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Brew Blog: Brooklyn Winter Ale

I love make-your-own-six-pack programs. Sure, they're almost always driven by theft, and the resulting need to move a bunch of individual bottles at a significant per-bottle markup. That part sucks. I like to focus on two positives. First, at least it means that petty thieves sometimes have good taste in beer, and second, it allows me to try a bunch of different bottles without committing.

I don't actually go this route often, but I found myself wracked with indecision on a recent trip to H-E-B. The year's batch of winter seasonals has been hitting stores for a few weeks, just as I'm starting to feel the need for something a bit heartier in my pint glass. Torn between a handful of interesting-sounding offerings, I grabbed a couple bottles of each, packed them up, and headed to the checkout.

Brooklyn Winter Ale was first out of the chute, and it ended up being accidentally appropriate. When a beer is advertised as "Winter Ale," I kind of expect something big, dark, and deep. Something to keep the cold at bay. That's not exactly what I got, but, given that it hit 82 the evening I drank this, it worked out all right.

Brooklyn Winter Ale was much more medium-bodied and moderately flavored than I would have expected from a "Winter" beer, but perfect for a Houston fall day with a lovely breeze stirring the air. Overall, this was slightly reminiscent of an English brown, but with more depth and less overt sweetness, mixed with a bit of the upfront maltiness (biscuit, caramel, coffee all play starring roles here) found in Scotch Ales.

It pours a nutty, slightly hazy brown; a precursor of my ultimate opinion. The thin, fluffy head recedes to a sudsy ring, a slight embossing of bubbles pocking the surface in a continuously changing topography of carbonation. Aromas cover moderate roasted malt, toasted oats, and a hint of caramel. Slight nuances of pipe tobacco and just a whiff of dark fruit meander through the olfactory landscape, while the whole affair is book-ended by biscuity, bready malt aromas.

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Rich but gentle, Winter Ale leads with a well-rounded malt profile, bridging sweet and savory. Caramel and almost buttery biscuits are mild but unendingly pleasant first impressions. Cold-brewed coffee with just a hint of dried cherries comes across next. A mild sweetness pervades, but in the sort of un-sweet way that miso is "sweet." The finish is pleasantly nutty, as the biscuit intro turns a bit deeper. Moderate carbonation makes it slightly prickly on the tongue, with a hint of carbonic acidity.

I don't know that this is what I'd reach for as a sort of internal beverage blanket, fending off actual cold weather, but Houston doesn't really make that much of an issue, anyway. In its own rich but judicious way, Winter Ale does call to mine the colder months, but from an already insulated perspective. Perched in a comfortable chair, perhaps by a crackling fire, as the wind whips flurries of snow into frozen fractals on the other side of a frosted pane, this would be a fine beverage. Of course, I don't have a (working) fireplace, and Houston rarely gets flakes, let alone flurries. I suppose it's good, then, that this would drink just as well on my patio, no more than a slight crispness in the air to remind me that it is, indeed, winter.

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