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Beer #2 – January 2, 2010: Harpoon Winter Warmer

January 2, 2010

Beer: Harpoon Winter Warmer

Brewery:  Harpoon Brewery, Boston, MA

Style: Spiced Ale / Winter Warmer

Serving Type: Bottle – Best By 02/15/10

Price: $7.99 to $9.99 / 6-pack

Availability: Winter Seasonal

Glassware: Mug (handle comes in handy for toasting!)

Strength: 5.5% ABV (alcohol by volume)

Drinkability: I personally find beers that are moderately to heavily spiced intriguing for one glass, but rarely desire a second.

Tasting Notes

Appearance:  This beer pours a crystal-clear toffee / copper hue with a thick frothy cream-colored head.

Aroma: The aroma may honestly be the best part of this beer.  Nutmeg dominates, with a good dose of cinnamon, but hints of ginger, clove and coriander come through as well.  It smells like your grandma’s kitchen at Christmastime!

Mouthfeel:  This one is definitely on the thin side, though the moderate carbonation helps to add a little body.  Still, I just feel a “Winter Warmer” should have a little more substance.

Taste: There’s an initial toffee sweetness and a little cereal-like body, but the spices dominate the overall taste of this beer.  Much like the aroma, there is a mix of both sweet and savory holiday spice flavors, especially nutmeg, but cinnamon, clove, ginger and coriander too.  It finishes with a little peppery bitterness from the hops, which helps a little to balance the sweet and spice.

Pairings: While I have yet to try, I would imagine this beer would be a nice compliment to a brown-sugar glazed ham for the main course at a holiday meal, but could easily carry over to desserts of pumpkin pie, spice cake and oatmeal cookies.  Too bad all my Christmas cookies are gone!

Trivia: Most people know the holiday carol “Here We Come A-Wassailing”, but do you know what it means to actually go a-wassailing?  This was a tradition in Europe in the middle ages where carolers would go from door to door at Christmas time singing for beer!  They would be invited to come inside most houses to partake in a bowl of Wassail, a mulled beer or mead served warm and typically spiced with cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger.  Spiced Winter Warmers are essentially a modern interpretation of Wassail.

Some historians believe that this tradition was not quite as congenial as this initially sounds, with the carolers often getting rowdy and violent, threatening homeowners as they chanted the well known lyrics, “We won’t go until we get some!”

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One Comment leave one →
  1. January 11, 2010 1:17 pm

    This used to be my all time favorite winter beer. I looked forward to it every year. Sadly, Harpoon doesn’t have any California distribution that I know of and I haven’t had it in a few years.

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