Winter Seasonal Beer


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Winter Seasonal Beers are beers that suggest cold weather and the Christmas holiday season, and may include holiday spices, specialty sugars, and other products that are reminiscent of the festive season.

Overall Impression: A stronger, darker, spiced beer that often has a rich body and warming finish suggesting a good accompaniment for the cold winter season.

Aroma: Malty, spicy, fruity, and balanced. A wide range is possible, as long as it evokes the holiday theme. The declared ingredients and concept set the expectation. Fruit is often dark or dried in character. Hops are often subtle. Alcohol is often present, but smooth and supportive. Malty and sugary aromas tend to be greater in the balance, and support the spices. The components should be well-integrated, and create a coherent presentation. See Flavor section for spice, malt, sugar, and fruit character.

Appearance: Medium amber to very dark brown; darker versions are more common. Clear, if not opaque. Usually clear, although darker versions may be virtually opaque. Well-formed, persistent, off-white to tan head.

Flavor: Malty, spicy, fruity, and balanced. Allow for brewer creativity in meeting the theme objective. Warming or sweet spices common. Rich, sweet malty flavors are common, and may include caramel, toast, nutty, or chocolate flavors. May include dried fruit or dried fruit peel flavors such as raisin, plum, fig, cherry, orange peel, or lemon peel. May include distinctive sugar flavors, like molasses, honey, or brown sugar. The special ingredients should be supportive and balanced, not overshadowing the base beer. Bitterness and hop flavor are usually restrained to not interfere with special character. Usually finishes rather full and satisfying, often with a light alcohol flavor. Roasted malt characteristics are rare, and not usually stronger than chocolate.

Mouthfeel: Body is usually medium to full, often with a malty chewiness. Moderately low to moderately high carbonation. Age character allowable. Warming alcohol allowable.

Comments: Using the sensory profile of products that suggest the holiday season, such as Christmas cookies, gingerbread, English-type Christmas pudding, rum cakes, eggnog, evergreen trees, potpourri, or mulling spices, balanced with a supportive, often malty, warming, and darker base beer. The description of the beer is critical for evaluation; judges should think more about the declared concept than trying to detect each individual ingredient. Balance, drinkability, and execution of the theme are the most important deciding factors.

History: The winter holiday season is a traditional time when old friends get together, where beer of a  somewhat higher alcohol content and richness is served. Many breweries offer seasonal products that may be darker, stronger, spiced, or otherwise more characterful than their year-round beers. Spiced versions are an American or Belgian tradition, since English or German breweries traditionally do not use spices in their beer. Many American craft examples were inspired by Anchor Our Special Ale, first produced in 1975.

Commercial Examples: Anchor Christmas Ale, Great Lakes Christmas Ale, Harpoon Winter Warmer, Rogue Santa’s Private Reserve, Schlafly Christmas Ale, Troeg’s The Mad Elf


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Winter Seasonal Beer style commercial beer
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