Good evening my friends. Welcome back to our continuing coverage of liquid winter festivities here at The Daily Beard. This evening’s entertainment happens to be Anderson Valley’s Winter Solstice Seasonal Ale. I’ve never had anything from Anderson Valley, but the label features a bear with antlers, so I’m already a fan. Let’s got get our solstice on!
The initial bottle aroma is a nice blend of rich, bready malts and some fruity hints of currants and cherries. The malts are fairly strong and pungent, creating something akin to a bock, bringing a bit of bready sweetness along for the ride. As it warms up, the aromas open up and take on a slightly sweeter vibe. The malts continue to dominate, while the fruits just influence from the sides. It’s quite a pleasant aroma.
The first bottle taste is a mouth-filling bloom of slightly toasty malts, creating a rich bread and biscuit flavor that washes over the tongue. Homemade caramel is drizzled over the malts, adding a hint of sticky sweetness that mingles with notes of cherries and cinnamon. A tiny pinch of nutmeg works in from the top of each taste, adding a nice holiday spice every now and then. The main malty profile is quite warm and comfortable, and like the aroma the flavors grow as it warms up. It’s a smooth drink, with a bit of bubbling on the tip of the tongue that ends fairly mellow, almost creamy. The aftertaste is a mellow bread that lingers for a bit at the back of the mouth.
Poured out into a tulip glass, the aroma contains subdued notes of bready malts and drizzled caramel. Hints of currants and cherries return once more, faint at first but growing with a gentle swirl of the glass. There’s an underlying sweetness yet again that features a slight tang at the back of each breath. Visually, it pours a rich and roasty caramel, with a light khaki head that fizzes away rather quickly.
The tulip tastes are still big breads with a touch of sweet caramel. Each taste flows smooth and creamy over the tongue, no longer containing those bubbly notes from the bottle. Hints of an alcoholic presence appear here and there – not too strong, but enough to emerge from beneath the mask of flavors and offer a little oomph to the beer. Slight hints of cinnamon and nutmeg sprinkle in from the sides as the beer settles over your tongue, adding a nice holiday vibe once more without altering the overall flavor from the big, malty profile. The aftertaste is yet again a mellow breadiness. I wish the fruits would have been a little stronger in each taste but despite that, it’s a tasty beer.
Focusing on a big malt profile, this beer is a warm and comfortable drink that sticks with a few tasty flavors, rather than layers and layers of complexity. Toasty bread malts make up the backbone, while sticky caramel adds a touch of sweetness with each taste. Minor hints of cinnamon and nutmeg add a dusting of holiday spicing, while currants and cherries do the same for the aroma. Each taste is quite drinkable, and though there is a bit of an alcoholic warmth now and then, it’ll take more than one bottle to make you feel it. Its price is on par with other seasonal craft offerings, and while there are other beers out there that may offer a spicier brew or a stronger ale, this one certainly gets the job done with its tasty malt experience.
I recommend this beer over the course of a chilly evening, relaxing with a book and taking your time – it becomes more flavorful as it warms. It would also work well with hearty dishes, like stews or roasts. A solid, straight forward malty beer option, Anderson Valley’s Winter Solstice Seasonal Ale earns a B+.
Lasting Strength: 9/10
Overall: 8.7/10 B+
Winter Warmer Bonus: 6/10