Happy December, everyone! Whether your days are warm and sunny, or cold and full of snow, the time has come for winter beer – that ever-growing collection of spiced beers, potent ales, and rich stouts that make an appearance just once a year. Today, I’m starting the season off with Rivertown’s Winter Ale, brewed with molasses and cinnamon – two of my top wintery flavors. I’m excited, and I hope you’re excited, so let’s go get our festivity on.
Popping the cap starts us off with a cloud of rich malts, reaching the nose first before immediately stepping aside for some sticky-sweet molasses and a mild cinnamon bloom. These three aromas combine to form a super rich gingerbread cookie vibe. It’s a lovely aroma, shining with warmth and comfort. There’s also an underlying sweetness that supports the aromas from below – never overpowering, and only adding a bit of balance to the overall profile. Despite the big gingerbread kick, the malts are noticeable enough to retain an overall “beer” identity. Even though I’ve just started, I can already tell that this beer is complex and full of festiveness.
The first taste from the bottle is liquid awesomeness. Lightly roasted malts show up first and set the stage. Right after, the same molasses, cinnamon and gingerbread cookie trio shows up huge, filling the mouth with a clinging richness that tastes like the bottle is full of super tiny grandmothers, all baking Christmas cookies (don’t worry, they’re all ok). The molasses and cinnamon rolls over the tongue with a heavy richness that sticks to every inch of the mouth, giving rise to the sweet yet savory gingerbread flavors. At the same time, the earlier malts continue to swirl in and out, making sure you remember that this is a beer, not an alcoholic cookie. Even better, there are no hints of alcohol at all, and at 8%, that’s something. Just a superbly drinkable ale with wonderful flavors.
As directed by the bottle, I poured it into a snifter. The post-pour aromas start fairly subdued compared to the bottle. Hints of homemade caramel and gingerbread show up first, bringing that same underlying sweetness. Some light maltiness creeps in next, sliding in underneath and remaining quiet. The initial aroma is capped off with a mild molasses richness mixed with a mingling sprinkle of cinnamon, in addition to the gingerbread. Despite the subdued profile, the aroma is quite pleasant, with no clashing notes – just seasonal warmth. Visually, it’s a deep ruby that casts a beautiful crimson glow in the light. It forms a tan head with a bit of fluff to it and lasts for a while.
The post-pour taste is the same as it was in the bottle, except a bit richer. The malts cling with a little more strength, while the molasses and cinnamon bring a touch of stickier sweetness. The gingerbread cookie strength has more power as well, filling every inch of the mouth but staying fairly mellow. Like before, you’ll never forget that you’re drinking a beer, but the flavors will certainly stay rich. Again, any trace of alcohol is pretty much nonexistent. You won’t even realize the strength of the beer until some time later, when a comfortable tide of warmth slowly washes over you, living up to the Winter Warmer name. The aftertaste is a lingering richness of bread malts and gingerbread cookie, remaining rich and flavorful on the tongue for quite a while, without any one flavor lasting stronger or longer than another.
This beer manages to bring seasonal flavors and a big warmth together into one bottle. Full bodied malts mingle with rich molasses and mellow cinnamon to create a tasty gingerbread profile that fills the mouth. It’s super smooth over the tongue, and is wonderfully drinkable from start to finish, hiding its 8% ABV completely. Despite that, I recommend a slow drink, as this is a beer best consumed in the midst of friends and family. Its price is around the standard craft beer price, but because of its seasonal availability, the regular price is a bit of steal. The only negative I can find is its specific flavor. I happen to love the gingerbreadiness that this beer is all about, but I’m sure there are others who won’t be a fan. But, if you enjoy seasonal spicing and flavors in your beer, you’ll love this one.
My recommendations consist of any situation that involves friends and family. The flavor of this beer lends itself to stories and laughter, so you really can’t go wrong. It would also go great with dessert, particularly cookies. Leave a bottle of this for Santa, instead of the milk. I’m sure he’ll appreciate it. Starting the Hootenanny off with a bang, Rivertown’s Winter Ale earns a delectable A.
Lasting Strength: 10/10
Overall: 9.7/10 A
Bonus: 10/10 Winter Warmer Bonus