What is a Winter Ale?
This is the time for generalities. With the Winter Ales, these seasonal favorites, it’s essential. Because you can get specific, and even technical with other beer styles, but the vast spectrum that these beers run along won’t allow for strict categorization. Winter ales are often what’s called an Old Ale, a rich amber-colored malty ale with an above average alcohol content. But of course, that’s frequently not the case. Winter ales can be stouts, Belgians, brown ales, and even IPA’s.
ABV (alcohol by volume) is a bit of a commonality among these late-in-the-year beers, most of which have an ABV around or above 8%. But, here we are again with the discrepancies. Winter Ales can be as low as 5% and as high as 20%.
Flavor seems to be the best way to round-up these beautiful beers, most of them taste like the holidays. Winter warmers (as they are often called) most commonly have flavors of cinnamon, cloves, figs, dates, nuts, toffee, and chocolate. Most are malty and low hops, but there are of course outliers, some of these beer will give you all those holiday flavors you love while still kicking you a big hop flavor, like this Abominable Winter Ale from Hopworks Beer. It’s pretty perfect for those of you IPA loving hop heads that still want to get into the Christmas Beer spirit.
So, in summation, Winter Ales are mostly Ole Ales, with a higher ABV, malty, with flavors of nuts and spice. But they can be IPA’s. Or stouts. Or have a 6% ABV. To clarify, a winter ale is whatever the brewer wants it to be, and if you’re smart, you’ll just drink it without asking too many questions.