Thanksgiving is here, and while plenty of lost souls might think that it’s all turkey and sweet potato casserole, those in the know have been waiting all year for one reason–Winter Warmer is here!
“Winter Warmer” is not only the specific name of our beer, but a general term often given to beers which are strong, fairly dark, occasionally spiced, and balance warming alcohol notes with aromas of toast, toffee, and chocolate. Winter Warmer style beers (variously called Old Ales or Strong Ales, and sometimes Barley Wine, although I think the latter is a separate category), trace their roots to the famous English brewing town of Burton-upon-Trent, where there was a beer brewed by the appropriate name of Burton Ale. Astute readers of this blog should remember the Burton name from my discussion of IPA, for which the town is also famous. The Burton Ale was stronger than the IPA–most coming in between 8 and 12 percent ABV–darker, and sweeter, but at its best still finished dry.
The Burton Ale, once brewed by well-known companies such as Bass, effectively died out after World War II, save for a few British breweries recently trying to revive it. The style itself was popular enough to make it to the United States before the ‘craft beer’ revolution. Ballantine & Sons, a now-defunct New Jersey brewery, made a Burton Ale in the mid-19th century. In contemporary times, the Burton brand has mostly been dropped, probably because no one would know what it meant, but similar beers are still being brewed back in England and here in the US.
At SanTan, we take on the style and twist it a little by adding orange blossom honey and ginger to the brew. The sugar in the honey ferments out to give the beer a little more punch, but leaves behind a subdued floral aroma which collaborates nicely with the ginger bite. Behind all this lies that classic combination of toast, toffee, and booze which warms you nicely on a winter’s night (and you wonder where we got the name). We give the beer an extra week in the cellar to smooth it out, but feel free to take home a growler and do it yourself. Over time, the beer should take on a more rounded flavor with the ginger falling back to a supporting role.
As to what to eat with Winter Warmer, the answer is clear: gingersnap cookies. Fortunately, we’ve already taken that step for you at SanTan and give you a few small cookies with every glass. For more savory applications, I think any roast beef or pork would be excellent, especially with some figs. You could also use the ginger to pair it with any Asian dish which has moderate heat and strong ginger flavors. Best of all, bring a growler to your Thanksgiving get-together, and show your guests the real reason for the season.