The Session #10: Winter Beers

Posted on 12.07.07 10:50PM under Brewing, The Session, Winter Warmer

Session Ten LogoFor those of you who don’t know, the Session is a monthly series of communal beer blogging, whereby all the beer bloggers write on the same topic at the same time. This month is hosted by Barley Vine. I’ve been on a winter beer spree this season. I have sought out many winter beers, and tasted all that I’ve found. Some I have posted here on my own blog, and some have just been posted on BeerAdvocate.

Winter AleRather than talk about one of these beers I already talked about somewhere else, I am going to focus on the winter warmer beer I made myself. I homebrew quite a bit, and I knew it was time to make a winter seasonal beer. So I opened the BYO 150 Clones magazine looking for some inspiration. I had never made anything quite like a winter beer. The closest I had come was a couple of Oatmeal Stouts. But it was do or die time. I wanted something wintry, but not so much with the cooking spices.

I found a recipe that sounded just perfect in a St. Arnold Christmas Ale clone. Christmas Presence LabelThe funny thing is that I have never had any beer from St. Arnold. I don’t think we can get it here in Connecticut, or at least I’ve never seen it here. But it sounded great; high ABV, spicy flavor, but no spices. Stock ABV is 8%, but I wanted more. My Christmas Presence Holiday Ale is nearly 9%, but I sort of kept everything else the same. Here’s the recipe in case you’re interested.

So it is still technically conditioning (I like to give ‘em all two weeks before fridging them – this one was bottled on November 27th) but it is as ready as it will ever be. I have been tasting them for a few days now. And I am very happy with the results. It has a downright smoky flavor, piney and earthy. It reminds me of gently smouldering green pine boughs. I expect that must be from all the three ounces of Liberty hops added at flameout. The 8.8% alcohol is pretty well masked, although still there in that good winter warmer way. This is mainly thanks to the moderate fermentation temperatures I was able to achieve in my cool basement this time of year. It is well-balanced between malty and bitter, with a hint of alcohol that is just enough to warm you without making you feel like you’re drinking brandy. One of these days I’d like to get my hands on a bottle of actual St. Arnold Christmas Ale just to see if mine is anything like it, but in the mean time I’ll be happy just to enjoy the fruits of my own labor. It doesn’t get more local than homemade.

So if you intend to pursue a winter seasonal beer this year, it is hard to go wrong. Pretty much no matter what you find will be nice and dark, spicy, and rich. They’re all sure to warm you up all over. So go try as many as you can. You’ll learn a lot about the brewers by trying their winter offerings.

Read Comments

  1. Posted by The Dude on 12.09.07 7:53 PM

    “One of these days I’d like to get my hands on a bottle of actual St. Arnold Christmas Ale just to see if mine is anything like it, but in the mean time I’ll be happy just to enjoy the fruits of my own labor.”

    Hmmm… I did my contribution on this beer (St. Arnold’s) and as such, I still have some on hand and I’d be happy to ship you some if you’re so inclined. Email me if you’d like to work it out.

    I homebrew also, but haven’t made time to do so lately. I think I’m going to follow your lead and try out that recipe next time I do.