I poured a 12oz bottle into a nonic pint glass. It had a best before date of March 2014 and cost $2.89 ($0.24 per ounce).
Appearance: Dull copper hue with some visible carbonation. Pours to a
large, white, frothy head which laces and retains extremely well.
Smell: Virtually odorless. Hint of sweet malt. That’s about it.
Taste: Heavy Seas Winter Storm is described as an "Imperial ESB," which
would seem to be a contradiction in terms. While I don’t claim to be an
expert on the style, I do know what it should taste like and I don’t
think this is it. The beer is a strange concoction of malt flavor and
strong hop presence. It’s not that the flavors are bad, it’s just that
they don’t seem to match up.
Much like the aroma, the malt presence here is quite faint. Slightly
rustic, slightly spicy character with a hint of cinnamon, some
confectionery notes and a touch of dark fruit. While that’s somewhat
enjoyable, there’s a strong hoppy character that overshadows it. Dank,
earthy, spicy hops are strong from beginning to end. They don’t seem to
have genuine flavor, but are just there for spice. The problem is there
isn’t enough base beer to support this much hop character. At no point
is it off-putting, but at no point is it particularly enjoyable.
Drinkability: I was surprised by the low drinkability of this beer.
While Heavy Seas Winter Storm is not all that complex, it’s definitely
robust as the bitterness (and some alcohol) really make themselves
known. I found myself drinking it in short sips. The mouthfeel is
medium, and not all that smooth. It leaves a dry, bitter aftertaste. At
7.5% ABV there should be much more flavor here than there is.
Thankfully, that alcohol is not too intense, though there is minor
warmth to be felt.