So far this very young winter we’ve seen some nice seasonal brews come along but I can’t help but notice that they miss the mark when it comes to living up to their winter warmer status. Tasty beers, to be sure, but most breweries this year have tended to continue with the notion that more hops are the only way to go. They are forgetting to boost malt’s importance for cold-weather ale.
We’re even finding stouts – traditionally minimal in hop presence – being dry-hopped for an ultra bitter finish. Again, flavorful ales, sure, but this time of year we should be finding selections whose rich malt imparts taste and texture that pleases the beer enthusiast’s palate when the air is chilly.
It’s a psychological association. Once we start seeing our breath and reaching for the electric blanket, we begin craving things traditional to winter; baked goods fresh out of the oven, hearty soups and stews, coffee and tea and cocoa… warmth. Warm is comforting. The memories of what makes these things comforting can and does show up in beer when crafted correctly; hence the “winter warmer” appellation.
Whether or not it’s a function of our own human creation, there’s no denying that certain consumables work better in specific times of the year. No one wants piping hot chicken noodle soup while lounging around on the beach. Conversely, December really isn’t popular for gazpacho.
There are some fellas up in Long Island, New York who know a thing or three about dealing with cold weather. Their Blue Point Brewery is making sure our palates are being warmed by their Winter Ale. Chestnut brown with some shimmering ruby edges, it pours up a tan head with lacing clinging to the glass like your favorite winter scarf. Buttery biscuit, toffee, traces of chocolate and nuts all show up on the nose courtesy of the pale, Vienna, crystal and chocolate malts. Rich flavors of caramel and Christmas spices such as vanilla and nutmeg mingle with grain and a touch of smoke while a perfect dollop of hops provides a slight bitter balance that imparts a dose of bright citrus towards the finish. 7% alcohol content adds to the warmth while keeping its drinkability honest and capable of repeat visits.