Nick Carr on January 12, 2015 0 Comments Quick Characteristics Brewery: Anderson Valley Brewing Company Location: Boonville, CA Style: Winter Warmer ABV: 6.9% IBU: 6 Hops: Northern Brewer & Liberty Malts: Pale Two-Row, Crystal 40L, Crystal 80L, Munich 20L Appearance: Rich, Crystal Clear Light Brown with Off-White Bubbles Aroma: Reminiscent of Raisin-Nut Toast; Notes of Roasted Malts, Caramel, Toffee & Subtle Spices Flavor: Smooth & Plush; Balanced Roasty Malts & Fruity Notes; Hints of Nutmeg & Vanilla; Hops at the finish Availability: Winter Seasonal Pairs With: Baked Spiral Ham, Roasted Almonds, Candied Yams, Aged Cheddar This is another first timer for me. I’ve had their Hop Ottin’ IPA (I loved it) but, sad to say, that’s the extent of my experience with this brewing company. Time to remedy this… at least to the extent of adding a second beer of theirs to my “tried” list. Anderson Valley Brewing Company got its start back in 1987. Like many breweries it started small, a 10 barrel system located below the Buckhorn Saloon. In 1996, demand for their beer outran the small system and a 30 barreler was built. But as is often the case, demand again started to overshadow output and in 1998 construction was undertaken on a 3-story brewhouse modeled in the Bavarian style. A trip to Europe and a lucky find gave Ken Allen, founder of Anderson Valley, the opportunity to rescue two copper brewing kettles from a no-longer-operating German Brewery. These beautiful 100-barrel and 85-barrel kettles found new life in this quickly expanding brewery. After two years of construction the new brewhouse started cranking in August of 2000. Anderson Valley Brewing also works hard to both, be an ecologically friendly business, and keep some of their valley’s history alive. They have won California’s WRAP (Waste Reduction Awards Program) award five times for their efforts in reducing the amount of waste the brewery produces. The spent grain goes to local farmers as stock feed, in 2006 they installed a solar array that now supplies 40% of the brewery’s power supply, the glass bottles they use are of 65% recycled product, and they are now starting to switch over to cans. “A season’s smooth gleaning, builds the rounded spice song’s keening.” As for keeping the valley’s history alive—Well you might notice some strange sounding names used on many of their beers. They’re not just makin’ up words though. Many are words that come from Boontling, an esoteric language that is based in English, but also draws from Gaelic, Pomoan, and Spanish. It was started, by residence of the Anderson Valley in the late 19th century as they worked in the hop fields, most likely, as a way to pass the time. It has over 1000 unique words and phrases. Take a look at their website to learn a few words and phrases. Sadly, like many other languages the world over, it is slowly dying. Anderson Valley brewing names many of its beers using Bootling, a hat tip to their history and a way to spread the Boontling word to new places. Pour and Aroma The Winter Solstice is not as dark as many other winter warmers, more akin to a brown ale, the color is a lighter brown, but still rich and deep. It is crystal clear with no sediment marring its glassy depths. Carbonation is medium. The head is an off-white finger-high gaggle of large, quickly dissipating bubbles. Smells of bread and fruit mix nicely and build memories of fresh raisin-nut toast. Small green-apple sour notes combine with bigger melodies of darker pit fruit– roasted malts; caramel and toffee– and subtle spices (some nutmeg, vanilla maybe). A little alcohol comes through as spicy and vinous. Mouthfeel and Taste Body is medium-full with a thick, robust feel; is insanely smooth, and pleasantly plush in its roundness. Beautiful combination of roasty malt flavors and fruit in the taste, gives a balance skewed toward the sweet, but definitely not unpleasantly so. Trills of vanilla hit nicely, with possible hints of nutmeg and allspice though I find my confidence pleasingly uncertain on these… as it should be. Hops hop just enough at the end to dry the long finish. Amazingly very little alcohol presence for an almost 7-precenter, though the alcohol does appear and, along with the sweetness, starts to overshadow some of the finer characteristics if the beer warms too much. Store and serve it in the 50’s (°F) and it’s a beautiful thing. Finishing the Impression This beer is different than any other winter warmer I’ve come across and definitely near the top of my list now. One that may be welcomed through a wider swath of the year then just winter, it would be great in early fall, and remain so all the way through to spring. Richly smooth, easy drinking, and with enough complexity to keep the ‘ol taste buds dancing; it’s truly “aplenty bahl steinber horn.” Cheers!