I firmly believe that winter is the best beer season of them all. But to be honest, I’ve had several winter seasonals already this year that ranged from disappointing to mediocre to just plain crappy. What is going on?! Is this Opposite Year? Hats off to Heavy Seas for getting me back on track! Winter Storm is a smooth and delicious winter warmer – and an inventive one at that. It’s an “Imperial ESB” chock full of English malts and balanced nicely with American and English hops. I tend to prefer my winter ales on the malty side, and this one surely fits the bill. At 7.5 percent ABV, it’ll warm you up on a cold night without knocking you out. Herbal and citrus hop notes are pronounced but in no way off-putting, and all in all this typifies a “rich but smooth” wintertime brew. The usual malt suspects (caramel, bread, toasted grain) are large and in charge, but the hop bitterness definitely competes for your attention in an entirely good way. It’s all topped off with a warming, fruity finish that gives way to a lingering hoppy aftertaste. Balanced, flavorful, and straight up great-tasting, Winter Storm is a first class beer in every respect. Probably when you hear the term “winter ale”, an ESB is not what comes to mind. Maybe that needs to change!