Having heard about this stuff, I was keen to give it a go and I guess I lucked out because there were only a few singles left on the store shelf. This is because it's still winter which means that now is the time for summer seasonals. From what I've read, the dastardly phenomenon of seasonals coming out a season or two early is due to Sam Adams so thank you Sam Adams. (He says sarcastically.) On the other hand, SA makes some good beers and they make lagers to boot.
Winter Lager is a wheat bock brewed with spices, namely cinnamon, ginger, and orange peel. N.B. - this is a bock brewed with wheat as opposed to a Weizenbock which is 1) a strong version of a weizen and 2) an ale. So were not talking that tasty clove-like flavor given by the yeast used in weizens. At 5.6% ABV, Winter Lager will not warm you up on booze alone but is certainly hardier fare than your typical pale lager.
It's a very pretty beer with a deep amber color. The head was moderate and dissipated quickly. On the nose there was a warm, caramelly aroma with just a hint of fruit which may have been the orange peel. While the beer smelled pretty tasty, the aroma was, overall, rather faint. I thought it was be a bit more pungent considering the color and the spices.
On the tongue, Winter Lager has a subdued sweetness akin to milk chocolate along with roasted grain flavors. I was very surprised that I couldn't taste any of the spices. This is perhaps simply due to it being the middle of winter and my stuffy nose. Still, I let the beer warm up just a tad yet I couldn't discern any cinnamon or ginger. There is, however, an earthy taste which rounded off the malt sweetness before the hops hit my tongue and I presume this is where the spices come into play.
The beer had a great mouthfeel. It was stout enough to provide some midwinter sustenance yet not thick and filling. Very quaffable and refreshing after a bout of snow shovelling. It finished with a moderately low lingering hop bitterness that was herbal/grassy. I'd swear that I could also taste the orange peel, but only just.
Winter Lager is a good beer but I was disapponted that the spices were hidden. Coney Island's Albino Python
used a similar clutch of spices in a paler lager which worked very well and I was keen to taste how they'd work in a maltier beer. It was not to be. Nonetheless, WL was tasty. It goes down easily yet is heady enough to fend off the chill. New Glarus' Back 40 is still tops as far as winter bocks go for me, but Winter Lager is not a bad substitute.
Junk food pairing: grab a handful of garlic cracker nuts.
Labels: Beer, Bock, Boston Beer Company