Powder Hound Winter Ale | Big Sky Brewing Company

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Powder Hound Winter AlePowder Hound Winter Ale

Brewed by:
Big Sky Brewing Company
Montana, United States

Style: Winter Warmer

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 7.20%

Availability: Fall

Notes / Commercial Description:
Two words describe winter in our neck of the woods... cold, dark, and snowy. Just the way we like it! At 7.2% ABV, Powder Hound Winter Ale gives just the right amount of warmth, balanced by its rich taste and generous dose of Hallertau, Palisade, and Amarillo hops. After a cold day of getting it done or just relaxing, the avalanche of flavor will have you saying these four words - "I'll have another Powder Hound"!

Added by BeerAdvocate on 02-13-2002

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Reviews: 257 | Ratings: 527
Photo of CharlesDarwin
3.32/5  rDev -8.3%
look: 4 | smell: 2 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Originally reviewed February 22, 2005. On tap at Old Chicago, Duluth. Slightly murky hazel brown pour with copious off-white head, complemented by thick sheets of lacing. No aroma. Extreme caramel and toasted nut flavors. The malt in this beer is fantastic. Smooth on the palate, with a smack of sweet cinnamon and apple. Extremely drinkable and rich.

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Photo of tangentrider
3.32/5  rDev -8.3%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

A- clear, red/brown beer with red highlights when held to the light; no appreciable head

S- sweet, dried fruit aromas, with very faint spice in the back

T- dried fruit, with grapefruit hoppiness; finish is bitter

MF- medium weight mouthfeel, with a carbonation bite that edges on over carbonation

D- Okay beer; I would drink it if offered, but probably won't buy one.

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Photo of RJLarse
3.32/5  rDev -8.3%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

I grabbed a six-pack of Powder Hound Winter Ale at a grocery to taste and review. I poured this beer in to a pint tumbler.

Pours a redish copper color and is clear. A two-finger head comprised of large bubbles forms, and dissipates rather quickly. Once the head is gone there is very little lacing on the sides of the glass.

It smells like black licorice. There are some fruity fragrances and a bit of a smoky burned aroma.

The taste is pretty good. There is a rich roasted malt backbone, and some smoked fruit flavors, along with a bitter hop finish. The flavors are reasonably well balanced, but perhaps a bit awkward.

Mouthfeel is thin, watery and heavily carbonated.

This is a drinkable beer, but not the best red ale I've had. Still it's one of the better beers I have had from Big Sky. I would have Powder Hound again, especially if it's on sale.

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Photo of Mdog
3.32/5  rDev -8.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.25

Appearance: Amber, good head.

Smell: Oxidized, over ripe fruits, prune?

Taste: An unusual mix of fruit, toffee, and earthy flavors. Kind of muddled.

Overall: Received a few bottles as a gift. I think they may be a little old but reviewed anyway. This beer reminded me why I usually avoid "amber ales" and "winter ales" unless they are highly recommended. An uninspiring mix of fruit and toffee flavors, at least it didn't have metallic hop flavors like my least favorite red/amber ales.

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Photo of frank4sail
3.3/5  rDev -8.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

Caramel malt nose that smells rich. Brownish rust color with some hazyness. 1/2 inch tan head that is quite rich and creamy. Medium smooth mouth with a slightly watery feel to the finish. The taste is quite bitter with hints of grapefruit and gin. The bitterness is not balenced enough on the malt side of the brew. The taste lacks sweetness and the feel lacks body. Interesting in it's bitterness but not a beer with much drinkability.
Cheers to budgood for the sample!

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Photo of happygnome
3.3/5  rDev -8.8%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

a: pours a clear brown color with red hues noticeable produces a half inch of head that does dissapears fairlt quickly leacing a decent amount of lacing in the glass
s: deffinatly dominted by the malts, but im not surprised, cherry aroma detectable, bready malts though dominate aroma
f: sweet malts that are nicely toasted, cherry flavor is detectable, cherry flavor still noticeable, could use more hop bitterness
m: light to medium bodied beer with a good amount of carbonation

overall, this isnt that bad of a brew but it could use more hops

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Photo of tectactoe
3.29/5  rDev -9.1%
look: 3 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.25

Pours a super-hazy, golden-orange color, some brighter yellow tips around the edges. Packed with lots of tiny pieces of sediment that float around the beer. Creamy, beige-colored head settles fast and doesn't leave much lacing. Aroma was full of malts, up and down, toasted caramels, mild spices, a deep, sweet, musty earthiness to it as well. Some sweeter fruits sit in the background, like dates and prunes. Hops? Basically nowhere to be found on the nose. Taste is even more jam-packed with caramel malts and spices, giving it a slight warming feeling. Alcohol comes through, but doesn't really hinder. Sweet, sharp fruitiness comes through; prunes, grapes, almost wine-like as it meshes with the mild alcohol character. Some more spices come through as the beer warms, but I really can't put my finger on what they might be. Earthy tones and deep, sweet esters come through - this beer is almost a little too malty and sweet. The hops are still mostly absent. Slight nuttiness along with some grains in the aftertaste, but still pulling heavy on the sweet caramel malts and deep fruitiness. Medium body, medium carbonation.

Eh, I wasn't really feeling this one. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't very good, either. A little to unbalanced with the malt in my opinion, and the sweetness just wasn't controlled or able to stand all on its own. Decent, but certainly nothing special.

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Photo of TMoney2591
3.29/5  rDev -9.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.25

Served in a willibecher at Firkin.

Do they have skiing teams in the Big sky conference? Regardless, this stuff pours a clear amber topped by a finger-and-a-half of cream-white foam. The nose comprises very light grapefruit peel, mixed greens, light honey-dripped biscuit, and very light toffee. The taste brings in more of the same, along with more greens, a touch more sweetness for the honey and biscuit, and an added hint of grass. The body is a light medium, with a light moderate carbonation and a sorta/kinda drying finish. Overall, an alright, if thoroughly nondescript, little beer.

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Photo of BrewAskew
3.26/5  rDev -9.9%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.25

Pours to a rocky head that lasts and laces. Light copper. Aroma is spicy hops and pale sugary malt. Flavor is more of the same but you would not know it has over 7% alcohol. Mouthfeel is light-medium. Not a bad brew, just not particularly exciting and not what i think of as a winter warmer.

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Photo of beerguy101
3.26/5  rDev -9.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Medium brown color, medium head. A medium bodied brown/amber ale, spiced with nutmeg and cinnamon. Slightly sweet malts, slight orange taste. Good flavor. Mouthfeel is full and round. Finish is smooth. Aftertaste is slightly bitter. Nice warming beer.

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Photo of Murchmac
3.25/5  rDev -10.2%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Where did you come from? Kiss me

the best thing about this beer is its taste and mouthfeel.

Reddish amber color

Alcohol malt smell. Tastes like a light brandy with hops and more malts less alcohol taste.

I like this beer but it's still average compared to other holiday beers. Good beer to drink if David Byrne is attacking you.

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Photo of beertunes
3.25/5  rDev -10.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Served in Imperial pint. Poured a nice medium brown with a tall, fluffy, off-white head that had very good retention and lacing. The aroma was mostly sweet malts, some caramel notes, with a trace of hops.

The taste was also mostly sweet malt, with a bit of hops and spice. The body was typical, perhaps a bit on the thin side. Drinkability was good, but with the beer being so average, I can't see having more than one.

Overall, this is a decent little beer, worth a shot if you see it.

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Photo of HiroProtagonist
3.24/5  rDev -10.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Powder Hound was served from a 12 oz bottle. In a Duvel tulip, the beer was a very attractive deep ruby-orange, and was topped by an off-white head that left very nice and ornate lacing. The underpowering nose was sweet with a delicate strawberry maltiness and a subtle citric hoppiness. The taste was also rather bland for a winter beer. The malt character was quite mild and not as sweet as the nose suggested, with no roastiness to be found. Instead, a Belgian strong ale-like focused strawberry essence presided, and held up throughout the mild bitter finish. I am reminded somewhat of a wimpy version of the Victory Grand Cru. My conclusion is that this beer is an experimental variant of the Belgian pale strong style (though there was no spice), perhaps an attempt to blend this style with another, altough with what I don't know...maybe with an amber/red ale as the style designation suggests, or an English pale ale. The result is not very inspiring, but isn't bad, just bland. The body of the beer is decent, though carbonation seemed fizzle out to quickly. An interesting beer, but fails to make a splash.

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Photo of marc77
3.23/5  rDev -10.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

Ruddy bister hue, topped by a beige head that recedes into a lean, but steadfast layer. Frothy, loose lace remains. The aroma is a combination of mellow cocoa and tepid, slightly tart lemon like citrus. Floral hints arise as it breathes, but as a whole the aroma is understated and functional at best. The flavor is a facsimile of the nose. Mild cocoa and citrus are prevalent, although an undertone of caramel sweetened, dark biscuit adds depth. Hop bitterness is paltry and leaves ample, but inobtrusive residual sweetness. Virtually bereft of esters, save a trace figgish complement. Lightly bodied and conducive to easy quaffing. Needs more dextrins to bolster the malt backbone. Finishes squeaky clean, with only a ghostly hint of roasted barley. An innocuous, well crafted, albeit unimaginative brew. Excellent drinkability, limited savorability.

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Photo of CWiggins
3.22/5  rDev -11%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Thanks to Jeremy for this beer. I probably would have never heard of it had he not been so generous.

What should one expect when the words "winter ale" appear on a bottle? I have high expectations for any beer displaying those words, and when the brew turns out to be a hoppier or slightly stronger ale than regular beers by that brewer I am usually very disappointed. I sorely desire those words to mean something–specifically, I want those words to imply a spiced ale in the grand tradition of the winter warmer. But almost anything is possible with "winter" ales, and I found my desires once again thwarted by an otherwise decent ale.

This one pours a dark red/amber, and the dark tan head that forms quickly dissipates almost as fast. It emits a musky smell reminiscent of the woods on a cold autumn morning, with aromas of biscuit-like malts, Granny Smith apples, chestnuts, cotton candy, and cherry pie. The flavor isn't nearly as expressive: there is a mild malt body accented by hops at the finish. The hue of mildly roasted malts and sweet fruit is followed by an oatmeal-like aftertaste accompanied by that familiar hoppy bitterness. The bready aftertaste lingers for a pleasant amount of time.

I have to admit amber/red ales aren't my forte. In fact, I usually avoid them like the plague! Big Sky's Powder Hound Winter Ale is pleasant to drink and contains a breadth of interesting flavors, even if it doesn't meet my silly expectations.

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Photo of tempest
3.21/5  rDev -11.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Poured from a firkin at Groveland Tap.

Came with a bit of head and lacing from the firkin, but I couldn't pull must aroma or flavor out of it, even as it warmed. Maybe some beers just aren't made to go on cask. I just got a little cocoa malt with decent hops bitterness. Felt nice and easy to drink, but I wasn't particularly inspired to drink more.

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Photo of ThreeWiseMen
3.21/5  rDev -11.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

Appearance: Rich amber in color. Clear, with nice 1 finger head and sticky lace. Looks like a pretty good amber.

Smell: Roasted malts, brown sugar, maybe a little alcohol

Taste: Definitely taste the malts. Strong bread flavor (gingerbread maybe?). This reminds me a lot of 2 Below. Aftertaste was mildly bitter/hoppy.

Mouthfeel: watery with mild carbonation = dissapointing

Drinkability: meh... I guess I'd drink it, but there's so many other better winter beers out there. Then again, I guess this is an amber. For an amber, it's alright.

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Photo of magictrokini
3.2/5  rDev -11.6%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Clear brown pour with no head. Caramel-sweet aroma makes you think this is going to be sticky sweet. The malt and hop profiles, however balance this one out into a very smooth, slightly spicy beer. Only problem was that I expected more from a winter beer, either in the alcohol content or overall flavor. Kind of weak in both areas, but still an enjoyable brew.

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Photo of Westsidethreat
3.2/5  rDev -11.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

A: Dark cider with some haze thru it. Head started off nice but fell quick leaving strays across the top and a decent light beige ring around the glass.

S: Strawberry, caramel, cooked carrots, a bit grassy and some brown sugar.

T: Begins fruity (boysenberry, dull cherry and yellow apple) mixed with earthy hops. Dingy caramel moves forward with spicy hops across the tip of the tongue. Finishes with lingery red fruit and flat bitterness.

M: Medium body but thin and watery.

D: Eh. I like where they are going but the execution isn't stellar. Not huge into the "earthy" flavors as well.

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Photo of ReebShorts
3.2/5  rDev -11.6%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Poured into a chalice, just because I love drinking from it. Somewhat aggresive on the last half of the pour and still only managed a thin head which faded quickly, leaving some central bubbles behind and lacing around the rim.

A bit redder in color than other winter ales I've been sampling, kinda of a carmel brown/red.

Aroma is malty, and maybe some dark fruit, like plum.

Ok, taste is malty, and sweetened possibly by honey. Finish is dry. Not a bad sipper, but nothing really "wow's" me here. Pretty average.

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Photo of brewbattles
3.2/5  rDev -11.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

We did a blind taste test between this and 4 other Winter Seasonals to objectively determine which one was best. They beers were: Deschutes Jubelale, Anderson Valley Boont Winter Solstice, Big Sky Powder Hound, Alaskan Winter Ale, and Redhook Winterhook. Check it out:


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Photo of CaptainIPA
3.18/5  rDev -12.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

A: Dark copper in color with burgundy flaring around the edges and amazing clarity. An aggressive pour yields an impressive, two-finger, cream-colored head with fair retention and moderate lacing.

S: Citrus hops and caramel malt with suggestions of brown sugar.

T: After strong marks for both appearance and aroma, things begin sliding to the middle of the road. Taste opens trending sweet, with roasted malt notes and touches of caramel. A mild hop bitterness rounds out the middle and brings it on home. Finishes astringently dry. Not much else happening here.

M: Relatively thin bodied, yet slick on the palate and chewy in the mouth.

D: As a Winter Ale, Powder Hound needs to be taught a few new tricks. Just not inspiring enough to warrant session drinking.

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Photo of Oxymoron
3.18/5  rDev -12.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

I tried this beer last year, but never rated. Luckily its back again so here goes, the pour is a dark red color with brown hues and good clarity. A nice tan colored head that quickly dissipates and not much lacing after some time.

Overall the aroma is rather light. The nose is malty with some tropical fruit and fig aromas. A bready and somewhat grainy essence. There are some hop esters with a grassy feel to it.

The taste is sweeter then expected with a basic sweet pale malt taste and honey flavor in the background. Some fruity notes continue with some hints of plums and raisins coming out. Light caramel touches at the end and herbal hop presence as well.

The body has a mid to light feel that has a not quite dry finish to it. There is also a light chalky finish which is a deterrent. Carbonation is good though. Overall its a good beer with room to improve.

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Photo of alexgash
3.18/5  rDev -12.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Chestnut amber with a light tan head. Smells of butterscotch cookie dough with a dash of vanilla and Christmas wreath. Shortbread cookie flavors up front, along with butterscotch, and sweet vanilla. Hops enter, resinous, but mostly astringent and raw. Bittersweet finish. Medium-bodied, with a soapy feel. Not as good as I had hoped.

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Photo of Mebuzzard
3.15/5  rDev -13%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

A glossy brown pour, nice fluffy head that settled to a soapy layer. A bit sticky on the glass.
Malt is first with the nose. A sticky sweetness, some soft fruit and cranberry. Musky a bit, too. Hops seem to keep it dry.
Sweet malt in the mouth, mixed with figs and cranberry. Subtle hints of dark fruits like plum, maybe some banana, but very little.
Notice of a slight crisp aftertaste, malt lingers a bit.

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Powder Hound Winter Ale from Big Sky Brewing Company
3.62 out of 5 based on 527 ratings.
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