Good evening, everyone. As the days continue to grow shorter while the chill of Winter is all but on our doorsteps, it can become difficult to find a way to stay warm. Thankfully, The Daily Beard has you covered, with bottles and bottles of liquid toastiness. And this evening, our latest addition of the Winter Beer Hootenanny is Ithaca Beer Co.’s Cold Front, a Belgian-style Amber Ale. Any mention of Belgian beer and I’m already a fan, but will this live up to those tasty standards? Let’s go find out!
The initial bottle aroma is quite dark. Not on a stout level, but notes of rich, roasty malts create a bouquet that’s a bit heavier than other Belgian styles – almost smoky. Hints of roasted sesame seeds lay on top of the malts, followed by a spicy layer of spice-drop yeast, apples and raisins. Letting it breathe a bit allows the smoke to fade as notes of banana bread and brown sugar show up in true Belgian fashion.
The bottle flavors are very interesting. Malts create the backbone, but there are both rich, bread malts and roasted smoky malts working at the same time. Likewise, spicy apples and bananas show up next, along with the same roasted sesame seeds from the aroma. This beer has two different flavor profiles going on at the same time. The Belgian – with its spices, fruits and bready maltiness – and a roasty ale that adds some almost stout-like smoke to the mix. Despite that, the Belgian side seems to come out on top each time, but all of the roasted notes are definitely noticeable, lingering on the tongue under the Belgian brightness. The fruits mingle with a slightly burnt brown sugar to create a base of sweetness that goes well with both sides of this beer-coin. It’s quite nice.
The poured aroma follows the same path as the bottle flavors. Apples, bananas, raisins and lemon juice creates a fruity tang that mingles with the spices to create a bright initial wave of freshness. However, that fades away after just a moment – replaced with darker notes of smoky malts, roasted sesame seeds, and a touch of burnt sugar. The Belgian notes stay on top for the most part, but every now and then hints of roasty smoke reveal themselves and cast some darkness over the big spice qualities. Visually, it pours a dark, cloudy brown – perhaps a little darker than a Dubbel, with a light-tan head that fades quickly.
The post-pour flavors are actually quite tasty. Apples, bananas, spices, and raisins mingle with bready malts to form a big Belgian character, filling the mouth and flowing over the tongue with an almost creamy heaviness. That would be tasty on its own, but the dark notes now finally submit to their Belgian overlords and slip beneath the surface. They don’t disappear though. Oh no. Instead, the roasted malts and sesame seeds wrap their smoky hands around the Belgian flavors and provide a roasty essence to each flavor. The malts are still rich and bready – but a heavy, toasted vibe is present as well, chilling out at the back of the tongue. The fruits and spices become a bit sweeter, believe it or not – like they’ve been baked into a fruit cake (don’t worry, it’s an awesome fruitcake). It’s like when various Transformers combine into a Super Robot! Except it’s beer, which makes it even better. The aftertaste is a mellow combination of Belgian bread malts and spiced fruits, as well as some roasty smoked malts that lingers for quite a while.
This beer surprised me. My first thoughts after prying the cap off were hesitant – I wasn’t sure how the roasted notes would react with the Belgian qualities. It wasn’t until after the pour that the beer’s true identity revealed itself – BelgiSmoke Prime, most awesome of the BeerBots. The bread malts, spices and fruits that you’d expect from a Belgian Dubbel were all there and tasty, but the roasted malts and smokey notes of sesame seeds and burnt brown sugar brought about flavors not too far removed from a stout. However – even when both flavors were potent at the same time, they still played nice with each other and adding tasty qualities to the other side. One thing I didn’t mention above was the alcohol content, simply because I didn’t notice anything spectacular – no potent alcohol tang, no noticeable heat. But, now that I’m nearing the end of the beer, a big alcoholic toastiness has made its presence known. Nothing too crazy, but definitely enough to earn it some nice Winter Warming points. Speaking of Winter, the Belgian spices and the smoky stout-like flavors create an awesome Winter vibe that I would have never thought of. Despite how smooth and rich it flows over the tongue, it ends a bit watery. If it would’ve kept that sticky potency throughout, this would be a must-have recommendation from me. Despite that, it’s a wonderfully tasty beer that almost sneaks up on you with its combination of flavors. And, it’s priced just like any other craft beers, so don’t be afraid to stock up.
I recommend this beer after dinner. That’s my favorite time to enjoy a strong Dubbel or a Stout, and this beer brings nice qualities of both. Its warming qualities will show up after a while, so drink it slow and stretch out the toastiness. Earning the title of First Beer to Be Compared to A Transformer, the mighty tasty Cold Front from Ithaca Beer Co. earns an A-.
Lasting Strength: 9/10
Overall: 9/10 A-
Winter Warming Bonus: 8/10