2013 Winter Solstice Ale: Tasting Notes

Two years running, I’ve made a point of brewing on the summer and winter solstices. Beginning in 2012, I started this tradition by brewing on the eve of the Mayan Apocalypse, a strong ale/winter warmer of sorts, to ease the coming abyss. Although the apocalypse doesn’t seem to have come, I’ve continued brewing big beers on the solstices. For the 2013 winter solstice, I wanted to brew an ale of moderate strength in which the recipe and process combined parts of several brewing traditions: Scottish, American, German, and Belgian. After aging over 5 months, the 2013 Winter Solstice Ale is tasting wonderful, remarkably complex. A review and recipe below. Cheers, and happy brewing!

Review
Pouring into a tulip glass, the 2013 Winter Solstice Ale has a dark amber appearance with thin, tan head. The aroma is intense, comprised of heavily toasted bread and dried cherries with complimentary hints of craisins and caramel. In tasting, big malt with more of the same: toasted dark bread, dark fruits, tart cherries and deep caramel. On the palette, the beer starts with a fruit-like sweetness while the residual acidity and moderate bitterness keeps the finish balanced and clean. This medium-bodied, ~6.5% ABV ale was worth the wait, surprisingly rich and full-flavored for a moderate strength beer. Although tasting great at present, I’ll likely bottle a few off the keg to keep for years to come. Also, I’ll have to do a tasting panel with many of the past solstice brews in the near future.

Recipe Design
As mentioned above, this strong ale/winter warmer of sorts combines brewing ingredients and techniques of four brewing traditions: Scottish, American, German, and Belgian. The motivation behind this recipe was simply to do something wacky on the eve of the longest night of the year, keeping the spirit of homebrewing alive and well. On the ingredients side, the speciality malts are Belgian, closely matching a Trappist Dubbel style. Base malts and yeast are derived from American brewing using US 2-row and Wyeast American Ale II. Hops, only for bitterness, are the great, high alpha acid, German Magnum. Lastly, during wort production, the first half-gallon of runnings were collected, condensed, and caramelized, commonly used in Scottish schilling beers and Wee Heavy styles. As a result, this characterful beer was very new and unfamiliar to my palette. Overall, the Belgian influence won out while the American fermentation kept things clean. Considering a possible re-brew, I probably wouldn’t change much, as I like how interesting this beer turned out. Perhaps I would change the base malt to an English Maris Otter malt to include another brewing tradition.

Have you ever brewed on a solstice? Leave your experiences and feedback in the comment section below. Cheers, and happy brewing!

Recipe: 2013 Winter Solstice Ale
2.5 Gallon Batch, All-grain
Stats: OG 1.066 FG 1.015 ABV 6.7% IBU: ~40, ~85% mash efficiency

Grist
4 lbs 2-Row
12 oz Munich Malt
12 oz Corn Sugar
8 oz Caramunich
8 oz Special B
2 oz Pale Chocolate Malt

Single-infusion mash at 150 F 60 min, mashout at 170 F 10 min

Hops
Early boil additions of Magnum to get you to ~40 IBUs (I did a 60 min addition)

Yeast
1 packet of Wyeast American Ale II, pitched and fermented at 68 F

Water
Added 1 tsp Cacl to nice clean medium-ish water

2 thoughts on “2013 Winter Solstice Ale: Tasting Notes

  1. I know this is an older post, but I just stumbled on it. Any reason the corn sugar couldn’t be swapped out with table sugar or some homemade candi syrup?

    • No worries! Any sugar substitute would work well in this recipe, even a darker candi syrup would work. The goal using the corn sugar was to help attenuate the beer. This is one of my future re-brews. Just kicked the keg a few months ago after two years of aging, Simply amazing after two years. Figgy, caramelly, and rich, perfect for the cold weather. Cheers and thanks for reading!

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