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Beer Review #264 Winter Ale

01-24-03After my last experience with Weyerbacher Brewing Company I made it a point to go out and try more of their beer. Since it is FREAKING COLD OUT, a winter ale seemed appropriate. While this beer’s label reminds me more of Christmas, I was still happy to see the sight of snow. At 5.6% this beer is on the low end for the normally high alcohol winter beers.

Winter Ale pours a nice brown to dark caramel color. It’s wonderfully clear and it looks wonderful in the light. The light tan head that comes with the pour quickly fades to just a thin layer. The nose is packed with rich malt. In particular I noticed lots of caramels and toffee. There are some bread tones in there as well. Finally, a winter beer that smells like a winter beer!

The taste follows what the nose promises. On my first taste I get lots of caramels and sweetness up front. There is a flat bitterness on the back end that was nondescript. The bitterness does not totally balance this one out and it stays a little sweet. The beer finishes with a note of bread, which I always enjoy. What I did find interesting in this beer is that it tingles on the back of the tongue.

This beer is more along the lines of what I think of when I try a winter beer. Rich and malty and a slow sipper. It’s not packed with alcohol and that’s cool in my book. I really like a malty, fully flavored beer in the winter. It just gives you a warm, full feeling that is enjoyable when it is FREAKING COLD OUT. (more…)

Beer Review #263 Secret Spot Winter Ale

01-22-03We had a nice bit of snow last night here in northern Delaware, and by nice I mean a coating. It’s been a pretty dry winter thus far and I’m not happy about it. Secret Spot Winter Ale boasts a snowboarder on the logo and screams snowy winter. Brewed by Evolution Craft Brewing Company this beer is going to get snow to me. The weather works that way right? No? Crap.

Secret Spot pours a nice orange copper color and has a thin white head. The nose has a slight bit of citrus hops. As I took a deeper breath of the beer I found a lot of malt notes. You have your typical malt flavors along with a subtle toasty and bready odor.

On the first taste I got a really nice malt flavor. There are some light caramels but mainly a standard malt backbone. The hops then come in an provide a really nice citrus flavor. The hops are very clean and don’t bite like traditional hops. They gently mix in with the malt and slowly make themselves more apparent. The transition is very smooth and enjoyable.

For a normal beer I really like this one. It’s drinkable and a bit different. The hop transition is so smooth that it added a new layer of intrigue for me. This beer does not say winter ale to me. It’s no robust in any way and it is not a stick to your ribs kind of beer. As a beer I like it, but as a winter beer it doesn’t measure up. Change up the release time of this one to the spring and I think you have a real winner. (more…)

Beer Review #178 Old Man Winter Ale

I finally finished with the beers specifically labeled as “Christmas Ales” and I am now on to some winter beers. As I mentioned previously, I am going to cut off or seriously limit myself from seasonal beers after my current batch of winter beers is done. Anyway, today’s winter beer comes from Southern Tier Brewing Company of Lakewood, New York. As with a lot of breweries I write about, I have had a number of their beers, but I haven’t had a chance to get all of my reviews up on the site yet. I have generally liked everything that I have tried from this brewery, so they have that going for them.

Old Man Winter Ale pours a nice amber color and has a white head to accompany the amber liquid. The nose has a bit of citrus hops, but the malt really shines here. There is some of the normal caramel sweetness but also a nice grainy flavor that I really enjoyed.

This beer has a nice malt flavor up front with those classic caramels returning. I didn’t get any of the grainy notes from the nose upon tasting this one. The citrus hops in the nose follow through to the flavor but they also flood into a slightly piney hop. The pine flavor then coats the tongue, but doesn’t stay for too long as a spicier hops flavor comes in. Right at the end some biscuit and dried fruit come in to round out the beer.

I really liked this one. It was an interesting mix of malt and hops that lead to an enjoyable drink. I also love when a brewery combines ingredients in a way that makes them taste different than they normally would. Old Man Winter Ale only uses two types of malt and three different types of hops. As a homebrewer, the lack of malt variety is encouraging since a lot of people get complexity by adding tons of different types of malts to their beers. Well done Southern Tier, I will be grabbing some more of this beer shortly. (more…)

Beer Review #162 Snow Day Winter Ale

Almost a year ago I reviewed New Belgium Brewing Company’s 2 Below Ale. I remember liking it but I didn’t think it fit the winter beer idea very well. I was excited to hear that they had a new winter ale this year that was on the “darker and richer” side of the flavor spectrum.The story of this beer comes from a snowstorm a few years ago that shut down Fort Colins, Colorado for several days. And really, who doesn’t love a snowday? I think I appreciate them more now as an adult than I did when I was a kid.

On my first pour of the glass I got a beer that looked exactly like what I had imagined. It was a deep dark brown with a slightly off-white head. I  have no idea if it was clear or not because of the darkness. The nose was pretty hoppy, considering I was expecting on the richer end. I really didn’t get a lot of malt but rather lots of grapefruit hops.

The taste was a mix of rich malt and cutting hops. I found the malt to have a good amount of caramel that also featured some tones of chocolate. Most of the sweetness was then cut by the hops. The hops gave a crisp and spicy feel to the beer that I rather enjoyed.

This beer was a nice balance of malt and hops. I would of liked for it to be a bit more malt forward, but what can you do. This is more in line what I was thinking for a winter beer than their previous winter seasonal. I know there were some who were big fans of 2 Below, but New Belgium offers a number of beers that are pretty close to 2 Below, so it isn’t really necessary. This beer isn’t on the “go out and buy now” list for me, but I would pick it up again if I was out and saw it. (more…)

Beer Review #93 Belgian Freeze Belgian Style Winter Ale

One of the best parts about living on the east coast again is that I get to enjoy River Horse Brewing Company beers. I reviewed their Tripel when I was just starting this site and a few months ago I tasted their fall beer. When I saw their winter ale, Belgian Freeze, I grabbed it right up. I’ve had a few of their other beers that I enjoyed before starting this site and I have two of their current beers in the fridge, so needless to say, I enjoy the majority of their products.

River Horse is brewed in Lambertville, New Jersey and I really need to get up there for a tour. Anyway, onto the beer. Belgian Freeze is a Belgian style ale (shocker) that falls into the dark ale sect of Belgian beers. It pours a wonderful deep ruby color that has a thin, whiteish head floating on top. The nose is pretty sweet, with the classic Belgian spices in there as well. There is a slight roast, which is mostlikely where the color comes from and some heat.

On the first sip I was surprised how nicely the roasted malt flavor mixed with the Belgian spices. It was sweet, as the nose suggested, but it was not cloyingly sweet. There was some heat on the back-end for good measure. I really liked this one. For an 8% beer it goes down pretty easy. The highlight of this beer is the way that the roasted malt and Belgian spices mix. It was unique and interesting, which made me want to enjoy more of this beer. Too bad it is so high in the ABV department because I would love to drink this beer all winter long. (more…)