Archive for category Winter Ale

Lost Coast Winterbraun

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tankard.jpgtankard.jpgtankard.jpg (Recommended)

The Lost Coast Winterbraun is a strong dark brown ale brewed especially for the winter months. The label sports a Picasso-esque snowboarder with skin the colour of this rich and deeply hued brew;  the sweet, dark caramel and rye bread aromas that greet you are a comforting reminder of why we drink different beers when the nights draw in and there is a chill in the air.

The flavours are warming too, a hint of black treacle, roasted malt, baked dried fruit, and sweet caramel are all there and give this beer a cake-like appeal. This can be drunk with a rich beef and ale pie and gravy or on its own, some might enjoy this with desert, such as a steamed sponge pudding made with lots of dried fruit and a caramel flavoured custard.

ABV: 6.5%

Serving type: 650ml bottle

Best Served: 9 – 11 °C

 

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Nogne O God Jul (Winter Ale)

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tankard.jpgtankard.jpgtankard.jpgtankard.jpgtankard.jpg (Outstanding)

Nogne O is a craft brewery from Norway, and judging from my first experience of their beer, is going to take the craft brewing world by storm!  Their Strong Winter Warmer is an absolute must for any fan of dark rich warming ales.

It pours a deep, dark mahogany amber, that needs to be held up to the light to appreciate its colour. The aromas that hit you are ones of spice, dates, madeira and caramel. As you drink this luxurious ale the tan head slowly dissipates, but the flavour does not. Notes of Christmas pudding and fruitcake persist and are joined by more sweet fortified wine flavours with hints of coffee bean, molasses and  spice.  Sweet liquorice can be found on the lengthy finish with some almost oaky tones.

The amazing thing is that this is not a spiced Christmas ale according to the brewery, but the flavours are complex, integrated and definitely festive!  This is truly an outstanding beer, and I can’t wait to taste this after one or two years aging – the complexity and integration can only improve – if that’s possible!

ABV: 8.5%

Best Served 12°C

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Winter Beer Showdown

Seasonal beers are filling the shelves right about now, and go well beyond any single type. The basic style is the classic Winter Warmer. This is not usually spiced but brewed to a slightly stronger alcohol volume (6% – 7% is typical for this warming malty style). Specialty Christmas beers take their cues from the old Wassail Ales – spiced, sometimes fortified, mulled beer given to carol singers in Medieval England. Although no longer fortified or served warm, it is usually strong and spiced, rich and filling. There are other winter seasonal ales brewed in the Belgium style.  They tend to be strong and dark with a super-rich malt profile.

Lagers get a make over too with the German, and now Canadian specialty, Ice-Bock, giving fans of strong and malty dark amber lagers something to enjoy. Of course breweries the world over make all sorts of beers for the festive season and often they don’t fit easily into any specific style, but that’s what makes it fun – beer can be full of surprises!

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Pyramid Breweries Snow Cap Winter Warmer

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tankard.jpgtankard.jpgtankard.jpgtankard.jpg (Excellent)

Pyramid Snow Cap is the Winter seasonal offering from this popular Seattle brewery, and claims to be made in the “spirit of the British Winter ales”. At 7% alcohol, it certainly has the strength to warm the cockles, but does the flavour keep up? The combination of  English and Pacific North West hops give this Winter warmer a nice bitterness, but unlike many other North American versions of this classic Christmas brew, it has copious amounts of delicious malt to back it up and keep them in check. There are notes of cocoa bean and dark caramel on the palate, which leads onto the hoppy flavours; a touch of citrus, spice and a light floral taste give way to a rounded, balanced and smooth finish. This beer is a joy to drink and is a fantastic interpretation of a Winter Warmer, keeping true to the tradition, while maintaining its own Northwest identity. Drink this one with a beer-battered fish and chips, at Pike Place Market in Seattle, or in a London Chippy, it’ll feel right at home at either!

ABV: 7%

Best Served: 12°C

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Rogue Mogul Madness Ale

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tankard.jpgtankard.jpgtankard.jpg (Recommended)

Rogue Mogul Madness Ale is a  Winter warmer with bite. It has a dark ruby-brown colour and a fairly creamy tan head that stays with the beer. There are some caramel flavours with some faint notes of banana bread. The unusual thing for a winter warmer, but not unusual for Rogue, are the obvious handfuls of hops used in the brew. They offer a pleasant bitterness on the finish that tastes a little grapefruity, and tends to last for a while after the beer has been swallowed. This is an enjoyable beer, but tastes like a good ESB to me. Rogue don’t seem to want to make a beer that has been lightly hopped, and perhaps are now victims of their own dogma, producing a lot of excellent but similar tasting products. I would love to see them do a really rich malty winter warmer, as they are brilliant brewers but are in danger of becoming just a bit one-dimensional.

ABV: 6.5% (approx)

Best Served: 12°C

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Wychwood Bah Humbug Christmas Ale

Bah_HumbugWrangler Rating:

tankard.jpgtankard.jpgtankard.jpgtankard.jpg (Excellent)

Bah Humbug is Wychwood Brewery’s offering at Christmas time to warm up those cold toes on a winter’s night. This is a very mildly spiced amber ale that is not quite malty enough to be a classic winter warmer, but it doesn’t pretend to be, as it is labelled ‘Christmas Ale’ and implies a more general festive beer, made with the addition of some seasonal flavour. This ale has a pleasant medium-bodied feel to it, with subtle notes of banana and clove; the hops are just detectable too, though mainly on the finish and aftertaste. The solitary added spice is cinnamon, and this is done with a frugal hand, as it certainly doesn’t overwhelm the caramelly malt. This beer is an easily quaffable Christmas pint with a hint of seasonal pep to give it a bit of festive flair.

ABV: 5%

Best Served: 12°C

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Anchor Brewing ‘Our Special Ale’ 2009 (Christmas Ale)

anchor2009Wrangler Rating:

tankard.jpgtankard.jpgtankard.jpgtankard.jpg(Excellent)

Anchor Brewing famously change the recipe for their Special Ale every year, as well choose a different tree, a symbol of the Winter Solstice, to adorn the label. This version (2009), when held up to the light, has a gorgeously dense ruby colour and an almost creamy pale tan head. The aroma is full of malty molasses with a definite hoppy highlight. The flavours that follow fill the mouth, but don’t overwhelm it; the main taste that starts off is a strong malty one, that develops into a black molasses backbone to the beer. There are some laid-back spicy notes layered into the malt, perhaps nutmeg or a hint of cardamon, but the hit of a citrus hop gives this sweetish beer an assertive and refreshing finish. This Winter seasonal ale is a real pleasure to drink, and is not too heavy or laden with spices, so is good for  those who find the ‘big’ spiced warmers a bit too much!

ABV: 5.5%

Best Served: 10°C

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Howe Sound Father John’s Winter Ale

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Wrangler Rating:

tankard.jpgtankard.jpgtankard.jpgtankard.jpg(Excellent)

Howe Sound Father John’s Winter Ale is a fantastically warming, well spiced brew that comes in a nice 1 litre swing-top bottle. It has a dark amber colour with a loose head, a rich malty aroma with an obvious spiciness. This full-bodied Christmas Ale has a very malty profile that is the backbone for all the other seasonal flavours that are added. Ginger, nutmeg, vanilla, and cinnamon are the spices that give this warming beer bags of flavour, but it is kept well in balance, and not one really dominates. There are also definite notes of the other fermentable additions, like molasses, brown sugar and honey; they give the beer a depth which compliments the malt and spices, but cleverly don’t add too much sweetness! I really enjoyed this beer and made a slow-cooked cinnamon beef stew to eat with it, and they went together perfectly – a great winter warming combo!

ABV: 7%

Best Served: 11°C

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