Winter Solstice Seasonal Ale | Anderson Valley Brewing Company

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Winter Solstice Seasonal AleWinter Solstice Seasonal Ale
Very Good
1,846 Ratings
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

User Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 1,846 |  Reviews: 739
Photo of beerinator
3.75/5  rDev -3.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

2002 bottle
Appearance: Very brown cloudy with a tan head. Slight tinge of red when the light shines through.

Aroma: Pretty malty in the aroma, hop smell isn't pronounced.

Taste: Sweet caramel/vanilla flavor. Aftertaste is virtually nil. Very smooth. The caramel and vanilla flavor dominates. No other spices poke through in the taste.

Notes: Good beer. Not too high in alcohol, good dessert beer. I would think that a lemon pound cake, or an angel food cake with some whipped cream would make a great accompaniment to this beer.

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Photo of Dogbrick
3.95/5  rDev +2.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

2002 Bottle: This beer is a ruddy brownish-amber with a medium light tan head. Decent lacing. Aroma is lightly spiced with cinnamon, along with a little vanilla, malt and caramel. Fairly rich body with a nice spiced blend. Flavors of nutmeg, malt, caramel and even a little bit of hops. The finish is a little sharper than I would have liked but overall this is a good beer.

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Photo of bierman2000
4/5  rDev +3.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Solid ale with malty overtones and a coper hue with a nice head when poured.. though it fades quickly as the glass warms.. this ale is a nice style of Winter Ale with just the right alcohol content and a fine malt finish. Hoppy in the nose but the taste speaks of malt and hops.. a good blend from a California brewery known for their hoppy beers.The ABV lends itself to this beer being somehwat drinkable but not a seesion beer..

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Photo of beerguy101
3.58/5  rDev -7.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Medium brown color, medium head. Medium malts and slightly spicy, nutmeg, cinnamon and .. Slightly hoppy. A medium bodied winter style ale. Full of flavor and taste. Mouthfeel is full and round. Finish is clean and smooth. Aftertaste is malty and slightly sweet. Nice winter ale.

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Photo of ZAP
4.75/5  rDev +22.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

One of my favorite beers and my favorite winter beer, but after two years of tasting this I feel compelled to lower my ratings slightly..

-Heavy caramel flavor...sweet pleasant aroma...tastes and smells like a caramel apple...awesome seasonal...minimal hop balance...this is a great winter beer with an octoberfest feel...nice sweet and tasty..I love it..hops don't overwhelm but balance from keeping too sweet..very nice malty kind of seasonal...wish I had a keg of this...

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Photo of clvand0
2.58/5  rDev -33.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2

This beer pours a murky amber color with a small tan head and moderate lacing on the glass. The aroma is somewhat malty and very sweet. The flavor has a hint of some sort of nut. It is very full bodied, but I don't think it fits my taste well. It rates about average in my book. There are also a lot of spices in the flavor. This beer is not very drinkable but it leaves an ok taste on the palate.

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Photo of BeerBuilder
2.46/5  rDev -36.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 2 | feel: 3 | overall: 2

Ruby red in color with a thick tan head that left good lacing. The aroma is malty, caramely, maple and brown sugar, and spice. The flavor is sweet, and again I get the maple syrup, and spices like nutmeg? ginger? It is a full-bodied beer, with an unusual spice flavor that just did not work for me. It was sort of drying and powdery at the end of each sip, like powder spices were poured into my glass. I didn’t find this very drinkable, in fact I gave the rest of my glass to STUBOB. I was disappointed in this one; the spice combo just didn’t work for me in this beer. I will pass on this one again.

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Photo of TheLongBeachBum
3.83/5  rDev -1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

$1.25, for 12 fl.oz. of a 6.9% ABV beer from Anderson Valley – well I figured it was well worth a shot. They have not let me down in the past, and even if they did this time it was only a single – which I prefer anyway before investing in 6-Packs.

The neck label says “The Legendary Boonville 2002 Beer”, so using my legendary Colombo skills it’s obvious that this beer is from last year.

Large off-white bier-kopf is readily formed as the beer is poured into a UK Half Pint Glass. It crustaceous form has staying power, and laces well as the beer is drunk. The body of the beer is a Pearlescent light walnut brown with a reddish-orange tinge. The clarity is high, and this beer looks rather good.

Initial aromas are to be savored. Lovely fruit soaked malts and dark fruits mixed with a warm honey basted pancake odor.

A slightly warm, almost fuzzy feeling at first. The beer sits in the mouth with ease, and has a feeling akin to that of getting into a warm bed on a cold winters night. Sweet, fruity beginnings immediately relax me and confirm yet again that I have picked up another decent offering from the Anderson Valley Brewing Company. AVBC rarely disappoint. Hmm, this is rather pleasant and grows on you. The middle is reminiscent of a chocolate covered caramel whole-wheat biscuit with raisins and currants. Bitterness comes short in the end mixed with a soft fruit ending. The bitterness is punctuating – but always mild. Quite strange and hard to explain overall. Maybe if I say that it reminds me of a partially aged, weaker than usual barleywine.

I like it – takes a little bit of getting used – but I like it.
I will certainly invest in a 6-Pack if I see one.

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Photo of TXHops
3.26/5  rDev -15.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

AVBC's 2002 Winter Solstice pours an orangey-reddish color, pretty clear, with a fairly impressive, beigish head of foam displaying pretty good staying power. There's an interesting coolish-mint, light citrus aroma over the malty sweet base. The flavor is pretty similar: soft body (as opposed to firm) with a sweet malt base and very understated spicing. (cinnamon, orange and nutmeg?) Actually, the softness of the body is a little frustrating--it almost feels Belgian, though without the fusels. The mintiness grows a little in the tail and so does the very slight citrus quality, coming together to create a slight, menthol feeling in my nose--like it's being cleared out.

All in all, this is a nice spiced beer, as the spices don't really taste like much (my kind of spices). The soft body is annoying and the lack of any particular individuality in this beer takes away some points as well.

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Photo of marc77
4.05/5  rDev +4.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

Ruby hue, with a light haze. Well retained vanilla white one fingered head manages sparse lace. The aroma is an enticing melange of myrrh, spruce, mellow red licorice laced berryish fruit and medium caramel sweetness. Faint ginger surfaces as the beer breathes. A moderate, caramelized sugar and butter impression hits the palate at first, then yields to mild notes of cream and carob. Bready sweetness persists nearly unhindered until partially offset by lately emerging moderate hop and well baked biscuity bitterness. Light but bright strawberry like fruitiness. Mellow spice impressions of sweetish allspice and vanilla bean add depth of character. Unwavering, pervasive medium caramel sweetness is marginally contrasted by mild, non descript, functional hop bitterness. A touch lightly bodied, with an abrupt, slick mouthfeel. Finishes with hints of burnt biscuit, cream and brown sugar. Quite a tasty brew, but with an odd afterthought impression of bourbon spiked vanilla Coke. Relatively clean and light on fruity esters and judiciously spiced. Surprisingly light on hop bitterness for an Anderson Valley creation. Very enjoyable overall.

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Photo of jeffboo
4.53/5  rDev +17.1%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

When I tried this for the first time in 2001, I stopped what I was doing and really took a closer look. I hadn't had a beer do that to me for some time. In a glass, the reddish amber color is very unique. A firm creamy head developes on top and the aroma lets you know that this beer is special. Candy, ginger, caramel ,and some spicy hop all play in the aroma.the flavors start spicy, like ginger and cinnamin, with a long toasty malt finish and a little bitterness along the side of the tongue. A very yummy beer.

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Photo of beernut7
4.42/5  rDev +14.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

This is one of the more enjoyable winter ales on the market. Pours a deep brown with a light lace rimming the glass. The aroma is very much of tootsie roll chocolate. The flavor is lightly roasted with a distinct caramel and bold flavor very much that of a snicker’s bar. An obvious bitterness, very distinguishable from the other flavors, balances out the sweet candy-like malt characters. Very large on flavor and uniqueness.

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Photo of WVbeergeek
4.27/5  rDev +10.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

Was happy to see this one back in stock at the Sharp Edge, because when I went to order it earlier during Christmas break it was already kicked on tap. So, the bottle I cracked had 2002 on the label, and It poured a great deep ruby brown red that seemed the head wasn't trying to form. I started in on taking a couple small whiffs, and then I inhaled it all. This beer contained a niced mild hop character, yet I could smell some nutmeg and other seasonal spices flowing in the air, all complemented with an amazing aroma of maple syrup. At the first taste an awesome malty sweetness arose to my palate, along with the balancing of the hops. I thought the maple syrup flavor was the most noticeable extra curricular flavoring that stood out to me, and it defintely formed an awesome winter seasonal beer that is in my top five for it's category. The body of this beer was great nice and chewy almost felt like I was eating some pancakes. Great, enjoyable, and different. What can I say Big Tony likes.

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Photo of goz
2.05/5  rDev -47%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 1.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 1.5

Pours reddish brown, nice tan head with good lacing. Aroma is quite nice - vanilla, butterscotch, and caramel in there. Flavor is heavy on the vanilla and butterscotch, and cloyingly sweet. I had trouble finishing this, hoping it would get better as it got warmer, but that didn't happen.
Probably not something I would try again.

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Photo of feloniousmonk
3.85/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

The color took some time to categorize, not quite violet and muddier than red, magenta? Off-white head, and an aroma full of sweetness, soft and candyish. Light texture, but an immediate sensation of syrupy, caramely sweetness. Strong vanilla component, too. Not as spicy as I'd been informed. Dazzling finish, though, which sits and swims in the mouth for as long as it pleases. I held back on high marks, though, for the vanilla candy aspect was just not for me.

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Photo of Dantes
3.67/5  rDev -5.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

A Tale of Two Seasonals…

Package: 12 oz. Bottle labeled 6.9% ABV. 2002 Edition with no additional date.

Cost: $6.99 6-Pack

Presentation: Pint glass at ~45º

Appearance: Coppery color. A bit cloudy. Head was somewhat disappointing, resolving down to ¼” or so, which remained for most of the glass. Nice strings of small bubble from the bottom.

Smell: This had an interesting, but busy smell. Lots of different spice notes competing with each other. A touch of malt sweetness. Fairly enticing aroma.

Taste: The taste did not live up to the aroma. Although the malt presence was good, there was an unpleasant spice element I did not enjoy. Reminded me of a cilantro-soapy taste. Less hoppy than some other Western Micros (especially seasonals), which I normally prefer, but doesn’t work here. Muddy. I wish the sweetness were more upfront. Flavors faded in the middle and finish, which was too dry. Flavors were not well-rounded.

Mouthfeel: Carbonation is fine and even; not too flat nor too harsh.

Drinkability: I can’t rate this very highly. I did not find it refreshing enough for regular consumption, nor was it as satisfying or exceptional as so many other rich seasonal brews are.

I’m not a big fan of Anderson Valley’s beers, with the exception of the Barney Flats Oatmeal Stout, going back to when the Malt Advocate rated the Anderson Valley ESB equal to Fuller’s. I ran out to try some and was very disappointed. It wasn’t in the same league. Being a big fan of Winter Seasonals, I thought this might be different, but it too falls short of my limited expectations. I drank this back-to-back with a Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale (which may have been unfair), and this one came off the Sidney Carton to Sierra’s Charles Darnay. It looks similar, has a similar ABV, and a similar philosophy; but ends up almost entirely different. A noble effort, but unfortunately it comes up short.

Backwash: As mentioned, this review is a tale of two Winter Seasonals. Compared to Sierra Nevada’s Celebration Ale, this brew is overmatched. My tastes don’t run to the “hop-head” end of the spectrum, but the execution of the Celebration Ale is far better. If you are looking for Winter Seasonals, do yourself a favor and look to Fuller’s, Young’s, Sam Smith’s; or if you lean toward hoppier offerings, Stone or Sierra Nevada.

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Photo of AaronRed
3.58/5  rDev -7.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

I am not sure about this one. Most of AVBC brews are excellent. I have mixed feelings- poured nicely and smelled of apples, carmel and vanilla. But too much so. Taste was also too sweet for me, more of a butterscotch flavor with little hop presence. This beer was essy to drink alone- with food it was not. Overall a but disspointing, but stil worth trying.

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Photo of maxpower
4/5  rDev +3.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

22oz bottle, deep dark amber color, white foamy head, leaves a nice lace in the glass, sweet spicey aroma, almost like cream soda. Starts sweet and malty and finishes with a creamy vanilla taste, medium-full body, has a soft and creamy palate, a nice winter ale.

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Photo of doerickson
4.38/5  rDev +13.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Cloudy iced-tea coloring with an enormous rocky cream-colored head. Aromas of cotton candy and almost eggnog-like sweetness and some spiciness and fruitiness. Medium carbonation. Creamy mouthfeel. As for the took me a few minutes to place it, but this brew has a lot of the characteristics of cream soda--the essences though, not so much the sweetness. Definite vanilla overtones, very subtle nutmeg flavor. Medium-length finish, pretty dry. Very drinkable. A unique and tasty brew.

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Photo of zerk
3.5/5  rDev -9.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Cloudy copper with a very thin head. Aroma of sweet carmel malt, bread and a touch of vanilla. Flavor is somewhat one sided... sweet carmel and vanilla with a touch of spicy hops trying to claw it's way through... it doesn't quite do enough to balance things out. It is quite smooth and creamy with a full body... but this is not a winter warmer I'm likely to go back to very often.

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Photo of RonfromJersey
3.75/5  rDev -3.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Cloudy orange body, with some decent size carbonation bubbles. Big, airy bubbly beige head, popping as I watch. I do like a head that you can dent. Nose is a big bouquet of floral hops. Burst of malt sweetness kicks off the taste, then spices and a big shot of hops come swooping in, and finally vanilla, which sticks around as the dominate after-taste. Mouthfeel seems a little too fizzy, but that declines with warmth. I don't see this as a "great with meals" beer, but makes for an interesting sipper or dessert brew.

Upon further review: 2-28-03. After finishing the second half of the sixpack this week, I will just add that the "cream soda" references are dead on. And that this goes better with food than I thought initially.

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Photo of mjohn27603
4.1/5  rDev +5.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Pours amber to light brown in color with a three finger head. Smell of butterscotch. I immediately pick up the vanilla on the first sip. Tastes a little like a cream soda. A bit of bitterness when allowed to sit on the tongue for a while. A decent but not overwhelming seasonal offering.

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Photo of Wildman
4.1/5  rDev +5.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

This beer poured an amber color and formed and off white foamy head. A good amount of carbonation is present. An aroma of hops, caramel and vanilla. The flavor was of caramel and vanilla. This is a beer that probably could use a bit of aging to bring out some of the aromas and flavors a bit better. Not a bad beer.

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Photo of Mark
4.27/5  rDev +10.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

This ale is a nice dark amber, head is off white and disappates to a thin layer, lacing is very sparse. Very smooth taste with caramel and vanilla notes. Nice creamy mouthfeel. Went down very well and this goes well on a cold night. Nice offering as usual from Anderson Valley.

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Photo of Zraly
4.52/5  rDev +16.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5


This winter ale is a bit darker than some of the other seasonals that I have had thus far. The head is super creamy and is touched by a slight tan color. The initial smell was that of berry-fruit.

The first taste is just blissful...a rich butterscotch and caramel flavor just takes control of the mouth. There is a sweet yet smooth nuance of smooth milk chocolate and brown sugar. There is a toasty bread note that finishes off the flavor in the mouth. Nutmeg and cinnamon round out the flavor. This is a dream come true for my love of malty goodness. The hops are rather subtle, but this beer is about composition, not piecemealed flavors. Be one with this beer.

If you like Sierra Nevada and prefer your winter brews to place emphasis on the hops, this one might not be for you. However, in terms of quality, this is the malt counterpart to the Celebration Ale.

Edit December 2006

I recently had this on tap at Capital Ale in Richmond. It was so smooth and enjoyable, relaxing and warm. My interpretation of this beer remains the same; it is of exceptional, consistent quality. Perfect for a cool night and good company.

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Winter Solstice Seasonal Ale from Anderson Valley Brewing Company
Beer rating: 3.87 out of 5 with 1,846 ratings