Winter Solstice Seasonal Ale | Anderson Valley Brewing Company

very good
730 Reviews
Winter Solstice Seasonal AleWinter Solstice Seasonal Ale

Brewed by:
Anderson Valley Brewing Company
California, United States

Style: Winter Warmer

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 6.90%

Availability: Winter

Notes / Commercial Description:
Winter Solstice® is our take on the classic style of “winter warmer.” Boasting a deep amber hue and rich mouthfeel, its creamy finish will lift your spirits. Hints of toffee, spice, and caramel tease the senses making this the perfect ale to share with friends and family during the cold days and long nights of winter.

Added by maxpower on 11-18-2001

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Reviews: 730 | Ratings: 1,806
Photo of Callenak
3.75/5  rDev -2.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

2006 release - 12oz bottle.

Poured into a pint glass. Pours a dark amber color with a nice beige head.

The nose is malt and raisins. A great fruit presence to it and a little spice.

A great caramel taste to it. The raisin is more toned down and replaced with vanilla and spices. Definitely taste like a winter beer. I was shocked to see that this beer was 6.9% alcohol too. I didn't pick up on it at all.

Not an amazing beer but a very drinkable one. I wouldn't mind having a case of this lying around to get through the cold winter.

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Photo of krberg
3.78/5  rDev -2.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Pours with a big CO2 rush. Forms a dense, slightly off-white, head on top of a cream-soda body.

I can only smell the gentle ale fruitiness. No hops to speak of.

What is that taste? Cherry? Cotton Candy? Whatever it is, I can't place it. There is a slight bitterness that fades into nice malt and whatever-that-flavor-is. It does slightly resemble soda, but not in the bad syrupy way, more the refreshing well crafted way.

Full and creamy with very little CO2 bite. Satisfying.

Its been only a few minutes and I'm more than halfway through my sample. Pretty damn drinkable.

Overall a nice drinkable winter warmer. Very refreshing!

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Photo of buffettfan
4.37/5  rDev +13.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Poured out of the bomber, into a pint glass.

A- Pours a nice, copper colored, reddish brown. With a nice layer of fluffy head, and some tenacious lacing!
S- Sweet and a little spice. Carmel candy smells, with some vanilla, and winter spices come through. This smells GREAT!
T- Some of the same tastes come through that you can smell. A sort of candy sweet caramel maltiness, with those wintery spicy! There is some vanilla and nutmeg/cinnamon tastes coming through.

M- Warm and inviting! I great winter beer! Not heavy at all, very smooth, and extremely drinkable!!

D- VERY drinkable! I will be buying this one again! Might even be my Christmas evening beer!

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Photo of Lambstrong
4.47/5  rDev +15.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Appearance: Dark copper hue. About a 1/8 thick off-white head that slims down after you let the beer warm up to optimal temperature. Great lacing and the foam sticks more to the edges of the glass then the middle of the beverage.

Aroma: Sweet, liquorish notes dominate.

Taste: Again, liquorish, however, not sure if it anise. Subtle notes of chocolate. There may be a bit of orange in there, but too little to make out completely.

Mouthfeel: silky smooth. The beer gives a nice warmth and carbonation is nicely kept down.

All in all a stellar winter beer. I really liked how the added spices didn't over dominate this beer, as some winter brews tend to go a little overboard.

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Photo of Greenfloyd
4.97/5  rDev +28.8%
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

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Photo of TheMadJack
3.9/5  rDev +1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Prepared from notes. Beer served in Pint Glass.

A: Clear red-brown. Thin head with full, even lacing. Active, if weak, carbonation.

S: Strawberry, apple, vanilla. Malts have a character like a loaf of wheat bread. Little to no hops presence.

T: Strawberry, green apple, very subtle malts.

M: Clear and smooth, with light fizz.

D: Light and entertaining. Not too challenging, but tasty. Low alcohol rounds out a solidly drinkable beer.

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Photo of californiakulak
3.8/5  rDev -1.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

Had this beer on tap at Eureka Burger in Fresno.

A. Poured a clear brownish, red color. Thin head that didn't last long.

S. Lots of spices. Sweet malt. Christmas cookies. Vanilla. I don't think that I smelled any hops at all though.

T. Sweet and spicey. Bready malt taste. Clove, cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg.

M. Thick and syrup like sensation. Good carbonation and nice sweet aftertaste.

D. Because of the overwhelming spice profile of this beer I think that one pint at time will be plenty. But I did enjoy the one.

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Photo of PhillyB
4.12/5  rDev +6.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Look: Dark amber, tan bubbly head.

Smell: Toffee, caramel, nutmeg.

Taste: Toffee, caramel, nutmeg, slight chocolate.

Feel: Smooth, creamy, but not overpowering.

Overall: This is not just a good winter wamer, but a darn fine brew overall. The flavors of the beer itself are excellent, and the added spices only enhance it.

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Photo of djeffbee
3.56/5  rDev -7.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured from a bottle from Winter Beer Swap 2008. Typical sexy Anderson Valley labels..

A - nice deep amber body, with a thin off white head.

S - it takes a good whiff to smell the dark caramel malts, with no real hop armoma noticeable.

T - Sweet, malty body, hop bitterness is balanced nicely, the finish falls off just a bit.

M - Smooth, pleasant, low carbonation.

D - Goes down easy, you really never see the 6.9 coming.

I enjoyed this, would def have another. Could prolly see purchasing a couple sixers more of this..

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Photo of kohoutek
2.95/5  rDev -23.6%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

2005 bottling.

Appearance: a nice medium amber color, obviously filtered. The head started rich with texture but was almost gone after 30 seconds. Some slight lacing remained for half of the beer. The second half had none.

Aroma: a very slight noble hop presence. It quickly diminished with the head. Aroma of caramel, vanilla, some estery fruitiness.*

Flavor: graham cracker, vanilla, caramel, biscuity malt with banana ester laffy taffy.*

Mouthfeel: the filtering, club soda carbonation and addition of natural flavors (as stated on the bottle)* make this a dissapointing experience. I am curious how a 6.9% beer with high carbonation can have no head?

I used to return to this beer annually. I always craved its malty richness and unique, medium toast.

Boy has it changed! Almost a soda pop experience.

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Photo of AlexanderSelby
3.75/5  rDev -2.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

A handsome amber and fine head. Smell is slightly spicy, with a touch of hot toddy-esq booziness. Honey on the nose and a bit of potpourri. Taste is much mellower. Carmel malts are predominate here and a touch of honey. Alcohol is hardly apparent, and neither are the hops.

Great, malty brew that will always please, regardless of the season, but a bit touch to drink a few of.

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Photo of dawg
4.32/5  rDev +11.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured this last one into a stout glass. Had my first in a bottle in a local bar this year. Both were very good.

Pours well. Rich creamy balsa head which sticks around for awhile releasing aroma of fruits and spices. Smells like an exceptional seasonal with, perhaps anise, dark friuts, nuts, cinnamon. Aroma changes as head reduces.

Tastes much like molasses, cherries, spices (perhaps a minor pine taste) and finishes off with an almost candy-like smoothness. Mouthfeel is also creamy with the carbonation expanding the ale as it flows by the toung. Swishing around amplifies this affect. Very pleasant. Some brief traces of alcohol that diminish as the ale expands releasing the spices.

Very easy to enjoy.

As a side note, I've convinced alot of macro beer drinkers to taste this one. Each and every one (many who always refuse to drink "dark beer") enjoy the drinkability.

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Photo of jonnylieberman
4.23/5  rDev +9.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured from a 12 oz bottle into my bad-ass snifter!

Good solid one finger head of tiny bubbles. Great deep-orange color. Not so much in the way of lacing.

Good smell. Cherries are dominant. Other fruits as well. Raspberries, pumpkin, sugar.

This really has a cherry-cheesecake like flavor. Very good. Unique, but not in a foreign way. I should add that I've been drinking this stuff for a decade. Serious malt, too. Almost no aromatic hops, but enough bitterness to prevent "cloying."

Spot on mouth feel. Big without being overwhelming.

I love this beer. Yeah, it is candy, but who cares? Holidays are upon us and I get several days off from work!! Yes, I could drink a six-pack--not a problem.

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Photo of callmeclemens
3.24/5  rDev -16.1%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 2.5

A nice sipping beer for a winter night.

Had last night from the bottle.

Smells mostly of caramel with a hint of florals, or perhaps just a subtle fruit. Taste genenrally the same, not to dark not to heavy. A nice caramel malted, slightly fruity brew.

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Photo of ely2000k
4.5/5  rDev +16.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A- Looks festive, deep amber color, a small head that dissipates quickly, but the beer looks really good overall.

S- Smell of vanilla, cloves, faint cranberry and citrus. Love the smell. Perfect for the style.

T- Sweet, nutty vanilla taste and some toffee flavors. I think the taste is pretty much exactly what I am looking for from a winter warmer.

M- Very mellow, good carbonation. No complaints.

O- I honestly think this is one of the better winter warmers I have had. The whole beer is spot on, and is what this style should be about.

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Photo of Bounty628
4.2/5  rDev +8.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Brewed as a winter warmer ale, Winter Solstice packs a very pleasant 6.9% ABV in each bottle which allows this offering to both provide a nice quantity of alcohol but not be pushed into the Imperial category thereby scaring off some drinkers. The alcohol though at 6.9% is balanced throughout the offering not pushing away the other flavors in the beer that make this beer a solid pour.

Poured from a bottle, Winter Solstice pours brown with ruby highlights accentuated throughout the pour. The head on the pour is rather thin and beige and does not hold its own much after the pour. The pour comes off nice and smooth and there is a minimal amount of carbonation noted in the glass once poured from the bottle. Based upon the minimal amount of head in the pour, there is not a noted amount of lacing left along the glass during the drinking of Winter Solstice.

The aroma of this beer blends some rich and dark fruit notes to a sweet and almost vanilla complexity. You get some dried fruits like cherries up front and then comes in the smooth and warm vanilla nature matched nicely to some holiday spices. The balance in the nose really is remarkable as one component does not shine through more than any other and the symbiotic relationship at play here works ideally.

As one could imagine given the pleasant aroma at work in this offering, the taste has an appealing complexity to it that serves this offering quite well. The malts come through in much greater detail in the taste of this beer and they work off of the sweetness that is within the offering quite nicely. This ale is neither too malted or too sweet and truly is a fine creation for a winter warmer style. Though the spices in the nose do not come through as much in the taste as one might have expected, there is still that warm, holiday feel to this offering. There is also a certain element of tartness to this ale that is expected and matched to the dried cherry undertones recognized in the nose.

Winter warmers tend to across the board have a very smooth and mild mouthfeel and Winter Solstice is no different. Even though this offering is an ale, there is the impression of a creaminess that works its way across the palate during the offering thanks in part to the warming vanilla highlights accentuated in the offering. The mild carbonation in this offering is not a fault of the beer as it allows the beer to sort of be forced across the mouth rather than have the carbonation do all the heavy lifting. This is a very easy to drink winter warmer that is solid from start to finish.

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Photo of notsoprobeer
2.25/5  rDev -41.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 2 | taste: 2 | feel: 3 | overall: 2

It's a gorgeous reddish orange color with an off-white head that dissipated fairly quickly. No lacing. Not very strong in the aroma department, I did pick up some malts, but no hops or spices. Flavor of alcohol, caramel malts, and some faint notes of brown sugar and vanilla. Light to medium bodied. The taste of alcohol is very strong in the finish and it lingers along with some sweetness.

I didn't like this beer because of the alcohol. It was the primary flavor I tasted, was present in the finish--and it lingered. Everyone seems to love this beer but me. But it is what it is.

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Photo of dali27
3.75/5  rDev -2.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

Poured from a 12 oz. bottle into a pint glass.

A: Deep reddish-brown color with active carbonation that provides a bubbly thin tan head. Moderate lacing.

S: Malty goodness. Sweet smelling.

T: Sweet caramel and butterscotch all the way through. I like sweet tasting things so this one's for me. Also tasting the fruit flavors coming through. Apple, cherry and maybe slight citrus. Really though, what shines through is the buttery smoothness of this beer.

M: Thinner than what I expecting from a winter ale. More along the lines of an amber ale.

O: I've had this bottle for some time now (a few months, which is longer than beer normally lasts in my house. What's cellaring again?) and I haven't been overly excited to try it. When I finally did, I got a nice sweet surprise on a cold spring night, and something I would definately buy again.

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Photo of ZorroZ
4.33/5  rDev +12.2%
look: 4.75 | smell: 3 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Serving type: can poured into glass
Appearance: Beautiful, medium chestnut colour. Upon pouring, forms an incredibly rich, foamy head, albeit one that dissipates quickly.
Smell: Not much of a smell, surprisingly, considering what came next
Taste: Oh, WOW. Nicely malty, with little hops bite, but a lovely overall taste that almost disguises the fairly high ABV.. Just a little bit of the taste remains on the back of the tongue after a sip.
Overall: I'm *really* enjoying this six pack!

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Photo of fragilehearted
4.27/5  rDev +10.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Brought this back from California on a recent visit. Bottle into an oversized snifter. Shared w/ kimmiebelle!

A - reddish brown, clear. Normal head, not a ton of lacing.

S - brown sugar...well, molasses, toffee, cloves, nutty, vanilla, malty...really sweet. So sweet that it would almost be annoying...yet it's not.

T - follows the nose, but even sweeter than it smelled. Not overly syrupy, though. Malty aftertaste.

M - carbonation is medium / fine, body is medium. Finish is also smooth..kinda festive spicy sweet finish. Like I drank a really sweet Christmas cookie or something. Alcohol is well-hidden.

D - super. delicious, and the ABV is just enough to be a little strong/warming, but not so much that you'd think you couldn't have a few. Wish I'd brought more than one bottle back! Really solid brew.

This almost kind of reminds me of more like...a cross b/t a Winter Warmer & an Imperial Nut Brown or something. I am NOT complaining. I know this style varies a bit, just my thoughts. It is a bit rich, but somehow it works.

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Photo of ZBerkeleyan
4.62/5  rDev +19.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured it out of a bottle, and it created a thick and frothy tan head. Nice layer of lacing when I tipped the glass. Dark red-brown color, a little light shone though. Only a few bubbles were apparent.

The nose in this one has got loads of caramel, and some other flavors playing around in the background as well, though none so immediately apparent as the caramel.

Taste is malty and sweet, but not overly sweet so as to be cloying. Very tasty! This beer went equally well with a dinner and a dessert.

This beer goes down smooth, and it is not too heavy or sticky in its consistency. Not a lot of bubbles, but it doesn't taste old or flat either.

Overall a tasty, enjoyable, excellent beer. It is sweet but subtle enough to pair well with all sorts of food. Or have it on its own. Just have it!

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Photo of loving44
3.95/5  rDev +2.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Had this one on tap at Naja's Place in Redondo Beach

The appearance of this beer was good... dark amber with a nice head that settled quickly. Very little lacing.

The smell was faint but was spicy with hints of vanilla

Taste was good... pretty average holiday spice.

Mouthfeel was a bit too watery for me... a little weak.

This one was pretty drinkable due to it's light mouthfeel... could make a good session brew.

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Photo of wowbagger
3.36/5  rDev -13%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Light red, very pretty with thin white head but good retention. Some fruit aroma but overall not much.

It has a slight bite, which I didn't expect, like crunching into an apple. Some cherry flavor and some spice, sweet and nice on the tongue, very pleasant.

It's a hard beer for me to describe, is there a 'dessert beer' category? It's like a syrupy red ale. I enjoyed it, certainly worth the bottle, though too sweet for me to want too much more.

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Photo of cracker
4.03/5  rDev +4.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a an amber-red color. Not much of a hop aroma which I was expecting. Nevertheless the taste is superb. Has a strong malty presence with obvious use of lots of caramel malts. Almost has a candy apple taste (subtle but there). The hop bitterness is noticeable yet does not take precedence like other winter seasonal ales. Overall, the balance is perfect. One of the best winter seasonals I have tried. I highly recommend it.

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Photo of M_J_Z
3.75/5  rDev -2.8%

Had this on draft last night at The Hourglass Brewery in Longwood, Florida.

I enjoyed it, but it's missing the crispness/bite that make others of the style really good. (For example, Cigar City's Winter Warmer.) Granted, CC'S WW has a higher ABV, but it's the same style as Anderson Valley's. AV's version also seemed a little thin, though it wasn't watery or anything.

This could use a little more "punch," but its very drinkable. Not quite a 4-star beer, IMO, but I'm thinking it's somewhere in the 3.5-3.75 range. I would order it again.

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Winter Solstice Seasonal Ale from Anderson Valley Brewing Company
3.86 out of 5 based on 1,806 ratings.
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