    Learn More
  • Our Community

    Comprised of consumers and industry professionals, many of whom started as members of this site, our community is one of the oldest, largest, and most respected beer communities online.
  • Our Events

    Since 2003 we've hosted over 60 world-class beer festivals to bring awareness to independent brewers and educate attendees.
  • Our Magazine

    Support uncompromising beer advocacy and award-winning, independent journalism with a print subscription to BeerAdvocate magazine.