Stoudt’s Winter Ale – An Ode

I have never really been down with winter ales. For the most part, they are too cloying with lots of sour cherry and overly sweet, usually bordering on medicinal. They tend to have very little hop presence.

So when I first saw Stoudts Winter Ale on New Years Day 2009 in a Vermont Beer store, I wasn’t all that excited. I bought it mostly because a) I always will take a chance on a brewery I trust, and Stoudts is most certainly one of those breweries [See: Scarlet Lady ESB, Double IPA, Fat Dog Oatmeal Stout]; and b) I have to try everything at least once. So I essentially looked at their winter ale as an obligation.

Imagine my surprise when I poured the beer, which decanted not a glassy rouge red, but an opaque chocolate brown with a creamy white head. I figured that this must have been an anomaly, a red-herring to make this seem like a hearty brew whilst filling my taste buds with saccharine, Robitussin-like flavors.

The aroma, I assumed, must also be a misdirection. I detected a roasted mocha-coffee smell. Raisins, dates, toffee and a whiff of cut tobacco on the second sniff. There is a small hint of cherry sweetness, but it acts as a balance rather than the primary flavor.

The flavor made me think that maybe they had labeled the wrong bottle. There is a very harmonious balance between the bitter coffee and dark chocolate elements, and the toffee/raisin sweetness. Neither component dominates, and what remains is what ends up being a very balanced porter, not a cherry cough drop.

I shudder to think that the fine people of Stoudts Brewing are turning away craft beer aficianados by labeling this a “Winter Ale,” because all it shares with that style is the season in which it is released. People who like balanced, malty American porters should pick up a six-pack (I got one yesterday at the Party Source on Erie Boulevard in Syracuse) and drink it out of a snifter.

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~ by William H on October 24, 2009.

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