Nick Carr on December 22, 2014 2 Comments Quick Characteristics Brewery: Boston Beer Company Location: Boston, MA Style: Bock ABV: 5.6% IBU: 22 Hops: Spalt Spalter, Hallertau Mittlfrueh Malts: Samuel Adams two-row malt blend, Caramel 60, malted wheat, Weyermann Carafa, Munich 10 Other Ingredients: Orange Peel, Ginger, Cinammon Appearance: Pours Chestnut Brown, Reminiscent of Maple Syrup, With Off-White Head Aroma: Dark, Nutty Bread; Pleasant & Undecipherable Spiceness Flavor: Caramel & Roasty Maltiness; Warming Spices; Noticeable Citrus Availability: Winter Seasonal Pairs With: Grilled Oysters, Lamb Stew, Aged Alpine Cheese, White Asparagus Soup, Carrot Cake The lack of cold Christmas weather here in New Mexico has put it in my head to review something a little lighter. Our first winter storm may find us sometime this afternoon, but overall it’s been pretty balmy here for winter in the high desert (and Christmas just a few days away). This not-so-cold weather started me thinking about holiday lagers. You don’t see that many out on the shelves, most breweries sticking to the more known Christmas offerings. So, with my interest piqued I did a little internet searching to see how many breweries buck the norm and brew a lager with the holidays in mind. There aren’t many; Saranac, Moylan’s, South Tier… to name a few. Rarer still are those that have large distribution, and really the only one I could find that had a wide enough radius to make it anywhere close to my neck of the woods was the “fat man” of the craft beer world, Samuel Adams. Shop for Samuel Adams Glassware on Amazon Even though it can be argued that Samuel Adams has outgrown the craft beer moniker—brewing over 2 million barrels a year and owning the Angry Orchard and HardCore Cider brands, along with Twisted Tea — I do enjoy their Winter Favorites Varity Pack every year. They’re sort of like the fickle friend (or mean Grandpa, perhaps). They have enough clout to stand up to the big bullies and they give that “all seeing eye” something to focus on, but if push came to shove what side of the line would they actually come down on. The Brewers Association actually updated their definition of “craft brewery” to fit Samuel Adams growing beer production; going from any brewery producing less than 2 million barrels a year to any brewery producing less than 6 million barrels a year. This in itself would seem to fly contrary to the idea of “craft” anything. I mean being big enough to have the clout to get a definition changed so that you’re accommodated… That’s something to ponder, no doubt. “So toast on winter’s night and drink of bock’s rich delight.” Ok, Ok, I’ll stop myself there. This is a whole other discussion and I’m drifting away from what we’re here to do… review a beer. Winter lager was first brewed in 1989 and was one of Samuel Adam’s first seasonal beers (Octoberfest was also 1989). Being brewed in the style of a Bock means this lager should be more malt forward and darker than other popular lagers. It is also brewed with a blend of cinnamons called Saigon Cinnamon (includes Indonesian and Vietnamese cinnamon), ginger, and orange peel. THE TASTING Below are the tasting notes I took while drinking Samuel Adams Winter Lager. If you’ve had this beer before or are reading this with one in your hand, please share your personal review or tasting notes with everyone down in the comments below. Pour and Aroma This one pours an attractive rich chestnut brown reminding me of a decadent maple syrup. A small but rocky one inch, off white head forms, then collapses. It is crystal clear and lends good view to the active runs of carbonation traveling like small express elevators out of the depths. Aroma is of biscuit and rich, dark, nutty bread. Noble hops combine with the other spices to create a very inviting and pleasantly undecipherable spiciness. Mouthfeel and Taste Body is medium-light with a crisp round mouthfeel. Caramel, roast, and other melanoidins carry the day here, giving an almost voluptuous sense of the malt. Some warming spices add to the small alcohol warmth through mid-palate, but none ever step right out in the spotlight, and overall, the spices keep a low profile, highlighting the malt without stealing the show; citrus in noticeable, but not obtrusive. Hops add just a hint of bittering on the swallow, but remain low allowing the complex malt flavors to excite and impress the taste buds. It is crisp and nicely drying through the swallow. Finishing the Impression This is a very enjoyable beer and might just be one of the most gratifying lagers I’ve had in a while. The spices add to the whole without being, themselves, over-the-top; something often overdone. Any spice added to a beer should remain subtle adding a sense of spice without making it obvious what spices were used. Samuel Adams winter lager does an excellent job of toeing this fine, sometimes hard to see line. So, those who haven’t picked this one up, for fear of being bombarded by spice, should rest easy. This one is worth it and makes a great break from the hardier more robust—and more popular—winter warmers. Remember, because this beer is more malt forward it should be served at about 54-57°F; a temperature out of the norm for many lager drinkers, but one that makes the bock style nice around the holidays. Waes hael!