Review: Winter Solstice, Anderson Valley Brewing

Winter Solstice Seasonal Ale
Anderson Valley Brewing Co. — Boonville, CA

  • Style:  Winter Warmer 
  • Bitterness: 6 IBU
  • ABV: 6.9%
  • Malts:  Caramel and Crystal
  • Hops:  Unspecified
  • Sampled: 12 oz. bottle

Description:  "From the first sip of Winter Solstice Seasonal Ale, your senses will be aroused with the vision of a glowing fire, warming the hearth and home, as gently drifting snow flakes silently blanket the trees outside. Each lingering sip will gently warm your soul with thoughts of family and friends, gathering around the table for the feast. Luscious, creamy, smooth, and warming, this medium bodied ale is brewed with Caramel and crystal malts to give it just a hint of sweetness, then paired with our private blend of holiday spice. Winter Solstice Ale is great alone or as an accompaniment to any meal, and it has been known to liven and spice up nearly any social event. This coveted and much sought-after brew is released in November, just in time for the holidays, and by the first of the New Year will be only a fond memory." — Anderson Valley Brewing Co.

Random thoughts:   Wow, that's quite a description!  Must have been written by Normal Rockwell or Currier & Ives.  This is the thirteenth of my winter seasonal reviews.  

The tasting:  It's a gorgeous reddish orange color with an off-white head that dissipated fairly quickly.  No lacing.  Not very strong in the aroma department, I did pick up some malts, but no hops or spices.  Flavor of  alcohol, caramel malts, and some faint notes of brown sugar and vanilla. Light to medium bodied.  The taste of alcohol is very strong in the finish and it lingers along with some sweetness.

Rating:  2 star.  Drinkable, but not sure I want to.   I didn't like this beer because of the alcohol.  It was the primary flavor I tasted, was present in the finish—and it lingered.  I do need to point out that this is a VERY well-reviewed beer.  So I recommend that you read some other reviews of Winter Solstice.  I'm in the minority on this one.  But it is what it is.
Have you tried Winter Solstice?  How did you like it?  Am I being too harsh?  I'd really appreciate some other opinions on this one.

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  1. Winter Solstice is one I look forward to every year, mostly for the vanilla and sweet malt profile. Will be interested in seeing what you think about its counterpart, Summer Solstice upon it's return in 2011.

  2. We talked a bit about this. I enjoy the Winter Solstice, I don't get an out of balance alcohol presence in mine, but I did definitely notice a difference in my two six packs. It might be that they were handled differently, or that I tasted them too far apart when my expectations were coloring my palate. Either way I enjoy it, but the Mendocino Brewing's Barleywine has beat it out from my Winter Warmer favorite.

  3. Tiffany, this just has me scratching my head. So many people said the same thing you did. I tasted these flavors, but they were all overpowered by alcohol. I'll be sure to give Summer Solstice a try.

    Bianca, maybe I just got a one off bottle. I think I'll give it another taste next year and see what happens. Thanks for the tip on Mendocino. I'll keep an eye out for their Barleywine. After I'm done with all my winter brews, I'll pick up some of their other stuff as well.

  4. I'm not really of fan of Anderson Valley. I haven't found a beer of theirs that impresses me yet. But, I'll always keep trying :)


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