3.6AROMA 7/10 APPEARANCE 4/5 TASTE 7/10 PALATE 4/5 OVERALL 14/20
UPDATED: SEP 30, 2012 When I think of fruit-themed beers I tend to think of summer, casual, and/or light beers. Winter beers tend to be heavier, richer beers so how can they properly incorporate fruit? Otter Creek Winter Ale attempts to do so by combining raspberry with a traditional American brown ale formula. The result is a beer that is undoubtedly original, but also a bit gimmicky.
POUR, COLOR AND AROMA
I was able to pour Otter Creek Winter Ale perfectly on the first try with absolutely no kickback. It formed an off-white, fairly thick, soapy head which lingered for quite a while and left some lacing on the glass. The body was a dark shade of maroon with some carbonation and was fairly clear. The raspberry component made announced itself prominently in the aroma – similar to many fruity summer beers. Some malts and otherwise “roasted” notes were detectable, but only slightly so.
I’ve always been a fan of the brown ale style and really appreciate a beer with a deeply roasted taste. In fact, the roastier the better I say. I’d never wondered what fruits or other flavors would compliment such a taste, but having tried Otter Creek Winter Ale I would agree with their choice of using raspberry as a key ingredient.
I was a bit perplexed because the bottle clearly indicates “Raspberry Brown” on the label as if it were part of the beer’s title. The description reads as if it’s intended to be a brown ale that happens to have a raspberry taste. Upon my first swig I felt the opposite was true.
Raspberry is the first and strongest flavor noticeable here, but the standard brown ale taste, complete with authentic roasted quality is also prominent. Raspberry actually compliments the roasted flavor quite well, but I think it’s used a little too strongly. A brown ale with a subtle raspberry finish would have worked much better. As it stands, Otter Creek Winter ale is still a pretty tasty beer, but the raspberry is just a bit too strong which gives it a tart, sweet, almost dry and sugary taste.
Since raspberry is the first flavor to jump out, the beer has a flavor and mouthfeel that is initially sharp, but quickly calms down. In fact, after just a few swigs Otter Creek Winter Ale dramatically softens and finishes smooth. It does leave a dry, raspberry aftertaste on the tongue, though.
At 5.8% ABV it would be easy to call this a “heavy” beer, but I’d say it’s much closer to just a plain old medium body. I drank two bottles after dinner and feel very content, but not overwhelmed. In small servings this beer definitely satisfies, but I think it would be a little too heavy for any kind of session drinking.
This is a very difficult beer to accurately criticize because I don’t think it’s intended to be a gimmicky brew. Had the raspberry flavor been more subtle I think it would have worked as a truly robust brown ale, but as it stands it’s a raspberry-flavored beer on a brown ale foundation. It’s drinkable and satisfying, but is unlikely to impress the craft beer connoisseur.