I've written about Anderson Valley's Summer Soltice seasonal ale. Now, I bring you a write-up of their Winter Solstice. AV are a good brewery and seem like great people. I was excited to see how this compared to the creamy, sessionable flavor of their Summer cream-style ale, so I grabbed a nicely-priced six pack of this at Burlington Wine & Liquors.
The pour on this is a high clarity golden-tinged orange/brown with decent, even foam and consistent lacing. Though it's filtered, the light it lets through only improves the beauty of this beer's pour. On the nose, I get very bready malts (possibly even some raw bread dough, too), caramel, some light spices and a bit of rum cake. There's a tiny hint of fruit in there, but I think it's probably a flash of alcohol bringing out the esters and not "true" fruit. I say this because the beer does state that it is an "ale with natural flavor added." The Summer Solstice also said that, but I knew there was vanilla extract added to that whereas it feels a bit absent here, replaced by what may very likely be fall/winter spices -- nutmeg, cinnamon, etc. None of them really come to the forefront, but there does seem to be a pinch of drying cinnamon in the middle/finish transition.
The clean palate on this is one of its most defining characteristics; this also aided in the drinkability and overall greatness of the Summer Solstice, which I assume has a somewhat similar recipe to this, though this has a much more complex malt profile. Having so many subtle flavors (spice, biscuits, fruit, candy, gingerbread, rum cake, etc.) all in one place yet so easily picked-out and exemplified is a tough thing to achieve in brewing and AV seems to consistently show the country how it's done. Though the sweetness of this brew may turn some off, there's just enough leafy hop bitterness to try rope in those who love palate-wrecking beers, and there's certainly enough malt to convince lovers of browns and stouts to give this a go. This should be a staple in any winter beer repertoire and I'll be glad to get it again soon.
The official breakdown:
- Style: Winter Warmer
- ABV: 6.9%
- Appearance: Clear as day orange-tinted gold/brown/rusty copper with solid retentive head and pretty consistent, impressive lacing
- Scent: Fruity esters, rum cake, some ethanol heat, figs, bready and caramel maltiness, some light spiciness perhaps. Nicely complex and interesting
- Taste: A veritable malt-bouquet; deep and rich flavors ranging from biscuity to almost-chocolatey; fruity, nutty and earthy; very round and enjoyable
- Mouthfeel: Light-medium carbonation brings out some of the flavors and allows the beer to approach a satisfying finish complete with warming alcohol
- Drinkability: Pretty great. Nothing is too heavy and all the flavors you expect for the season are accounted for