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Beer Review #181 Lancaster Brewing Company Winter Warmer Ale

Lancaster Brewing Company was one of the first breweries that got me into craft beer. In fact, many of the early review on this site come from Lancaster Brewing Company (2 of the first 9). It has been some time since I’ve actually had one of their beers. They didn’t distribute to Texas and in Delaware, they are available, but it’s nothing new, so I generally skip over them. One beer that I wouldn’t skip over is their milk stout, but I can’t find it in Delaware. If anyone has an in with the good people at LBC, tell them to fix that asap. Lancaster’s Winter Warmer was a favorite of mine in college. The bar down the street had it on tap every winter and my friends and I would visit after night classes. Needless to say some fun times were had, in part, thanks to this beer.

This Winter Warmer pours a nice brown color with some hints of ruby. A tan head accompanies the darker beer below. The nose is filled with dried fruits and chocolate. I didn’t get an hops or much in the way of malt (other than the previously mentioned chocolate) but I did get a slight bit of heat.

While the nose isn’t super impressive or complex, the flavor gives up more than the nose. On my first taste I was met with a wall of toffee followed closely by some coco. I slight bit of roasted malt flavors come in, but they are very light and really add a background flavor. The dried fruit comes in to finish up the whole thing. There is also some heat in there, a little more than what the nose let on.

Lancaster Brewing Company Winter Warmer Ale has a lot going on with it. As it warms the flavors really start coming out and mixing in a joyous fashion. I highly suggest that you let this one warm up as it only reveals half of itself when it is cold (insert dirty joke). The heat that is in the flavor is noticeable, but I didn’t find that it took away from the beer. It provides a nice warming feeling on the way down which allows the beer to complete it’s namesake. If this beer is an option for you, try it out, I think that you will be pleasantly surprised by it, especially on a cold night. (more…)

Beer Review #176 Wreck the Halls

My second “Christmas” beer that I am reviewing after Christmas comes from Full Sail Brewing Company  of Hood River, Oregon. I have had a number of their beers in the past and even got to visit one of their locations on my honeymoon in Portland. In my eyes they are one of the “classic” northwestern craft breweries along with Rogue Ales, Pyramid, and a few others.Wreck the Halls is a blend of an American IPA and a Winter Warmer. The bottle displays, “22 ounces of hoppy holiday ale.” That was all I needed to grab up this bottle.

Wreck the Hall pours a cloudy orange color with a bit of a reddish hue. There is a thin white head that sits on top of the liquid but it does not cling to the glass as it is being drank. The nose is hoppy as you would excpect with an American IPA mix. The hops are almost entirely citrus smelling and they are very bright. I did get a bit of background malt, but the hops are the shinning star for the nose of this beer.

On my first taste there was some nice caramel malt up front quickly followed by citrus hops. The first variant of hops fades into a piney hop flavor. The pine flavor really sits on the tongue for a long time and doesn’t get kicked out by any other flavor.

This is a pretty good IPA as the malt balances out the hops pretty nicely. I don’t really see a Winter Warmer in any way, shape, or form in this beer; just a solid IPA. The only thing that I don’t like about this beer is the fact that the pine flavored hops just sit and sit on your tongue. I’m not a big fan of pine hops and I generally like them to be kicked out by carbonation or something else. The bright hops from the nose gave me the impression that the hops would be crisp in flavor as well, but they really just linger. This is still a good beer, but it is not my style of an IPA, maybe it is because I am from the east coast. (more…)

Beer Review #80 Old Fezziweg

Samuel Adam’s is probably the largest brewery in the World who puts out seasonal beers. They don’t only put out one seasonal beer, but generally several. Winter time usually brings out their Winter Lager, but Old Fezziweg is another seasonal favorite from Boston Beer Company. This beer is a traditional winter warmer and comes in at 5.9% ABV. It is also brewed with several spices including ginger, cinnamon, and orange peel. Those spices and ingredients are typical of a winter warmer style beer, particularly an English version of the beer.

Old Fezziweg pours a dark ruby color with a thin tan head. It is clear, but dark enough to not alert you to the brewer’s skill. The nose is a bit flat, but there is some ginger in there. I also picked up a bit of heat, but it could of been from the spices. Overall there isn’t a lot going on upon first inspection. The taste is malty with some slight roast. The ginger again presents itself but I was unable to really find the other spices. There was a bit of a bite on the end, but I attributed it more to hops than spice.

This ale is pretty drinkable but it isn’t packed with flavor. It’s not bad, but it doesn’t really suit my palette. I think this beer is nice for newcomers to craft beer because it is very reserved in terms of flavor. As a “seasoned” craft beer drinker I thought this one was a bit too “mass produced” feeling. It is a good beer, but I wanted more of everything (flavor, aroma, aftertaste, etc..) from it. Pick it up and try for yourself. It is a good starting point for beers of the style but there are other examples out there. (more…)

Winter Warmer

12-14-01About three weeks ago I brewed my version of a Winter Warmer. You can find the recipe here. I had a new mash tun setup going into this brew day because my last beer, Pumpkin Ale, had a stuck sparge and resulted in a bunch of other issues. While the Pumpkin Ale still turned out decent, it was not as good as it should of beer do to the loss of sugar/wort from the stuck sparge. With everything revamped in the mash tun, the Winter Warm was the first recipe to make sure everything was working properly.

I heated up my mash water and dumped the grain into the mash tun. I also had another piece of new equipment, a 3 foot metal slotted spoon, that I got for 2 bucks at a local restaurant supply store. It might not sound like a lot, but it really helps break up those dough balls and insure that I get all of the sugar I can out of the grain. Once the water hit the proper temp, I poured it in and started mixing everything together. My target mash temp was around 158, I was reading slightly above that. I waited a bit for it to cool down and added a touch of cold water, but it was still a little high. Not being an exact kind of person, I put the lid on and started the timer.

12-14-03An hour later I opened the mash tun to find a wonderful sight. Lots of light and dark colored grain laying all over the place. Equally mixed and everything. MLK would of been proud. After positioning my boil kettle, I opened the ball value leading from my mash tun to watch a thick black liquid run out. I think this is by far the darkest beer I have ever made. I couldn’t tell if it was running clear at all becasue it was so dark.

After collecting my first runnings I added the strike water for the second, let it sit in there for about 10 minutes and let it run out into the kettle as well. This round was much lighter. It was still dark by beer standards, but you could see through it and had a nice nut brown ale color to it. I also added the pound of molasses during this time, using the hot second runnings to clean out the jar for me as 12-14-04molasses is very sticky.

The wort then boiled for an hour with all of the hop additions happening when they were supposed to. I did not add any Irish Moss to this batch because the beer was so dark, and there is no chance of seeing through it as is. Once it was all cooled down and the yeast pitched, I took a gravity reading. Holy smokes! I hit it right on the head. I wanted to get a gravity of 1.075 and that is exactly what I got. Never before have I hit a target gravity. I always fall a few points below. It fermented for a week and then was racked to the secondary. I will be bottling it later this week and let it condition for a bit. It should be ready for New Years if all goes well and those carbonation problems don’t keep happening. (more…)