As the end of October approaches, so does the end of the season of pumpkin ales and Oktoberfests. . While I know I won’t miss pumpkin beer much, the loss of Oktoberfests stings a little more. Luckily, as the calendar flips to November, breweries start to release another spiced up seasonal – the winter warmer.
Okay, maybe not so lucky for me. Like their pumpkin brethren, winter warmers usually suffer from overly cloying sweetness and bizarre spice additions that create a less than desirable final product. The good news is that not every winter seasonal fits this description.
Winter is also the peak season of the stout. Milk stouts, Russian Imperials, and bourbon barrel aged beer pop up on shelves (and release calendars) as the weather starts to cool.
AleSmith’s winter seasonal doesn’t fit the mold of spiced winter warmer or a stout of any kind, but might just be a great winter beer. The San Diego based craft powerhouse instead opts for an 8.5% alcohol by volume red india pale ale that packs 80 IBUs and zero added spices.
Formerly known as the limited Holiday beer YuleSmith, the IPA was so popular the brewery converted it to a seasonal and renamed it Double Red IPA. So even though the weather hasn’t quite turned, I think it’s always a good time to try something new from AleSmith.
The mouthfeel is dangerously smooth for an 8.5% ABV. It coats the mouth.”
Double Red looks more brown than red at first with a thin head that fades away quickly. Holding the glass up to the light shows off the deep ruby red color you hope for from a red IPA, also making the beer feel a little more festive.
While the aroma doesn’t fill the room, it’s a pleasing combination of citrusy hops and caramel malty sweetness. The citrus notes are brighter than I’d expect in a winter IPA, leaning much more towards orange and grapefruit flesh instead of the bitter rind. And the pineyness I anticipated is barely present at all – the brightness certainly drives the hop aroma.
That same bright citrus greets me on the first sip. It washes over the palate in combination with roasty notes and hints of caramel before a strong bitter finish. The pine and rind I expected in the aroma makes up the back end flavor of the beer and hangs around in the aftertaste.
I was afraid an IPA brewed for the winter would skew too malty-sweet for my taste, but AleSmith has balanced this beer well with plenty of IBUs to offset the sweet citrus spike and malt.
The mouthfeel is dangerously smooth for an 8.5% ABV. It coats the mouth – a little slick like a classic citrus/pine IPA but also backed by a hefty malt bill to provide some body. It’s an easy beer to enjoy.
A little more head and aroma with a touch deeper flavor would make this beer nearly perfect. But maybe I’m just looking for flaws in what is a typically strong offering from AleSmith. Whether you’re recovering from pumpkin beer fatigue or holiday family time fatigue, this is a beer worth picking up.