It’s been a pretty darn good year for beer here in Winnipeg this past year. We’ve seen a number of breweries open, the types of beers we are getting in the Liquor marts continue to expand, and we’ve got a lot more to look forward to in the next year. To top it off, this Advent Calendar has been the best one I’ve had.
Today we have a Winter Warmer from the UK. It’s Shepherd’s Watch brewed by farm based brewery Wold Top in Driffield, UK.
This isn’t the first time we’ve had a beer from Wold Top, but that isn’t any less exciting. Wold Top was founded in 2003 by farmers Tom and Gill Mellor. The brewery and farm are a family run business and is currently being run by the third and fourth generation of Mellors. Sitting on 600 acres of farmland, Wold Top focuses on brewing real ales and using tradition methods and quality ingredients. Being on a farm they have access to fresh ingredients that they are able to grow themselves. Those they can’t are only the highest quality.
They won best new brewery in 2003 and have continued to win awards for there beers over the years. Currently they have 21 beers that they brew and a solid team behind the brewing.
The style today is a Winter Warmer. While not really a “style” Winter Warmers tend to fall under the British Strong Ale style. Even so, Winter Warmers are malty sweet offerings and tend to be a favorite winter seasonal. Big malt presence, both in flavor and body. The color ranges from brownish reds to nearly pitch black. Hop bitterness is generally low, leveled and balanced, but hop character can be pronounced. Alcohol warmth is not uncommon.
Many English versions contain no spices, though some brewers of spiced winter seasonal ales will slap “Winter Warmer” on the label. Those that are spiced, tend to follow the “wassail” tradition of blending robust ales with mixed spices, before hops became the chief “spice” in beer. The “American” varieties have a larger presences of hops both in bitterness and flavor. This Winter Warmer is their “Canadian Edition” and so it could likely have a different approach.
Appearance – Pours dark brown with a 1” off-white head that fades quickly leaving slight lacing on glass.
Smell – Aroma is chocolate, caramel, and roasted malt.
Taste – Taste is sweet with subtle bitterness from roasted malt. There is a creamy caramel flavor to this as well as some subtle spice.
Mouth feel – Medium-full bodied with a slightly oily mouthfeel and soft carbonation.
Overall – Quite nice. There is no alcohol warmth to this beer but the spice and malt combination is very nice. The malty notes come through very nicely and this beer also seems to have a creamy note to it that suggests possible lactose or unfermentable sugar.
Do I like it? – Very nice. I like this style and I enjoyed this beer. I will note here that Barn Hammer has a Winter Ale out presently (Fur Trader) and Torque will have one out in January (Bumper Shine). So if you liked this, look for those.