Considering its about 15 degrees outside as I write this beer review, the timing is just about perfect! Smuttynose Winter Ale is an interesting beer to say the least! I guess one could consider it a ‘Winter Warmer’ in the tradition of the Sam Smith Winter Welcome, but then there’s a twist. Leave it to the folks at Smuttynose to throw in a twist!
Winter Ale is a malt-heavy beer, as one might expect. Not much in the way of hops either in the aroma or taste. OK, so far so good. But what I find interesting about this particular Winter beer is that, according to the Smuttynose website, its “brewed with a special Trappist ale yeast. Stylistically reminiscent of a Belgian Abbey Double…” Interesting, eh?
So a Winter Warmer brewed with a Trappist ale yeast apparently makes this beer more closely related to a ‘Belgian Abbey Dubbel’ than an English-style ale for the colder months. Granted, I don’t have many ‘Belgian Abey Dubbel’ beers under my belt, so its hard for me to compare really, but it certainly should make you think twice before pigeonholing this seasonal beer!
OK, so what do I think of this beer compared to a ‘typical’ Winter Warmer? Well, there are some things in common like the malty flavors and noticeable lack of hops in the taste or scent (I think I mentioned that), but then there is the differences which I will attribute to the different yeast strain that it used.
I got a lot of dark fruit flavors, especially as the ale warmed. Things like plum and dates, reminiscent of some of my favorite Belgian Christmas Ales! The beer also seemed warmly sweet (if that makes sense) not syrupy-sweet. I’m thinking molasses or brown-sugar here. I liked the flavor quite a bit, especially as it warmed. Its worth waiting for!
While the Smuttynose Winter Ale is ‘only’ 5.1% ABV, had I not known, I would have thought it was a stronger beer than it is. The alcohol flavors were perceived by me to be stronger than I would have thought for a beer if this strength, and I’m not exactly sure why that is. Maybe its that special Abbey yeast strain?
So, I’ll say that I liked this seasonal ale from Smuttynose, and I’d recommend that you give it a try if you’re looking for a Winter Warmer with a twist! Its only available from October through February, so if you’re inclined to try it in 2011 you’ll need to get moving! Its getting a respectable 3.5 stars here!
As an aside, I’ll say that I’m usually very impressed with Smuttynose beers. I’m still a little confused by their choice of labels, and I’ll admit to passing their beers up when I’m shopping for new beers to try. This is after having several very good beers from them! I know they brew good beer, but I never seem to choose their stuff in the store. I know that’s on me and not them, but I wonder if they ever considered a label makeover?
Speaking of Smuttynose labels, and my apparent lack of consistency, I absolutely LOVED the label on the Winter Ale bottle! To me, it looks like something taken in the 1940’s or 1950’s. A woman dressed in the current style, standing in a snowstorm, arms full of gifts caught mid-way through a genuine laugh of finding herself having to pose for a picture in such a situation.
Anyway, good beer. Give it a try!
Scott – TheBrewClub