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 ccrida
4.54/5  rDev +17.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

12 oz. bottle (2008) poured into a nonic pint, Winter Solstice is a murky amber, large, dense creamy light kahaki head with long last but no lace.

Smell is bright, sweet fruity malt smell even at fridge temp when served. Once I had a taste and thought of cream soda, it was all I smelled. Very unique and tasty.

Taste is great, and instantly recognizable - cream soda. There's also light touches of caramel, cinnamon and oranges, but it's really predominantly cream soda, which I'm really loving.

Mouthfeel is super creamy, medium light body, again, very much like a craft soda.

Drinkability is super high, if you like cream soda, which I do. Normally I'd knock a beer for being one dimensional, and so un beer like, but this is just so fantastic, I've got nothing but love for it. The 6.9% is dangerously undetectable, and the beer is a decent value and readily available.

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Photo of jeffboo
4.53/5  rDev +17.4%
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 RickS95
4.52/5  rDev +17.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.75

It's a nice looking pour. Dirty brown with an offtan head up top. The beer is dark enough (mahogany) that you can't see through it, but you can still see what I can only describe as a richness. The head cascades to a couple fingers thick before giving way to half a finger where it stays for the duration. It's got a soapy look and has nice lacing.

Smell is muted a bit, possibly because my fridge is too cold. Even after warming, the nose struggles to find anything. What's there is all malt, mostly caramel it seems.

The taste, OMG. It's got some spices and some fruits, and again, a malty base. Not much hoppiness, but that taste is pretty outstanding. Cinnamon, caramel, dark, rich, ripe fruits.

Mouthfeel is about as good as it gets. I really don't know how you'd improve. It's spicy and sweet, earthy and full-bodied. Alcohol is only noticeable enough to let you know it's a beer. There's almost no bitterness, just the faintest bit in the finish, but everything else works so well together it's not really needed.

Overall, it's a hell of a good beer. Best beer I've ever had out of a can. Goes down extremely easily...making you beg for another sip. Possibly my new favorite Christmas beer.

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Photo of whendeathsleeps
4.52/5  rDev +17.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

A- Medium amber, two finger off white head, nice retention, nice lacing.

S- Vanilla, caramel, sweet fruits, smells like a fresh baked pastry.

T- Big vanilla taste, brown sugar, malty, a little spice (doesn't overkill like a lot of winter warmers) Comes in at 6.9% ABV though alcohol taste is barely there. Hops are hardly noticeable, but do provide a nice balance in the finish. Tastes like a big hop infused sugar cookie.

M- Medium body, low carbonation, semi-dry finish.

O- One of the best winter warmers I've had, will definitely go to this one again.

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Photo of brewdlyhooked13
4.52/5  rDev +17.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Appearance - pours with a small to medium head, off-white in color, about a finger's worth. Amber-orange color, good clarity when viewed straight on, but looks hazy from an angle.

Aroma - sweet and mildly spicy, with an initial burst of peppery yeast. Settles down to a malty nose with orange accents.

Taste - yummy malt base combined with some Christmassy spices and a cool hint of orange or other such citrus. Smooth transition into a mellow hop element. Finishes with a nice non-biting grapefruit sourness. Some increased alcohol presence as it warms, very warming in February...

Mouthfeel - smooth as silk, decent body without overdoing it. Superb balance of weight, feel, carbonation, and residual feeling.

Drinkability - A great beer by Anderson Valley, no surprise there. A pleasure to drink, very enjoyable and re-orderable despite it's nearly 7% abv rating.

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Photo of Zraly
4.52/5  rDev +17.1%
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 ordybill
4.5/5  rDev +16.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured from a 12 oz bottle into a pint glass. The appearance is a clear amber color with a medium sized white head. The aroma is grainy with some malt and spice. The taste is pretty sweet with malt and has a creamy texture with a hint of spices.

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Photo of thebarnesbomb
4.5/5  rDev +16.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Comes in 120z. bottle, poured a 1" slightly brownish head.

A- Head lowers quickly and leaves little lace as it goes down. Has a great color to it, a dark amber with some orange around the edges, a really great looking beer.

S- Aroma is mostly of sweet caramel malt, the sweetness is not overpowering though, just prominent. Some citrus hop scent is there as well, a really good aroma to it.

T- The taste is really exceptional, it's the first '5' I've given in fact. I love the taste of this, a little on the sweet malty side, but that's what I like about it. The hops are there to to add a slight bitterness, so it makes it just right. You'd never guess it was 6.9% abv.

M- The mouthfeel is good too, with a little more carbonation than I would've expected. There is a good thickness to it, not chewy like a stout, but a really great mouthfeel to it.

D- Drinkability is really great. The only reason I wouldn't make it a 5 also is because of the high ABV, but otherwise, I just love this beer and would keep drinking it one after another. It's not really filling, which I find to be a good thing. This is a fantastic beer, people, get it before the season's out!

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Photo of mastodonj
4.5/5  rDev +16.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

a - a dark oak color, the color of iced tea is the best description
....with nice but short-lived lacing and a short finely-bubbled head
s - not a lot of aroma but a nice slightly hoppy smell
t - the malty caramel comes through just enough then the 6.9% ABV bite gets you in the back of the throat
m - excellent creamy feel
d - a great beer for celebrating the solstice but probably not
going to crave more than a couple

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Photo of tapman
4.5/5  rDev +16.6%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Perhaps the best surprise of the winter season 2007.

Appears a dark brown with ruby accents. The color of the beer is dark and there is a degree of unfiltering. The head retention is excellent and pours a 1 1/2 fingers, brown eggshell in color and melts down to a thin film that remains for the duration of the drink. Mouthwateringly beautiful.

Aroma is of chocolate and caramel malts with hints of toffee and brown sugar. The hops are spicy and tangy and are reminiscent of a mixure of different American cascade hybrid hops.

Everything that is in the smell is present in the taste so I don't think I need to write it again. However, also present are notes of licorice, nutmeg, and allspice not found in the nose. Hops are also a bit spicier than in the nose which gives this beer an amber ale character. Also is a bit of astringency in the aftertaste, probably due to high hop resins. Not horrible, but a small price to pay for the high hop and high malt that finds a balance without overpowering each other.

Mouthfel is decent, but there is a sticky dryness in the finish, and not a good, wine-like one. Body is full and the texture is pleasing so I don't mind it too much.

A very delicious and unique beer. Definitely worth a try if your looking for a great winter beer. Not much of a session brew, but what are you going to do.

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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 uspbacchus
4.5/5  rDev +16.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

A - pours a nice dark toffee color. Decent head with a decent retention. Fairly long lacing
S - malty smell with hints of caramel, bread.
T - follows smell, but caramel much more pronounced.
M - appropriate carbonation, appropriate feel.
O - extremely enjoyable beer, always one of my winter favorites

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

There's a sweet smell here. Not malty sweet, but similar to rock candy sweet. Beautiful deep red hue. Very unique beer. Sweet taste. A good sweet taste. I'm likening it to cherry and brown sugar. Maybe a titch of hazelnut. Very super brew.

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

Appearance: Pours a deep amber color.

Overall: This beer is full of toffee, caramel and licorice aroma. Flavor is similar with some molasses, dark fruit, spices, and some vanilla. Medium bodied. Smooth and sweet finish. Great Christmas ale.

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

Pours a translucent ruby/brown color with a great sampling of beigish head.
Smell is well spiced with some toasted qualities, very overwhelming smell spice wise.
Taste is highly complex, we've got the fizzy tastes of spice starts it off and it finishes well with sweet, sweet malts.
Finish is dry but there is so much spice and sweet flavor left over on my palate.
Drinks great with this complex spice flavor that can be tough for some to get through.

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Photo of WoostaBia
4.48/5  rDev +16.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Tasty beer. Smells of ripe red grapes, molasses and toffee. Tastes of sweet malty start with a warm alcoholic burn in the back. Awesome beer, will definitely become a winter staple.

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

Appearance: Pours a clear amber with a fluffy, bubbly beige colored head. Retains less than lustily, with the head giving way to a thin, creamy froth. Laces respectably.

Smell: Sweet-smelling baked malts predominate in the aroma. Pastry-like in the nose. Soft vanilla tones, hints of diacetyl, and sugarplum.

Taste: Deliciously sweet malts and spices. Vanilla, honey, macadamia nut, butterscotch, and buttery malts elegantly mixed. Some tasty fruit flavors as well; plum, or date perhaps.

Mouthfeel: Medium-bodied and creamy, with a gentle tingle. Soft and sumptuous on the palate. Well done.

Drinkability: Highly drinkable. Exceedingly fine flavor, pleasantly warming, and not at all filling. Simply a great beer.

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Photo of RedBaron
4.47/5  rDev +15.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4! This 2002 bottled version was purchased from my local beer shop for $2.19/12oz. bottle. What a find.

The beer poured vigorously with a dense rocky head which faded somewhat, but left a nice dash of Brussel's lace down the side. The color was of an unfiltered, dark orangey variety, and had the unmistakable look of a California craft ale.

The smell was of feverish malt blendings, nice aromatic hops and several spices throughout (banana and licorice, perhaps?).

The taste was of a high concentration of malts and hops, plus the aforementioned spices both up front and in the finish (though the finish parted on the dry-ish side).

The mouthfeel, though full-bodied, isn't too cloying for a winter beer, and really doesn't appear to high in alcohol content, either. Actually it's quite drinkable, although it's still one to savor.

The beers of the west coast, from San Francisco to Seattle, like to emphasize a great blending of malts and yeast (infused with a [email protected] of hops) for their beers, particularly winter beers, but the fact of this beer is that it has mellowed into a nicely quaffable ale. I'm sure that it may have been a bit 'green' when first released, but after a couple of years maturing in the bottle, it has found a stride that I find quite appealing.

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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 RBorsato
4.45/5  rDev +15.3%
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.)

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Photo of guinnessdoc
4.45/5  rDev +15.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

A - Deep brown, slightly darker than iced tea. Beige head of small bubbles. Was 1/2 inch but fell away quickly to ring around glass.

S - Strong malt presence. Definite fruit in there too, but not sure if it's dark fruit like raisins or something citrusy.

T - Sweet malt taste that fades to the slightest bitterness. No hops are really apparent, nor is the alcohol. Almost spicy somehow. By the end I could definitely taste maple syrup!

M - Low carbonation so it was nice and smooth all the way. Finished a little dry.

D - In one word, Awesome. I'm sorry this is only a seasonal because I would drink it any day of the year. It's a great mix of an amber ale and a winter warmer. Easy drinking and thirst quenching.

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Photo of djkman
4.45/5  rDev +15.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.75

Had this beer 2013. Great taste. Drinkable as in you can have more than 1 without getting filled up or booozy.
Then none for 2 years.
Then this year my local total wine in hackensack has it!
bought 2 six packs.
same greate taste. same recipie.
during the holiday season, i enjoy smutty nose winter ale and have had sam adams winter ale on tap.
in my subjective opinion, this beats both.
not having it for 2 years may have something do with it But boy I am enjoying it!

and that's my review.

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Photo of drew37
4.45/5  rDev +15.3%
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.

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Photo of Dewey0603
4.44/5  rDev +15%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

This pours a dark mahogony with a medium tan head. A nice looking beer with the look of a hardy thick warmer. The smell is very strong with sweet malt.carmel, and a chewy nuttiness. The taste is really great with vanilla,carmel, sweet malt, and hops. A really nice mixture that makes the m/f medium,not "sticky', and very well balanced. The flavors of this beer are incredible, good luck finding a winter warmer that tastes as good as this and hides the alcohol. Here's wishing for a long winter.

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Photo of mjc410
4.44/5  rDev +15%
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.

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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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