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Winter Solstice Seasonal Ale - Anderson Valley Brewing Company

Not Rated.
Winter Solstice Seasonal AleWinter Solstice Seasonal Ale

Educational use only; do not reuse.
very good

1,610 Ratings

(view ratings)
Ratings: 1,610
Reviews: 701
rAvg: 3.88
pDev: 13.92%
Wants: 57
Gots: 154 | FT: 2
Brewed by:
Anderson Valley Brewing Company visit their website
California, United States

Style | ABV
Winter Warmer |  6.90% ABV

Availability: Winter

Notes & Commercial Description:
Beer added by: maxpower on 11-18-2001

No notes at this time.
Beer: Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 1,610 | Reviews: 701 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of largadeer
3.06/5  rDev -21.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Appearance: Dark amber, slightly hazy, with a moderate head.

Smell: Sweet, cotton candy-like aroma; notes of vanilla, brown sugar and cinnamon.

Taste: Just as sweet as the aroma implies, but with balancing bitterness. Vanilla, caramel and butterscotch flavors are prevalent. Very little hop character; it tastes like spices are used as a substitute for hops rather than an accent. Sweetness continues throughout the aftertaste, with the slightest of hop bitterness coming out at the end.

Mouthfeel: Thick and heavy on the palate with moderate carbonation.

Notes: I can understand why this has mixed reviews - it's extremely sweet and spicy. Not bad, but not really to my liking.

Photo of JohnGalt1
2.69/5  rDev -30.7%
look: 4 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

12 oz from the Boise Coop for $1.50/bottle poured into a shaker pint. Listening to Renaissance Worldwide Singapore "David Morales Mix".

Sweet cherry juice and crystal clear. Sticky lite tan head.

Malty aroma with vanilla and butter undertones. No real hops ... sorta overpowered by the spices.

I really hate saying this, but it reminds me of a vanilla cream soda .... and not the soda-shoppe kind, more like the artificial bottled kind.

This is a tough review for me to write. I love the Boont amber (almost certainly my favorite amber ale). But this one is going to take a hit. I know from my notebook reviews, I am hyper-critical of diacetyl; and I am only getting a little butter from this beer, but combined with the vanilla ... wow ... The diacetyl is hyper accentuated. I think they should move away from the spices (at least the vanilla) and balance more with a low but still solid flavoring of citrus hops.

Sorry. I will buy this brew again, mainly for comparison ... but I will probably wait a year or two.

Photo of cswhitehorse
3.23/5  rDev -16.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

The Winter Solstice pours a nice mid color amber with a quickly disappearing foam head that leaves some webbing on the side of the glass. The aroma of the WS is spicy and definitely malting to the nose. It is not a bad tasting beer but not just my style. It is strongly dominated by the malts with a sweet finish. I like a little hoppiness jumping around. In the mouth it was a little thin for a winter warmer.

Photo of russpowell
3.85/5  rDev -0.8%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2007 offering pours an orangey copper with 3+ fingers of sand colored head. Average head retention & lacing

S: Breadyness

T: Cakey with hints of tangerine & honey up front. Dryness, a bit of toffee, berries, cherries, a kiss of herbal hops & caramel all show as this warms. Finishes dry with more caramel, yummy

MF: Medium bodied, a bit chewy & sticky with low carbonation

Drinks very easy, this I could session on! Another winner from an old school California brewery

Photo of albern
3.47/5  rDev -10.6%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

This is an interesting and worthwhile winter warmer to seek out. It pours a deep amberish brown color with little if any head, and forget about lacing or retention. The smell is caramel and cola syrup, perhaps a bit of cherry in there too. This is a medium bodied ale with very little carbonation and bordering on a syrupy full body. The taste is complex. There are plenty of caramel notes when the beer is cold, but as it settles, there is an unmistakable vanilla flavor, nutmeg, maybe some allspice flavor that begins to emerge. There is a spicy bite in there towards the end, and you will find a discernible aftertaste. This is a relatively flat, spicy, sweet, syrupy ale that pleases the palate. Worth seeking out. L'Chaim.

Photo of eatdrinknbmerry
3.4/5  rDev -12.4%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

2007 12-oz bottle.

Head: nice and foamy. about 3/4" thick.

A: dark brown, caramelish.

S: slight smell of vanilla.

T: can totally taste a vanilla/creme soda within it.

M: feels good, not so thick. goes down smooth.

D: b/c of the vanilla taste to it, I don't think I can drink more than 2 of these.

Overall: a good themed beer that's strong on flavor, but can be rich. I might drink this again. I'd stick to AV's regular beer like the IPA or PA.

Photo of younger35
3/5  rDev -22.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Picked up a single of this a couple days ago at my local beer store. Drank from my Deschutes Black Butte Porter pint glass.

Appearance- Pours a dark brownish copper with a one finger soft white foamy head. Leaves a decent cap and collar and a bit of spotty lacing.
Smell- Bits of spicy fruit such as orange peel and cherries. Some caramel/chocolate in the background but the dominate scent here is the vanilla. It’s soft but distinct and noticeable.
Taste- Like the nose the vanilla is the dominating flavor here. It’s a different sort of vanilla than what I’m used too in a beer. It’s not the subtle woody vanilla, but a sweet, almost flavored vanilla. Has a bit of a malt spice as well with some cinnamon and maybe a bit of clove or nutmeg. A bit of bite from the alcohol along with a lingering cherry/vanilla finish.
Mouthfeel- Nice full body with medium carbonation.
Drinkability- Overall not a bad beer but it could use a bit of work. Not near as good as other winter warmers I’ve had. It seems to be a bit artificial (I’m sure it’s not but that’s the only description I can think of). Reading last years reviews it seems that people enjoyed it. Maybe it’s just an off year??

Photo of k3n
3.46/5  rDev -10.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

12oz bottle, 2007 version.

A: Mahogany red, very deep color. Off white head that fizzled quickly down to a ring of bubbles.

S: Not much smell this year. A bit of sweet malt...that's it?

T: Cinnamon, clove, nutmeg. Very Christmas-y. A bit sweet, with a lingering finish. Can't detect any hops.

M: Mild bodied, a bit creamy.

D: It's ok. Definitely easy to drink, not so "Christmas" as to be off-putting, but I think last year's was a bit more complex, and more interesting to the palate.

Photo of drew37
4.45/5  rDev +14.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

An amazing winter warmer. Pours a dark amber/light brown color. Tastes of vanilla and cherry with other hints as well. Originally sampled at a beer tasting event and have been very happy with it. Will look to buy more this winter. Overall, very happy with this beer and Anderson Valley Brewing Company. Their amber is great as well.

Photo of Talisker
3.7/5  rDev -4.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

2007 version. Purchased early October 2007 at SF's City Beer Store, poured for this review in late October.

I have loved this beer for several years. The 2005 and 2006 versions were some of my all-time favorites. It's not for everyone, since this is more a sweet cream ale heavy on the vanilla and orange notes, not the potpourri spice winter warmer you might expect.

But so far the 2007 edition isn't holding together - it's much rougher and edgier than years past. Definitely the deep notes of vanilla, some of that orange peel, very pleasant sort of wintery "tree bark" undertone - presumably the hops - but there's an alcohol bite that definitely wasn't present in earlier years, sort of an unruly contest among all the unique flavors that this beer usually melds so smoothly.

I'm going to sit on the 2007 for a few months before trying the next one - maybe the time will allow things to mellow together. But if this year's Winter Solstice ends up on these lines, it's a good and interesting beer, but not the unusual harmonious sweet masterpiece of previous years.

Photo of choyhosoi
3.7/5  rDev -4.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Poured this ale into a glass and noticed a nice steady head that stayed with the drink for awhile. The color was a dark amber that had a nice fruit and spice scent to it.The taste was not what I expected. I was expecting a stronger taste but this one is quite tame really smooth. I was really suprised by this one. Good job.

Photo of Floydster
3.31/5  rDev -14.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

12 ounce bottle from Hollingshead's during Christmas in July celebration for $1.79

Poured a dark brown color with a thick tannish white head

Smell was a little chocolate and that was about it, but did not taste any of it

Taste was dominated by vanilla malt which added a lot of sweetness to go along with a caramel finish

Pretty heavy stuff though, could not drink more than one or two, but normal for winter beers

Photo of Pegasus
3.68/5  rDev -5.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Appearance: Copper-colored, with with only a touch of haze, a large white head, and lots of scattered, broken lacing.

Aroma: Slight cherry and vegetable notes, and subdued malts, in all, a bit understated.

Taste: Opens with cherry and vanilla malts, with lesser caramel, and a mild herbal hop presence at the close. The malt presence seems understated for the style.

Mouth feel: Smooth, rich, quite full.

Drinkability/notes: Very pleasant and drinkable, an atypical Winter Warmer.

Photo of hammer09
3.52/5  rDev -9.3%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Poured a cloudy, reddish-brown into my pint glass and developed a moderate head which, unfortunately, settled a little too quickly. Smell is sweet and malty with a grape-like aroma. Some spiciness, but relatively little hop character. Taste is very sweet and malty; what I've come to expect from this style, although the spiciness present in the aroma is not present in the taste. Mouthfeel is very dry and sticky, and alcoholic warmth is prevalent throughout. Drinkability is slightly above average, but I've had better offerings in this style. However, having consumed this in June, this beer is a bit on the older side, but it has managed to cellar well. Overall a good beer. The only negative trait is the cloudiness which detracts from its appearance.

Photo of jmalex
3.99/5  rDev +2.8%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 4

Thanks to Matt at Capone's for the recommendation for a relatively inexpensive 6-pack. He even gave me a money back guarantee if I thought it was awful.

APPEARANCE: Pours an orangeish brown with a really disappointing non-existent head despite a decently vigorous pour. No collar - just a few bubbly patches.

SMELL: Highly spiced with aromas of honey and molasses. The sweet smell is very nice, but seems quite artificial. Real malt and hop aromas struggle to find their way through, but some smoky and roasted malts just barely grace the tip of my nose.

TASTE: Spices are all upfront, as honey comes on really strong. Very sweet. I kinda like it. The finish is roasted, with the honey flavors still lingering. Not much of a back to this though. It's a lot of pomp and circumstance disguising an underwhelming base beer. That said, the pomp and circumstance tastes pretty good.

MOUTHFEEL: No carbonation barely. Somewhat lighter bodied, too - at least as compared to what I'd expect from a winter warmer.

DRINKABILITY: The lighter body aids here, though. Drink 2 or 3 of these and you'll still be going strong. That said and even though I enjoyed my 6-pack, it's still nothing spectacular, and I don't know if I'd buy this again.

It figures I'd save my last winter warmer for a 75 degree day. I still enjoyed it quite a bit, so thanks Matt for the recommendation.

Photo of RBorsato
4.45/5  rDev +14.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Auburn color with a nice light brown head and good carbonation. Light spice hop aroma with a nice toasty malt balance. Nicely balanced malt and hop flavors with little to no true spice or vanilla character. Medium bodied with a nice balanced finish.

Not much vanilla compared to prior years I've tasted that were sickeningly vanilla-laden.

Per Label: "Seasonal Spicing"

2006 Edition
Tasted: 02/25/07

($1.99 / 12 oz.)

Photo of nriech
3.87/5  rDev -0.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

2005 batch I cellared.

Appearance: Pours a nice hazy orangish brown. Appearance of lots of carbonation but very little head.

Smell: Sweet and malty, almost like a barley wine but without the alcohol kick.

Taste: A little sugary and thick. Cinnamon, caramel, and vanilla. A hint of citrusy hops. Maybe a little bit of dates also. Dry finish. Alcohol isnt very evident.

Overall: Pretty good but a little on the sweet side. Good finish and pleasant to drink overall but not more than one due to the sweetness.

Photo of Bitterbill
4.17/5  rDev +7.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours from 12oz bottle a clear amber with a smallish head of foam
that shrinks quickly and leaves completely for I finish my session.

The smell is a nice mix of sweet malt and some spices.

The taste has a strong caramel malt, roasted malt and bread flavour to it and it's quite thick in body. Dang, this is a great tasting Winter Warmer. After the first sip, I thought the sweetness was starting to be a bit much but then there's an underlying presence of hop bitterness that tames the sweetness nicely. A few more sips in and I'm getting some spice, maybe cinnamon and nutmeg? Very good stuff! Oh, and there's a tad bit of warming as it goes down...

Bottom line: A very good example of the style indeed. I see it as a must try.

Thanks to Wasatch for this sample!

Photo of ybnorml
3.57/5  rDev -8%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

A dark amber/copper beer has a small foamy light tan head. The aroma starts with a dried fruit/raisin character with a hint of maple and vanilla in the background. Just a hint of dried fruit as it hits your mouth and then quickly the flavor is dominated by a soft vanilla character. With a hint of cinnamon just before a quick hop nip on the finish.

Photo of treedoctor5002
4.18/5  rDev +7.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Pours a nice amber color with a smaller than normal head that goes away after a while.

Smell is spicey and malty.

Taste is wonderful. Very smooth. Delicate spices like vanilla and cinnamon complement the malt but don't overpower it.

Mouthfeel is medium to light. Not a whole lot of carbonation after a while.

Extremely drinkable for a spiced beer. Very well balanced. Would go great with some ginger snaps or windmill cookies.
You should definitely try this beer.

Photo of bradybeer
3.95/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

2006 edition

A=light red with a touch of brown

Smell=Slight hop aroma with a nice spiceness

Taste=Sweet with a little bitterness

Mouthfeel=light-actually thin

Drinkability= I like this beer but I am unable to drink more than one a session due to the spices-I am not a huge fan of spices in beer. Howerver, I think think this is another solid beer from this brewery-not what I would normally think of as a winter beer-but thin abain I am from the midwest-where winter is much more brutal.

Photo of mjc410
4.44/5  rDev +14.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

The pour into my Fuller's nonic raises a modest half finger light tan head that falls pretty quickly to surface lacing. Glass lacing is resilient. The body is a murky but translucent brown with amber highlights. The nose is warm and toasty, with notes of brown sugar, cream, butter, bread, and vanilla. The taste is almost unique to me, with the only similar beer in my experience being AV's other beer Summer Solstice. It has a sweet, grainy, almost dessert-like character to it. At a loss of words to describe the flavor, I saw another reviewer describe it as "chocolate cake." I would agree with this to a certain extent, but also add in vanilla, caramel, and other flavors that defy description. The mouth is just right in terms of heaviness, but I think a little less carbonation would make this more enjoyable. Still, ever since I first had this on draft at McGrath's in Harrisburg, PA, I've been a fan, and I can say that this is one of the best tasting beers I've ever had.

Photo of jeffjfindley
4.26/5  rDev +9.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Burgundy in color, projects great thickness. Head resolves to a medium lacing. The smell is nice & warm, but faint, and ultimately not much of a factor.

The tongue is well malted by this beer. It's appropriately easy on the hops for the style, but the malt flavor is wonderful, with a chocolate cake finish. As one might imagine from the maltiness of this beer, the mouthfeel is beautifully smooth, and soothing. Highly drinkable, highly recommended.

Photo of pnkermiz
4.32/5  rDev +11.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

On draft at Barcade. One of my favorites of the increasing number of winter warmer releases. Reddish amber in color with a spicy malt aroma and a hugely complex flavor of "winter". Caramel and vanilla are very up front with a mixture of dark, sweet fruits (dates, figs, plums) and dark chocolate and spices as well. Warms my stomach every winter and makes me feel like that fireplace video I'm watching has come to life.

Photo of Greenfloyd
4.97/5  rDev +28.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Why can't it be Winter all year long....

Anderson Valley Brewing Co. makes some pretty good beers, but during the real cold months, the Winter Solstice comes out to play. Pouring a lightish amber hue, the quickly fading off-white head trails down the snifter. The smells of sweet malt, faint holiday spice, and orange brandy hit your nose like a sweet winter warming train. The creamy mouth feel of the beer stays consistent from start to finish. Tastes of delicate holiday spices paired with subtle hints of orange essence that trail off into a creamsicle (50/50 bar) like finish. The aftertaste lingers on wonderfully until the next sip. This is, by the way, a medium to heavy bodied sipping beer, that should be served in a snifter for maximum drinking pleasure. I always like to pair food with the beers I review, but not this time. Given that the beer stands so well on it's own, and only comes out in winter, I like this one all by itself....but if you must indulge, a little pound cake would pair perfectly...Enjoy

Winter Solstice Seasonal Ale from Anderson Valley Brewing Company
87 out of 100 based on 1,610 ratings.