Saturday, December 3, 2011

CT Column 24/08/2011: Winter Warmers

THE rather wonderful cold blast of the past fortnight has got me thinking about winter warmers. Winter warmers are not a style of beer, or a category that has any defined boundaries but when we talk about them we know what is meant. Winter Warmers tend to be accented towards rich malt character rather than aggressively hopped, they tend to be relatively high in alcohol to provide a fortifying warmth and also often have a comforting quality that encourages sipping by a fireside rather than session drinking.
Through the worst of the cold snap I enjoyed several beers that I would class as winter warmers. New from 8 Wired, The Sultan is a Belgian style Quadruplel with a difference. Quadrupels are an abbey style of beer made in the tradition of the beers made by Trappist monks. A Quadrupel is a strong amber coloured ale with a spicy Belgian yeast character and a warming note from the high alcohol. The Sultan takes this style and gives it a twist by incorporating a large dose of sultanas. The Sultan is truly the tawny port of the beer world.
From Mike’s this year’s vintage of Whiskey Porter has been released and is less spirity than past years with a fantastic balance of oak, alcoholic warmth and chocolaty porter.
Finally I have been enjoying the classic strong dark wheat beer from Germany, Schneider Aventinus. It is a warming cocktail of clove, banana , caramel and mocha that turns most peoples idea of a wheat beer on its head.
The winter warmer concept can be taken a step further by mulling beer. There are several traditions of mulling beer around the world. In the midlands of England ‘Poker Ale’ was a traditional winter tipple where rich malty old ale was heated with a poker from the fire. Try it with Marston’s Owd Rodger if it’s your game. In Belgium the Liefmans Brewery used to produce a spiced fruit beer called Gluhkriek that was designed to be heated gently before drinking.
I recommend blending the very sweet Liefmans Fruitesse with the slightly tart Duchesse De Bourgogne and heating gently with a little cinnamon and anis. Cheers!

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