Samuel Smith’s Winter Welcome Ale 2013 – 2014

Annual seasonal release from The Old Brewery Tadcaster, Yorkshire, UK

Winter Welcome

6.0% ABV, 550 ml (1 pint 2.7 fl oz) bottle. Fuggles and Goldings hops.

At this point, I think it’s safe to say that winter has already worn out its welcome for many in the US; however, Samuel Smith’s beers are welcome any time as far as I’m concerned.

This is another brewery that played a significant role in my development as a beer connoiseur. If you would, indulge me as I hop (sorry) into the Way Back Machine and travel to the late 1980’s and early 90’s in Florida. I was stationed at Patrick AFB in Satellite Beach, Florida. My experience with imported beers included such offerings as Corona, Moosehead, Beck’s, Heineken, and Lone Star (well, they like to say Texas is like a whole other country…). Ah, but that changed quickly when my wife and I visited Hubb’s Pub in Melbourne Beach. They boasted 99 beers including bottles and draught, unheard of in my experience at the time. (They also had an awesome Kimmelwick Von Julian sandwich, loaded with roast beef on a wonderful salted roll and served au jus, but I digress.)

The beer menu was the size of a full-page newspaper ad and included brief descriptions of each beer and listed its place of origin; even so, it could be a daunting challenge for me to decide what to have. But I did my best, and so I began my explorations of new and (to me at the time) exotic beers. While I never came close to trying everything, included in this journey was Samuel Smith’s; their Nut Brown Ale, Taddy Porter, and Oatmeal Stout became personal favorites. Interesting aside – back then these came in six packs of bottles and were among the more expensive beers I encountered; over time the price rose as with other brews and foodstuffs, and at some point they switched to four packs to soften the blow somewhat. Some select beers were sold in single imperial pint-sized bottles, including Winter Welcome. Which brings us back to today and this year’s installment of their annual winter seasonal ale.

Winter Welcome presents a lovely bright copper-orange hue, crystal clear, topped with over a finger’s width of pale foam. This slowly recedes to a thin layer composed of fine bubbles.

There’s a luscious aroma of Maris Otter malt and crisp hop notes – spicy and earthy.

Body is moderately full with low carbonation; mouthfeel is silky smooth with a creamy finish.

Flavors (or flavours if we’re using proper English) include that distinctive Maris Otter malt with rich caramel notes and spicy-earthy-grassy English hops. A solid bitterness washes over the palate. There’s some light estery fruitiness in the finish reminiscent of faint peaches and apricots, rounding back to revisit the malt and hops but with a slowly fading dry bitterness. Balanced towards the malt and very English in character. It leaves a pleasing earthy-bitter aftertaste. Definitely tastes like Samuel Smith’s! I think maybe they’re on to something with that fermentation in stone squares and use of their venerable house yeast.

Rating     Appearance: 4.5/5     Aroma: 8/10     Palate: 4.5/5     Flavor: 8/10     Overall: 16.5/20

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