It’s getting cold. Do we reach for and enjoy the same beer during this time of year? No, probably not. We look forward to heavier beers, beers we refer to as winter warmer’s. But is there anything we can definitely point to as hard core rules while describing this style? Sort of is a good answer. I think of maltier beers, beers with more body and higher alcohol than their summer counter parts. I think it is clear the difference between a Widmer Brothers Drifter and a Deschutes Jubeale. Or, a Saison DuPont and a Scaldis Noël. Beer Advocate describes a winter warmer as having “Big malt presence, both in flavor and body. The color ranges from brownish reds to nearly pitch black. Hop bitterness is generally low, leveled and balanced, but hop character can be pronounced. Alcohol warmth is not uncommon.” Sounds good.
Use of spices, herbs, or, in Upright Brewing’s case, trees, all can go into a rich, fully flavored winter brew. The “rule” gets broken though, such as my recent experiences. Fish Tale’s Winterfish, for example, proudly exclaims to be “the hoppiest winter ale we know of!” At 70 IBUs, they may be right. But is super hoppy what we want as the temperatures plummet? Aren’t we looking for something a wee different, after the previous beer push of fresh hop ales? So I am doing a bit of in house and out of house tasting. I will break it up into different posts, and not one long one.
For my in house tastes, I will have the aforementioned Winterfish, Deschutes Jubeale 2008 & 2009, Anchor Brewing’s Christmas Ale, Pyramid’s Snow Cap, Avery’s Old Jubilation, Boulevard’s Nut Cracker, Lost Coast’s Winterbraun, and some overseas love in the form of Scaldis Noël. Out of house will consist of Upright Brewing’s winter offering of Holy Herb, and Widmer’s Brrrr at Beer Mongers.