3.9AROMA 7/10 APPEARANCE 4/5 TASTE 8/10 PALATE 4/5 OVERALL 16/20
Hopheads like me think any and all beers would be vastly improved by the addition of even more hops regardless of how appropriate it is for the style. Apparently Southern Tier has heeded that call with their winter seasonal “Old Man”. This is by far the hoppiest winter beer I’ve ever encountered – so much so that it’s a borderline India Pale Ale. Regardless, it’s still a very tasty and easy-drinking beer and that’s what’s important.
APPEARANCE AND AROMA
Old Man pours to a clear shade of dark copper and amber. It produces a large, foamy, off-white head that lasts til the last drop and leaves plenty of lacing on the glass. The aroma indicates a strong hop presence with a piney, spruce-like scent more commonly found in amber ales and IPAs. I was pleasantly shocked when I poured a bottle of this because it wasn’t what I was expecting, plus it was very inviting.
Having recently tried an authentic British old ale I assumed Southern Tier Old Man would be cut from the same cloth, but boy was I wrong. This beer drinks almost exactly like an amber ale with a strong hop bite and a dry, bitter aftertaste. The palate is fairly rich with resin and pine and is quite strong as the hops linger for quite a while.
There’s even something of a dark fruit taste as well as an earthy or woody taste you might find in oak-aged brews. I don’t get much flavor in the way of malts other than a slight sweetness to the palate, though. I don’t detect any spices, either, as many winter brews are known for having. Still, it’s very tasty since these hops make themselves known, but don’t raise hell they way they might in an even more overtly hoppy style of beer.
While Southern Tier Old Man is indeed a bitter beer, most of this flavor comes in the finish. Up front the beer has a thick, heavy mouthfeel but not to the point of being syrup-like. It’s actually quite remarkable how easily drinkable the brew is since is slides past the palate and dropping flavors like a time bomb.
At 7.2% ABV this would seem to be a borderline imperial brew, but the alcohol is so well masked here it’s almost as if it didn’t exist at all. Few beers are able to accomplish such a feat; therefore, Old Man definitely deserves accolades for its drinkability alone.
Usually when a beer deviates from its style it can be distracting, annoying, or just flat-out incorrect, but with Southern Tier Old Man Winter it’s just the opposite. This is by far one of the most inviting winter brews I’ve ever encountered and would definitely recommend it (if you can find and/or afford it since Southern Tier’s distribution is limited mostly to the Northeast and East Coast and prices range upwards of $9 for a six-pack).