Alaskan Winter Ale | Alaskan Brewing Co.

361 Reviews
Alaskan Winter AleAlaskan Winter Ale

Brewed by:
Alaskan Brewing Co.
Alaska, United States

Style: Old Ale

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 6.40%

Availability: Winter

Notes / Commercial Description:
Brewed in the style of an English Olde Ale, this ale balances the sweet heady aroma of spruce tips with the clean crisp finish of noble hops. Its malty richness is complemented by the warming sensation of alcohol.

Added by BeerAdvocate on 11-03-2001

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Reviews: 361 | Ratings: 835
Photo of robmorris31
5/5  rDev +37%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

BLUF: It's like drinking Christmas!

The absolute and I say again the ABSOLUTE BEST regionally distributed WINTER ALE on the market period

from the Alaskan Brewing Company:

English Olde Ale. Traditionally malty with the warming sensation of alcohol, Olde Ales are brewed in the fall as winter warmers.

Brewed in the style of an English Olde Ale, this ale balances the sweet heady aroma of spruce tips with the clean crisp finish of noble hops. Its malty richness is complemented by the warming sensation of alcohol.

From the seafaring adventurers of the 1700s to the homebrewers of today, adding spruce tips to beer has a rich history in Southeast Alaska. Alaskan Winter Ale was first released by the Brewery in 2000.

Alaskan Winter is made from glacier-fed water, Sitka spruce tips and a generous blend of the finest quality European and Pacific Northwest hop varieties and specialty malts. Our water originates in the 1,500-square-mile Juneau Ice Field and from the more than 90 inches of rainfall we receive each year.

Perfect winter warmer by the fireside or an accompaniment to holiday fare. Serve with roast goose, turkey, ham or lamb. A nice complement to holiday breads, pound cake, or apple pie.

Throughout Southeast Alaska, bald eagles can be spotted landing atop the towering old growth forests of Sitka spruce trees. As many as 3,000 bald eagles congregate among these evergreen trees on the shores of the Chilkat River for the last large run of salmon before winter. Sitka spruce trees carry a significance of their own to local Alaskans. The tender new growth of the spruce tips lends a delicious, yet subtly sweet floral aroma to teas, jelly and now our Alaskan Winter Ale.

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Photo of Mike22
4.92/5  rDev +34.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

The color is a bright copper
Smell is caramel with hints of evergreen.
Taste is malty, medium roasted hops with a sweet caramel finish
Mouthfeel seems to be better as the beer warms up, in fact the beer does better the warmer it is, maybe due to the fact it is an English style Ale.

Overall this is one of my favorite easy to get, not over priced brews.

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Photo of bobsy
4.7/5  rDev +28.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Picked up a bottle from Whole Foods in San Fransisco.

Poured a shiny copper, with a decent-sized frothy white head, which does diminish a fair bit, settling to maybe 4 or 5 millimetres, while providing some nice lacing. The aroma is sweet and piney, with the spruce tips used in the brew evident, but not overpowering. The first taste I get is full of caramel, but the spruce comes through pleasingly in the middle, and the hops provide a nice bitterness at the sides of the tongue. There is also a strong berry flavour to this brew, as well as a sweet spicy warmth. I'm actually finding it hard to fault the flavour because I like the spruce addition and the freshness it brings to the sweet backbone. The mouthfeel is smooth, helping to make this an easy drinker.

I really dig the spruce flavours and they combine well with the sweet malts to provide a nicely balanced winter warmer that reminds me of a nice Christmas treat. I could definitely take down another of these!

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Photo of Vashtar
4.65/5  rDev +27.4%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Chris_Cali_2o9 nailed it in his review.

It has a nice head with acceptional lacing.

The berry taste is definite, but doesn't become monotonous. It isn't a typical winter beer, but it's one of my favorites.

The mouthfeel is like laying down a heavy grocery sack that you haven't been carrying for more than a few seconds.

The smell could be a wonderful air freshener, but better.

I would definitely like a six pack. I just wish the labeling were more appealing so that more people might discover it.

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Photo of detgfrsh
4.64/5  rDev +27.1%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

Marked best by 4/4/16. Pours a transparent amber with a big two finger head. Smells of malt and spruce. Light mouthfeel with a rich malt, hop, and spruce flavor. One of my all-time favorites. I love the spruce tips in this one and have only tasted one or two other beers that are even remotely like it.

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Photo of Psilo707
4.62/5  rDev +26.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

I love most Alaskan Ambers and was very happy to try this one finally. If it has been out before I dont believe I have ever seen it.

A: Very light golden/amber color, head dissipates quickly but leaves nice trail of good looking lacing.

S: Smells fruity and inviting, a soft aroma of berries wafts from the top of the glass into your nose in a unique way.

T: WOW! Delicious the ENTIRE way through, from the first sip to the aftertaste. And especially the aftertaste! A nice malty flavor with some blueberry and even boysenberry reminiscence. This is awesome!

M: Decent, 4.0, nothing to write home about but better than most.

D: I could down these all night. Great stuff.

Overall, my favorite Alaskan Amber and one of my newest favorite beers... ever.

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Photo of Sorcerer
4.6/5  rDev +26%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

A six pack from a fresh shipment, 11-2010.

Bottle label doesn't have a yellow frame anymore.

Poured into pint glass.

1/2 inch head bubbles into nothing in less than 5 seconds. Clear dark honey.

Smells like a cold Christmas Day. I smell the tree and some wet wool. A trace of something sweet in the oven and a hint of toast.

Carbonation is in middle of the range, and pleasing. Maltiness prevails with doughy flavor up front. Bitterness is milder than APA's with the Spruce seemingly holding its own against a decent fresh blonde hoppy veneer. Becomes sweet on the tongue after swallowing, and leaves a great sweet blueberry-pine flavor lingering for a long time after the bottle is finished.

Easy to drink. Not sure about the after-effects of a session, as I've only had 2 at a time. I am skeptical of spiced beers. This one, if it is spiced (not sure, but likely), is not over the top.

Obviously I like this beer. Usually I drink IPA's and Munich style Hefeweisen.

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Photo of Givekidsmeth
4.58/5  rDev +25.5%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Bought this after checking out the BA reviews, and they're pretty spot on. My girlfriend hates beer, and this one is something she actually loved. Excellent beer for someone who says they dislike beer because of bitterness.

Appearance - Poured into a tall beer glass. Light carbonation, two finger head, color of perfect caramel. This stuff just looks delicious.

Smell - Bread, light spice, dried fruits, malts. inviting and warm, the only reason I'm knocking a half point off for is that I'm not getting the spruce tips. But that's not to say it was in the least bit disappointing.

Taste - Again, the spruce tips don't come through, but everything else just shines more than enough to carry the weight. There's bread, light spice, that sweet, dried fruit flavor is up front and center. The tastes linger in a sweet, warm way across your tongue, and it just entices you into taking another sip.

Mouthfeel - creamy and delightful. Easy to drink, the carbonation is careful and spot perfect. Not dry, a very "wet" beer.

Overall, I'm not disappointed that the spruce tips didn't come through. The malty, bready, fruity aspects of this beer make it the best winter warmer I've found at my local grocer yet. It's not complex, but that just lends to its charm. It's honest, simple, affordable, and just mixes well with winter in a way few beers can.

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Photo of warriorsoul
4.57/5  rDev +25.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A huge thanks to beernut7 for this bottle...
Pours a clear bronze color w/ a full finger and a half or tan head w/ a gentle pour...lacing is tight and goes nowhere.
Aroma packed w/ vanilla, caramel, sweet malt and a definite spice to it...says its brewed w/ spruce tips...smells simply fantastic.
The taste is one juicy-fruit of a brew...served damn near room temperature and this one has such an incredible flavor. A nice addition of hops, but by no means bitter.
Mouthfeel is a bit thicker than average...drinkability is quite high, in doesn't really quench the thirst, it pulls you in to drink more and more. Alcohol is real well hidden to the very last sip.
By far, the best winter I have experienced and I would really enjoy this one during the winter anyone?

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Photo of tjd112
4.56/5  rDev +24.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Presentation - Poured into Flying Fish pint glass

Appearance - Yellow-ish brown with a fast receding half finger head, but with good white lacing

Smell - Very fruity, like your average run of the mill pale ale

Taste - Fruity with spiciness and true to the label, spruce, as well as a hint of booziness

Mouthfeel - Medium bodied with a dry finish

Drinkability - Very much so, somewhat sessionable

Overall - A very unique twist on beer

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Photo of Kuaff
4.51/5  rDev +23.6%

Approximately cellar temperature, assuredly in my snifter.

Well the head is sorta nothin' and disappears to nearly nothin'. The color is pretty, however. A radiant, rich golden amber.

Smells pleasantly of honey, marmalade, white bread, cloves, and ginger. Also a tinge of cinnamon and some sweet, fruity citrus.

The flavor again hits with the honey and marmalade, transitioning oh so nicely into this blend of kinda tangy orange, sweet and yeasty bread, and lightly bitter hops. The finish gets a little astringent and resiny and is where I feel the spruce tips might be making their mark. Well-put-together!

Its feel is hangin' out in the medium to full zone, which works well here.

Very nice. While I wasn't sure at first, I also pick up on tartness that really reminds me of wild Alaskan blueberries (which I'm very familiar with) in both aroma and taste. I don't don't know where it's coming from, but I like it. Overall, this is an ale that doesn't overpower in any area, but is balanced and integrated as well as unique. Subtlety is key, using only the tips, and not the whole tree!

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Photo of elNopalero
4.48/5  rDev +22.7%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Alaskan winter ale, brewed with spruce tips—not sure if this is in place of or to supplement the hops, or even how much of a presence they actually have. But, the power of suggestion is a strong thing indeed.

This looks fantastic, a glowing amber with a toasted white cotton puff atop it. Thick & cloudy like the SF fog. The bouquet is pleasantly piney, like an evergreen or pine forest, backed by an orange marmalade note. Flavor has a mild bitterness, and there’s some definite pine notes, and a sweetish caramel malt finish. Smooth and enjoyable.

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Photo of lhaqq
4.47/5  rDev +22.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A: Not sure what the quintessential winter warmer is supposed to look like. But this is a clear light copper with big bubbles and little white head that dissipates quickly.
S: Yeast is the first thing that catches my nose. Followed by oranges, bitter green apples, and some sweet oats at the end.
T: The taste takes mainly any sweetness from the smell. Some sweet oat flavor mixed with a pretty generous dose of nuttiness.
M: Pretty light to drink yet leaves a chewy aftertaste for awhile.
D: Picked up a six-pack right as the season was ending. I think this is probably my new favorite winter warmer.

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Photo of MadeInOregon
4.44/5  rDev +21.6%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 3 | overall: 5

This is a very good beer but it doesn't taste like spruce at all.

Poured out, it looks like a pale ale with its bronze/red body and thin white/tan head.

It smells, however, more like an amber with some faint fruit and alcohol smells.

The taste is great although confusing since I purchased the 22 ouncer on the premise that it was made with spruce tips--as indicated on the label--and instead found it to taste like a fruit beer! Blackberry, to be precise (or perhaps dark cherry). There is a little milk chocolate flavor that is present as well but other than that Alaskan's Winter Ale tastes like a nice ale made with fruit.

There is a little warming from the alcohol so I guess it has that aspect of "winter warmer" correct. But then again, it doesn't claim to be a warmer--that's what yall have it categorized as. This is clearly a...well...I dunno what this beer should be categorized as. It's not dark or hoppy like most winter warmers, but it does have some of the roasty qualities. I dunno. This beer is confused and so am I. All I know is that it tastes great, just don't try it thinking you're getting a warmer or something sprucey. Bottoms up!

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Photo of BeerResearcher
4.42/5  rDev +21.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

While some of us East-Coasters were working the EBF in Boston, good buddy Genaro was out on the west coast of Oregon gathering a nice selection of brews to send back east.
This one poured a deep amber with a thin white head and lots of lacing.
A sweet malt aroma dominates at first sniff; citrusy hops follow, as does a light piney smell (real or imagined?) Tastes of caramel apples, doughy malt and a hint of pears are upfront. A mild citrusy hop and just a touch of piney esters are noticed. Smooth...real smooth...almost buttery! The 6.4%abv is well hidden, until, of course, it is gone.

Edit 2004 _ It seems to have a bit more of a piney taste this year.(for the better) This is an impressive Winter-style brew!

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Photo of RootedFool
4.42/5  rDev +21.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Poured from a twelve ounce bottle straight down into a Duvel goblet. The head resembles thick cream of wheat, bright white, and is leaving some thick curtains of lace on the glass. The body is dark copper to light amber, depending on what light is behind it.

Smell: a golden raisin infused caramel grassiness, if you can get your head around that. Earthy, and sweet, but mostly sweet.

Taste: upfront sugar cane bite, followed by a puckering bitterness straight down the middle of my palate, closing on a dim earthy bitterness (the spruce tips?) that buzzes along the tip of my tongue.

The finish is also very dry, clean.

Mouthfeel isn't thick, isn't thin, and doesn't stick -- nice weight and balance. In the middle.

I love the unique malt flavor of this beer, kicked up the spruce tips or whatever -- spicy and full and bright. Festive.

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Photo of Zorro
4.41/5  rDev +20.8%
look: 3 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

In the glass this is a clear copper colored ale with a momentary tan colored head that falls quickly.

Smell is sweet and quite strong; this is a very scent blessed ale. Sweet caramel and vanilla aromas mix with the pleasant scent of spruce tips.

The aroma of Spruce tips is more pleasant than you would think if you have never smelled it. Very much more sweet flowers and floral than "Pine-Sol." The scent is best described as limes plus honeysuckle with just a bare hint of pine. Pleasantly spicy I think I can smell a bit of cinnamon in this.

Taste is semi dry and very fruity and spicy in the mouth at the beginning. Flavors of caramel and lime mix with oak and caramel in the mouth. There is a hard to peg fruit flavor here that can only come from the spruce tips. Without knowing about the secret ingredient I would have guessed flowers added possibly chrysanthemum tea or lavender. There is a solid bitterness in this and a woody finish to it, a gift to those who don't really like syrupy ales.

Mouthfeel is very good.

A DAMN tasty ale that is all I really need to say about this, GO and buy some NOW!

On second thought...This is absolute swill! DON'T BUY IT!

I will...."Dispose" of it for you!

Sneak.... Sneak...Sneak ALL MINE!!!!


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Photo of likestoswallow
4.4/5  rDev +20.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

12 oz bottle from Vons. Winter 2007 release. Poured a rich copper color with an off white head that faded to 1/8 inch. Aroma was light with sweet malts, red fruits and almonds. The flavor was rich with malts and a large dosing of cherries and raspberries. Mouthfeel was very full, creamy and heavy. This is a beer you can almost chew. The finish fell short and showed just a trace of piney hops and some alcohol, but thankfully their was no lingering sweetness (which I had anticipated by this point). Overall: this is a most pleasantly original brew--my congrats to Alaskan. Recommended.

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Photo of ZAP
4.4/5  rDev +20.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

an excellent beer, but don't expect a thick rich brew...this is clean crisp malty/sweet ale with a very unique flavor due to the spruce tips (I'm guessing) The spruce tips do not overwhelm but blend perfectly into this beer and add a touch you don't find elsewhere. I love a good strong old ale, but this is outstanding in its own way.

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Photo of TomH57
4.4/5  rDev +20.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.25

I poured some of this amber medium-bodied old ale from a 12 oz bottle into a small sampling glass. The head was off-white and dissipated quickly. The beer itself has a distinct sweet taste, which I suspect may be from the spruce tips. Its smell was a sweet smell infused with hops.
Overall, Alaskan Brewing Co's Winter Ale definitely made me feel as if I was in Alaska. Visiting Alaska is now on my bucket-list (along with a tour of Alaskan Brewing Co). This beer's peculiar sweetness is its strongest feature. It was well worth buying and I will definitely buy it again.

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Photo of IntriqKen
4.38/5  rDev +20%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2005 Vintage
Ah...winter time and the selection of brews is incredible.
This pours a pale golden amber with a small head that quickly dissapates. Little to no lacing remaining as it drains from the glass.
Aroma is slightly fruity...slightly spicy.
Taste is pleasant and clean.
Light carbonation...mild alcohol warming on the back of the tongue.
Tastes of light fruit...light malts...light hops, and yes, really, faintly pine earthiness.
Mouthfeel is nice...not heavy, but not too thin either.
Clean aftertaste.
Overall, well balanced.
A very drinkable session brew for a winters afternoon.
2006 Vintage
More of the same...
Exactly the same.
Still one of the best.

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Photo of gbontrag
4.37/5  rDev +19.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

pours a clear burnt copper. A thin head rises with a swirl. Smells like apple scented caramel. Alcohol carries a vanilla quality.
Taste a touch of smoke first then darkened walnuts, burnt sugar. A medium body, and drying mouthfeel. An alcohol bite leads into the drier mouthfeel. There's nice fresh apple ester. This is surprisingly dry considering the richness of the malt; the dryness is in contrast to the caramel. There's woody quality to this: I feel like I'm sitting in front of a fireplace. I also feel like pouring a scotch, interesting. This is fantastic. The sour hops/spruce are a nice accent. Super drinkable.

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Photo of UCLABrewN84
4.36/5  rDev +19.5%
look: 3 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Best by 3/26/12.

Pours a clear honey orange with a 1 inch puffy orange-white head that settle to a film on the top of the beer. Small dots of lace drip down into the remaining beer on the drink down. Smell is of sweet malt, malt powder, caramel, toffee, and a distinct banana aroma. Taste is of sweet malt, caramel, toffee, banana, and a certain herbal quality that I will attribute to the spruce tips used in the brewing of this beer. The aftertaste is slightly bitter and has a toasty quality. This beer has a nice level of carbonation with a crisp and slightly sticky mouthfeel. Overall, this is a very good beer that I enjoyed quite a lot. I had this one before and I don't remember liking it all that much. I am glad I picked up another bottle to revisit.

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Photo of drpimento
4.34/5  rDev +18.9%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Wow, I really like this brew! Poured it a bit warm and I think that was a good idea as the spruce tips really come out, giving a sweet, ripe berry component. Poured with a smallish, cream-colored head that soon settled out to a few islands and a ring with a bit of lace. Color is a medium clear amber with huge amounts of bubble trails. Aroma is malt, caramel, toffee, fruit, wet grain. Flavor's like nose, on the sweet side, but not overly; sweet and carbonic tang are in front with just enough bitter to balance it all nicely. Body and carbonation are perfect. Finish is like flavor, lingers for a while, has a slight booziness, and is so drinkable. Curious to see if it's this good a little colder.

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Photo of mnapier
4.33/5  rDev +18.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A wonderful trace of caramel malts, and spruce tips, with a nice hoppy edge. As the beer gets warmer from room temperature the evidence of the 3 malts come out of the beer with the aftertaste influence with hop goodness. Not a beer to drink all the time, but does go really well with the turkey sandwich I had.
Overall a beer that I definitely look forward to every year until they stop crafting it or the taste no longer impresses my taste buds.

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Alaskan Winter Ale from Alaskan Brewing Co.
3.65 out of 5 based on 835 ratings.
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