The holiday season is upon us, and with that comes an array of holiday ales, of which I am a fan, but if I start drinking these things in mid-October, I’m not going to want a Winter Warmer in the middle of Winter. Now that Thanksgiving has passed, I’ve deemed it acceptable to begin drinking these festive strong ales, in addition to setting up my Christmas tree, and placing tiny elf figurines in lewd and provocative positions throughout my apartment (these placements become increasingly more lewd as I drink). To aid me in these festive tasks, I have Elevator’s Winter Warmer, served up from a freshly-branded bottle which features a snowman with what looks to be a knowing smirk across his frozen face, as if he approves of the most recent elf placement.
Kicking things off, first pour brings a bouquet of rich bread and toast, followed by fresh biscuits and a touch of nuttiness. A wave of spices arrives next, comprised mainly of ginger and cinnamon, with a touch of nutmeg for good measure. These spices are well balanced, and combine with the big, malty base to create a breath of spice bread. Liquid, festive bread, y’all. Beneath, notes of brown sugar and a touch of molasses add to the festive package, without becoming overly sweet. As the beer sits in the glass, hints caramel and toffee rise to the top, settling across the malts quite nicely. The end of each breath brings bread crust once more, rounding out the aroma as a balanced bouquet of seasonal awesomeness.
On the tongue, the malts arrive first once more, with brown bread and biscuits leading. Bread crust and hints of toast arrive next, alongside the same cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg from the aroma. Sugary notes of caramel and toffee slide across the tongue, followed by a touch of brown sugar. The sweetness is held in check, however, and the beer remains nicely balanced despite the depth of complexity. This is accomplished through the perceived bitterness from the hop additions and the spices – upfront to ensure the beer doesn’t tip into the realm of “I’m drinking corn syrup” (as well as bringing that festive edge), but subdued enough to keep from scrubbing away all that tasty maltiness. Throughout, flashes of citrus pop up here and there for an instant, like tiny bits of orange peel in your grandma’s famous spice cake… but without those weird red and green candied fruits. (Seriously, what are the green ones? Please tell me). At the back of each drink, subtle flavors of pear, cherries, and mixed berries arise, especially if you’re drinking the beer at or near room temperature (which I recommend with any strong-style ale). They are unobtrusive, and add to the layers of flavor that unfold across the tongue. Finally, it is worth noting that while sitting at 8.6% ABV, the warmth of this beer sneaks up on you, but makes itself known about two-thirds of the way through the bottle, as evident by that fact that there are now two sets of tiny elves performing reverse cowgirl on the shelf in front of me. Happy Holidays, indeed!
Elevator’s Winter Warmer is a fantastic addition to your winter beer lists. Malty, spiced, and full of festive cheer, it brings everything you could want from a strong holiday ale, without falling into the trap of being “too much”. The spices do not hinder. There is no cloying sweetness. And the total package is a blend of nostalgia and holiday awesomeness, topped off with a warm, alcohol-soaked bow. Even if you’re a giant Scrooge, you’ll enjoy the beer. Bravo, Elevator. Bravo.