Gifts of Hops and Spices
A Review of Old Man Winter by Southern Tier Brewing Co.
Posted on 12/30/2011 by Chops
                   
Good
For a while I thought I had noticed an unfortunate trend with the Southern Tier Brewing Co. They garnered my undivided attention with their amazing Crème Brûlée Imperial Milk Stout and since that day, every bomber-only selection in their arsenal has been nothing short of delicious. On the other hand, I found many of their 12 ounce products to be somewhat mediocre. I could not figure out what the discrepancy was and often wondered if there were two different brewers at work. One for the higher quality bomber line and one for the lower quality core line. I realize that not every brew can be a winner (well, at least for most breweries), but it seemed quite unfair to the consumer base if Southern Tier was limping to the gate by branding a sub-par core line. So I was really happy to come across the Old Man Winter Ale, a tasty and satisfying winter seasonal. Finally a Southern Tier brew that bridges the gap and allows me to chalk up those bad experiences to simply that: bad experiences.

In the glass, Old Man Winter has a clear deep amber coloration. It comes with a bright white head that is fairly sparse and dissipates quickly. On the nose, I detected a sweet caramel malt with some mild spices. The aroma was pretty thin and I found little else, no hop profile or boozy character. The intro didn't really guide my beer-dar one way or another, so I had no idea what to expect from that first sip. I set my expectations up for a spiced amber of sorts.

The first taste was a pleasant surprise. I immediately recognized the beer as an ESB style ale. I don't know if that was Southern Tier's intentions or not, but I thought it worked very well with the spices. The hop profile suddenly makes an appearance as well and sets up shop as an under layer. The bold sweet malty character takes center stage as the dominant flavor, which consists mostly of a roasted caramel. The spice notes take on standard winter warmer traits like nutmeg and cinnamon. They balance nicely with the hop profile and provide a very warm compliment to the roasted malt. The finish is surprisingly clean and leaves a mildly bitter aftertaste that doesn't overstay its welcome.

Overall, Southern Tier's Old Man Winter Ale is a very nice winter warmer that I can recommend to most levels of beer drinkers. Fans of spiced winter brews and ESBs will find it to be a tasty and easily drinkable interpretation. Novices may or may not like Old Man Winter due to the complexity of the flavor train and the subtle hop bite. But personally, I think it's a delicious brew and well worth a try. After all, 'tis the season to try new brews, so get out there and greet Old Man Winter. Be sure to bring a scarf and a frosty mug.

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Old Man Winter by Southern Tier Brewing Co.
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