Style: Winter Warmer
From: Tadcaster, England
Brewer’s Note: “This seasonal beer is a limited edition brewed for the short days and long nights of winter. The full body resulting from fermentation in ‘stone Yorkshire squares’ and the luxurious malt character, which will appeal to a broad range of drinkers, is balanced against whole-dried Fuggle and Golding hops with nuances and complexities that should be contemplated before an open fire.”
Because we haven’t properly welcomed winter into our homes yet, I give you Winter Welcome! This beer’s label changes every year. This year likes to display its horses. The fonts are all over the place, but are all clear to read and mesh in an old-timey Christmas advertisement. The Samuel Smith logo looks nice with the barrel and old crisp fonts. This label has festive colors, though the purple background is a little odd for the season, but this label is a little too colored and confusing on the eyes. The gold foil on the label is nice, but the overall label is a bit too confusing for my personal taste. It’s not horrible, and it is collectable, but it’s not shelf worthy.
The beer pours a deep golden-orange color, with a big fat and sudsy head of off-white bubbles that leave sticky tendrils of lacing on the glass. The head has a great lasting retention that I expect from such a beer, and the beer overall looks like a classic “ale,” if that makes any sense. The beer’s body is gorgeously clear, and it really sits in the glass as a pretty sight to see. On the nose, the beer smells of sweet malt, almost like apple-juice with a touch of vinous, white wine thrown in. Soft, minerally scents mingle with the sweet malt and further suggest a Pinot Gris or sweeter white wine to the nose. Soft caramel bread and tart green apples hide in the edges of the scent, but definitely add further definition. I enjoy the smell of this beer more and more as it opens up, but I can’t help but think of it more as a sweet white wine. On the tongue, the beer tastes sweet and vinous with a solid bitter middle and finish. Tart, malic acid seems to be light but present in the beer and a soft spice mingles with the bitters nicely. The beer is very much a testament to balances, though it gives a nice vinous sweetness as the strongest character. In flavor, the beer begins as sweet white wine, almost in the pinot gris range, with soft notes of green apple and cider. It then suddenly opens into beer with a wash of bready malts and a nice herbal bitterness that balances out the vinous sweet of the beer and carries it into an earthy finish with a touch of generic holiday spices and apple juice. The finish is middling in length, with sweet crackery malt, dry cider, and good-old English hops. In the mouth, the beer feels medium in body with a middling to strong carbonation, a light astringency from the hops, and a thinner, highly drinkable mouthfeel with just enough weight to remind us its beer. The mouth is left dry save for thick saliva in the cheeks and a bitter tingle along the middle of the tongue. Overall, this beer is good. It is far different from other Winter Warmers and Christmas beers that I have had, and initially it disappointed me. Once I got past the fact of its subtlety, however, I was able to appreciate the beer as yet another balanced and superb creation from Sam Smith. This beer nicely showcases what can be done with malts, hops, and a little touch of spices. I’m not wild about sweet white wines, but I found the character interesting. This is a light and highly chuggable winter warmer that is defined by its subtlety and balance. A great execution of the individual parts of brewing.