One consolation of the inevitable onset of colder weather is the prospect of winter ales. These strong, dark and often spicy beers have a long tradition in British brewing, offering a powerful and warming aromatic alternative to a lager as the nights draw in.
Winter ales are characterised by a sweet, heady initial taste, followed by complex and fruity flavours. Many brewers add ingredients like cloves or ginger following medieval brewing traditions.
Best Of British
London Porter has been popular in the capital since at least the 18th century. It has a sweet caramel finish complementing a malty smokiness. Porters, the first beers to be mass-produced, were once the most popular beers in London, until eclipsed by bitters and lagers.
The Cornish Alfie’s Revenge won the best winter ale prize at the national festival in 2012. It’s a well-balanced fruity and malty brew without any of the gimmicky additions that can mar some winter ales.
The Southwold Winter IPA is a richer and stronger brew than normal IPA, with a fruity, barley aftertaste. It might be the beer you have been looking for to wash down your Christmas pudding.
Look out for foreign winter ales, although they tend to be imported in tiny quantities. Understandably, given their long winters, the Scandinavians are adept at producing rich and complex winter ales. The Norwegian Sunturnbrew, brewed a few days before Christmas each year, has been praised by ale enthusiasts. It has a complex flavour and rewards a little patience, taking on additional flavours in the bottle.