I made my first really big, boozy winter warmer last year and have had it on tap since the beginning of December. I decided that since I made it in May, I had plenty of time to naturally carbonate it in the keg and I hoped that doing so would aid in the aging process.
I took a few samples over the months to see how it was progressing and it started out, as expected, with a good kick of alcohol heat. Each successive taste showed that the beer was mellowing nicely, and I finally put it in the keezer just before going away for Thanksgiving so that it would be ready to drink on December 1st.
I also submitted it to the 2016 National Homebrew Competition as an English Strong Ale, as I really like the beer and wanted to see how it did. It didn’t perfectly fit any of the big English styles, and Strong Ale gives the most wiggle room with some of the parameters I needed wiggle room with! I briefly considered American Barelywine, but I wasn’t sure it would match up well enough in that category either.
I’ve got 6 bottles of this on the shelf for keeping, and I might make a few more before the keg kicks. I think this will age well.
Appearance – Mahogany bordering on rusty red depending on the light, brilliantly clear.
Aroma – Caramel sweetness mixed with alcohol, a touch of tobacco or ash.
Taste – More balanced toward bitter than the aroma would lead you to believe. It isn’t overly bitter, and the sweetness cuts through it fairly well. Light umami flavours present (I believe from the Brown malt), but they seem to come and go, especially based on what you’re eating.
Mouthfeel – Full bodied, but not chewy or heavy.
Notes – I’ve found this beer pairs well with a lot of hearty food, which is perfect for being a winter warmer. Beef stews and tomato-based casseroles seem to go particularly well.