Winter Warmer

Smokey Winter Warmer 2012

Last year I brewed a version of this beer and it turned out quite well so I thought I’d make it a yearly beer. In the previous edition I wanted to brew up a winter warmer without any spices that had a nice smoked malt base. As this beer aged I noticed the smoked component faded a little bit and the sweeter crystal malts were more prominent. For this years version I wanted to dial back the crystal malts a touch and upping the smoked malt percentage (36% to 42%). I also used Weyermann’s Oak Smoked Malt in addition to the usual Rauch Malt for a little more complexity. I’m planning on soaking 1 oz of medium toast french oak cubes in some Ardbeg whisky for a few weeks to add a woody, peaty quality to 1 gallon of this beer. I haven’t done any wood aging, so I thought I’d start small and see how it goes.

Here’s this years recipe:

OG: 1.075
FG: 1.019
ABV: 7.4%
Mash: 152 (60 min.)
Added: 3g CaCl and 2g Gypsum to Mash H20
Boil: 90 min.

37.8% Northwestern Pale Ale Malt
27.0% Rauch Malt
14.9% Oak Smoked Wheat Malt
4.1% Rye Malt
4.1% Caramunich II
4.1% C80
2.7% Special B
2.7% Dark British Crystal (135 – 165 l)
2.7% Chocolate Malt

0.75 oz Bravo (16%) 60 min.
1 oz Cascade (5.5%) 30 min.
0.5 oz Moteuka (7%) 15 min.
0.5 oz Cascade (5.5%) 10 min.
0.5 oz Moteuka (7%) 5 min.
1 oz Cascade (5.5%) 5 min.
1.5 oz Chinook (11%) 0 min.

Wyeast 1335 British Ale II Yeast
2L starter on stir plate for 24 hrs

Bottled on 12/27/12 and yielded about 35 bottles of various sizes.  1 gallon was racked on to french oak cubes that were soaked in in peated whisky.  The gravity sample tasted slightly smokey with a little bit of sweetness. At this stage, this beer is much less boozy than last years version and a little more well rounded.  This is probably due to the extended primary (near 6 weeks).

Tasting Notes – 1.25.13

Appearance: Pours very dark, but ruby highlights come through when held up to the light. A nice thick tan head stays with the beer for a good bit of time.

Aroma: Malty sweetness hits the nose first followed by a little bit a smoke.  Really appealing aroma.

Taste: Some sweet malt notes are the first to greet my palate followed next by some smoke with a hint of bitterness finishing out.  There’s a little bit of roasted malt flavor mixed in towards the end as well. No real signs of the higher alcohol percentage as of yet.

Mouthfeel: Medium mouthfeel with medium to medium-low carbonation which is right where it should be for this beer.

Overall: This year’s vintage is much less boozy at this point than last years.  Drinks very smooth but there is some warming that goes on after a few drinks of the pint.  A true winter warmer in that sense.  The smoke is there, but not overpowering and goes really well the the sweetness of the other malts.  The hint of lingering bitterness really makes all the flavors balance out nicely so you don’t think there is too much sweetness in the beer.  I’m really curious to see how this one ages.  I’m really excited about this one where it stands.

Update – 4.24.13

Appearance: Same as above.

Aroma: Sweetness is even stronger than the original tasting. The smoked has faded but can still be detected.

Taste: Caramel sweetness hits up front with the smoke being there in the background. The bitterness is still present from before, but is a little toned down and meshes well with the other flavors. Smoke flavors come back around along with some hop bitterness at the end. Some slight esters are also detectable. Still drinks very smooth, smoother than before.

Mouthfeel: Same as above, no changes.

Overall: I’m surprised how smooth this one is drinking. Very drinkable for the higher gravity. I really like how the smoked flavors have settled out and are a background component but make the beer a little more complex that a normal beer in this category. Judging from how well last years version has held up I think I’ll be drinking on these for a while still.

Update – 10.23.16 – Four year old homebrew! I’m incredibly surprised but this beer held up unbelievably well, very minimal signs of oxidation or age. Smoke still present in the nose and drinks much boozier than the abv. would suggest. A lot of the bitterness has dropped out and is sweeter and richer, a real slow sipper but still very nice on a cold evening. Cheers!

Tasting Notes – 7.13.13 (Oaked Version)

Appearance:  Pours dark brown with ruby highlights.  Tan head recedes quickly.

Aroma: Bacon, smoked aroma with malty sweetness detectable.  Hints of booze noticeable.

Taste: Tastes much boozier than the non oaked version but not solventy or hot.  Oak flavors have softened and are really enjoyable and mesh with other flavors of the beer. Smoke flavors have mellowed but are picked up on the back end.  Drinks a little drier and crisper than pervious samples.  A hint of lingering bitterness stays on the tongue. The caramel sweetness seems to by masked by the oak quality of the beer.

Mouthfeel:  Medium mouthfeel with medium low carbonation, spot on for this beer.

Overall:  I’m really glad with how the oaked version is coming along.  The scotch and oak flavors have really smoothed out over time and is a nice drinking beer.  Its interesting how the oak and smoke flavors seems to give the beer a dryness the other version doesn’t have and the caramel sweetness isn’t as present.  A little boozier but with the dryness it is pretty easy to drink.  The oak gives this a nice dimension and really rounds out this beer.  Oak may be the way to go with future batches.

For comparison, here’s last year’s recipe and tasting notes.

OG: 1.074
FG: 1.016
ABV: 7.6%
Mash: 151 (60 min.)
Boil: 90 min.

36.1% 2-Row Malt
36.1% Rauch Malt
9.6% C150
7.2% C80
4.8% Wheat Malt
2.4% Special B
2.4% CaraPils
1.2% Roasted Barley

1 oz Galena (13.4%) 60 min.
0.75 oz Cascade (7%) 60 min.
0.50 oz Willamette (7.5%) 60 min.
0.50 oz Cascade (7%) 30 min.
0.50 oz Goldings (5.7%) 15 min.
0.50 oz Goldings (5.7%) 5 min.
0.50 oz Willamette (7.5%) 0 min.
0.25 oz Cascade (7%) 0 min.

Wyeast 1335 British Ale II Yeast

Tasting Notes:

12.1.11 – The beer has turned out well. The smoke isn’t very intense, but is definitely present and layers well with the other malts and the hops balance it all that. I think this is a pretty interesting beer and the alcohol is strong, but not boozy or over the top. I’m interested to see how this one progresses as it ages.

2.25.12 – Smoke has disappated even further. Its still present, but fading w/ age. As a result, the sweetness of the winter warmer is coming through. The beer is still very good, but tasing more sweet as time goes by. As the smoke malt increases for next round, i think less sweet malts would also be a good change.

9.14.12 – Smoke and sweet maltiness in aroma. Pours dark w/ ruby highlights with a small amount of head that dissapears quickly. It tastes more imperial than before, but not overpowering or anything. The smoke flavors are present, but are a little more in the background as the sweeter caramel malts are coming through more. I’m really happy this beer is aging so well. No signs of oxidation or other off flavors. This is a really nice beer and for all the flavors going on still pretty easy to drink. A very solid winter seasonal.

 

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