Winter Solstice Seasonal Ale | Anderson Valley Brewing Company

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Winter Solstice Seasonal AleWinter Solstice Seasonal Ale
Very Good
1,837 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

Bros Score:
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Ratings: 1,837 |  Reviews: 736
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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Photo of Longstaff
4/5  rDev +3.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Had this on tap at Redbones - don't know if it is the same beer it was just called Anderson Winter Ale on the board an my impression seems to be somewhat different than other reviews here. Aroma much like eggnog. Tasted like vanilla ice cream at first, then turned to bubble gum flavors. Finished somewhat dry and not as sweet as the flavor suggests. Medium mouthfeel. A nice desert beer that is unlike any other beer I have ever had. I would have had another - or two - if I didn't have to drive.

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Photo of PatandDavid
2.68/5  rDev -30.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.5

Had this on tap at Redbones...My first thought was, wow this tastes like caramel candy. After about a fourth of the glass, I wondered where the taste went. It pours a nice amber color, no head, no lace either. The overwhelming taste of caramel that first appealed to me quickly vanished. It wasn't particularly hoppy, malt taste was there, not omnipresent though...I've never had a beer where the flavor went so quickly, I don't think my taste buds were overwhelmed, but maybe so. After each sip, there was a wee whisp of caramel, but not like at the first few sips. While it wasn't a bad tasting beer, I had no urge to get another. The flavor just didn't last.

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Photo of MJR
3.32/5  rDev -14.2%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

2002 Vintage.

Appearance: Reddish-amber crystal-clear body, with a creamy, light tan head that doesn't stick around for long.

Smell: Winter spices, a touch of caramel, a hint of fruit, and alcohol.

Taste: Lots of caramel/butterscotch with fruity spices. Finishes with a faint licorice note, along with perhaps a hint of pine or spruce. No hop aroma or flavor to speak of. Quite one-dimensional and uncomplex.

Mouthfeel: A bit thin for a winter seasonal. Has a decent, oily mouthfeel.

Drinkability: Not bad...but for winter warmers, you can do a lot better. Decidedly average.

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Photo of LarryV
3.9/5  rDev +0.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Pours with a nice frothy head that lasts a long time. A deep, reddish amber hue with little carbonation. Smell is very mellow, malty. Taste is mostly malty with very subdued hops, fairly well balanced, but very sweet. The sweetness limits the drinkability imho, I could only drink one of these at a time. I thin a little more hoppiness would balance it a bit more and give it more character. Without the hoppiness to balance the malt, I found it a bit one dimensional. A nice beer, but there's better winter beers to be had.

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Photo of johnrobe
3.6/5  rDev -7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 2.5

2002 edition. Medium dark brownish amber with a cream colored head that shrinks to just a cap. Hefty malt aroma, very sweet marshmallows. The taste is all malt and pretty sweet but there is a good deal of complexity within those confines. Flavors of milk chocolate, cloves, malted milk balls, and vanilla. I feel that a bit more hops would have made this a better brew. I like it but it's a bit too sweet and definitely not a brew I'd want more than one of at a time. Save it for after dinner.

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Photo of DrewS
3.68/5  rDev -4.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

My overall impression of this beer is one of unimpression. Poured out a reddish orange and brown with a decent head. Sweet malt on the nose, like cotton candy. Kind of reminded me of the dried malt extract I use in homebrewing. The taste was primarily of carmel like sweet malt which was a bit cloying IMO. There is a tinge of hop bitterness as the malt fades. Besides the intense malt flavor this beer is somewhat thin. Mouthfeel plays a redemptive role with a creamy smoothness. Slight aftertaste. Not the best of the seasonals and a disappointment for me. Maybe I just wasn't into it, but I expect better things from Anderson Valley.

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Photo of Brent
3.68/5  rDev -4.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

For a fairly high abv strong ale style, this beer keeps on the kid gloves. The aroma and flavor are both quite soft. Malt with a little milk chocolate in the nose. The flavor is a cottony sweet malt - a touch of caramel and hazelnut. Finish is very clean. I'm probably rating this beer a little low just because I expect a strong ale to have a little more clout in the flavor department. As a fireside sipper, this needed more horsepower.

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Photo of aaronh
3.18/5  rDev -17.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

This deep amber beer with orange-red highlights pours with an attractive white head the displays decent retention. The aromas are a little of spice and a little of hops, pleasant but not assertive enough to pick out individual traits. The taste was like a normal pale ale that had some spice added to it somewhere along the line. The beer displayed a normal light ale feel on the tongue, but left an unpleasant bitterness clinging to my mouth on the finish. The poor finishing characteristics and the high ABV result in a beer I'm glad I tried, but of which I didn't buy a sixer. My third offering from Anderson Valley was definitely not a "charm".

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Photo of DarthMalt
4.67/5  rDev +20.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

"It's the most -- wonderful -- non-Reinheinstegebot -- tiiiime -- of the year!"

Yeah, Baby! Cuddle up in front of the fireplace with your Honey for this one.

Super, crystal-brown amber with crinkling crystal-brown head to match. FABULOUS NOSE!!!!! The smell of love in Winter.

Taste follows through stunningly on all expectations--great malt, adequate hop balance (almost like a doppel-Oktoberfest, if such a thing existed) and spices????????????

Okay... the label ingredients read, "seasonal spicing" and the website reads, "our private blend of holiday spice." Could'a fooled me! Spices usually throw the baby out with the bath water for me, but in Anderson Valley's case, they wield as exquisitely as Rogue does for Hazelnut Brown Nectar--a master stroke, if ever there was one.

God Bless Winter, America, Manifest Destiny, and the lack of purity laws when it comes to making a beer such as this.

Happy Holidays!

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Winter Solstice Seasonal Ale from Anderson Valley Brewing Company
Beer rating: 3.87 out of 5 with 1,837 ratings