A few American breweries, both micro and macro, have attempted to make
winter themed inspired by Belgian and/or Trappist brews, but I often
find the result is a beer that’s decent to good, but nothing amazing.
That’s exactly the case with Smuttynose Winter Ale.
Appearance: Beautiful dark, translucent, burgundy/purple hue. Forms an
average size, white, foamy head which doesn’t completely dissipates and
leaves minor lacing on the glass.
Smell: Light spice bouquet of ginger, dark fruits and a hint of citrus; though mild overall.
Taste: The first time I had Smuttynose Winter Ale I assumed it was just a
standard American winter warmer as it seemed to fit the style of a
darker beer with some fruit and spice notes. It wasn’t until I read the
brewery’s description on their website that I realized it’s intended to
be something in the Belgian Dubbel style. If I were uppity about styles
I’d detract points for it not conforming to that style very well, but
I’m not so I still appreciate it as a winter beer.
It begins with a lot of the same flavor notes as most spicy/wintery
brews. Ginger, plum, a hint of dark cherry are noticeable up front. This
continues through the middle of the palate before it ends with some dry
bitterness followed by a mild dark chocolate/burnt toast flavor that
accompanies the bitterness well. It leaves a slightly smoky and
astringent aftertaste which is a bit strange considering there’s no
smoke anywhere else. Overall the flavors are enjoyable, but they’re not
wonderfully delicious, nor is there anything overtly Belgian or Trappist
about this beer.
Drinkability: Since the palate is fairly tame, Smuttynose Winter Ale is
not a challenging beer to drink. It doesn’t have the spastic
effervescence of most Trappist dubbels, despite the use of their yeast,
which makes it comfortable in the mouth. It goes down smooth, but does
dry the mouth out a little. At 5.83% ABV it’s got a lot of body for its