3.3AROMA 7/10 APPEARANCE 4/5 TASTE 7/10 PALATE 3/5 OVERALL 12/20
I never thought I would ever complain about a beer being too spicy, but such a beer exists in the form of Harpoon Winter Warmer. As a beer connoisseur I like my brews to be flavorful, but the brewers of Harpoon seem to think there’s a direct correlation between the amount of spice added and the quality of taste.
POUR, COLOR AND AROMA
Winter Warmer poured very smoothly to a burnt umber color with a clear body and noticeable carbonation. It formed a one finger, off-white, foamy head which lingered for quite a while before dissolving and left some lacing on the glass. The aroma was quite strong with an apparent mix of spices as well as citrusy notes.
It’s very rare that a beer’s aroma throws me off, especially to the extent that this beer’s did. I could tell I was about to drink a very sweet and spicy beer but once I took my first sip all I could taste was spice.
Harpoon Winter Warmer is the beer equivalent of cinnamon ribbon candy. The label describes it as having a “touch” of cinnamon and nutmeg, but this is a vast understatement as those are the ONLY noticeable ingredients to this beer. So it is indeed spicy and extremely flavorful, the problem is there’s nothing to balance it out. I thought I smelled orange peel and/or coriander in the nose – what happened to them?
This beer also left an oily aftertaste in my mouth and made me extremely thirsty, as if it were salty. In my experience with Harpoon beers, this quasi-salty flavor seems to be their signature.
As the beer hit my tongue it quite literally danced on my palate, fortunately, it went down surprisingly smooth. This is one of the very few beers I can think of that’s actually more difficult to taste than it is to finish.
Harpoon describes Winter Warmer as “full bodied” on the label, but I’d say it’s a perfect average medium body. At 5.9% ABV it’s technically a potent brew, but never really drinks as such. I’m not sure how many calories the beer has, but two bottles in succession didn’t leave me feeling overwhelmed, instead, well satisfied.
The best way to describe Harpoon Winter Warmer might be as a pumpkin beer without the pumpkin. It is a heavily spiced beer, which is almost always an attribute, but when the taste has no balance and is just an assault on your palate it’s difficult to appreciate. I think the Harpoon brewery just tries way too hard.