Winter has arrived….
It’s Sat night, there is a chill in the air, and the rain is mesmerizing me with her gentle patter on the only slightly ajar window, allowing me to breath in the fresh n’ cold outdoors. Indoors, its Channukah. My proud menorah is burning bright alongside my wives colourful Judaica model. We are snug on the sofa keeping warm under a woolen rug, one which we brought back from our recent trip to the highlands, from where the snowy seasonal spirit lingers still warm in our socks.
No doughnuts this evening – we are having ‘sticky toffy pudding’. The scene is set to mimic a M&S Xmas advert, and “Its beginning to look a lot like Christmakah, tra lah lah lah etc.”.
She holds a hot chocolate with a splash of baileys. She turns to me with a warm loving smile, and I do the same…to a limited addition seasonal brew from the talented lads from Jerusalem’s Shapiro Brewery.
Lets start with the label shall we? I have always loved the simplicity of Shapiro’s bottle designs. The Jerusalem lion holding a bottle poised to take a slug – its quite ingenious. This 2015 Jack’s Winter Ale, is much the same but with a dark purple tartan background. For me personally – this is beer labeling at its very utmost appealing.
Thin off white head. Gorgeous dark copper, quite clear, fine reddish tinged hue. The picture brings this out thanks to the burning lights in the background.
Deep Malt and dark earthiness. I wouldn’t say smokey – but there is something there, a spot of caramel. Next to no hop aromas at all (oh no, not this kind of beer) and its certainly not going to do the work for you, so get your nose right in there with small sniffs.
Lest us not easily forget that this beer is designed to rank in at a very high alcohol volume; a staggering 8.2%. The only other beers I have previously drank with such high alcohol, were Belgian Triple’s and the old Scottish ales, and they tend to leave my breath wiffing of a seasoned alcoholic. So my expectation for this Shapira Winter Ale, was that it too would follow these familiar lines. Surprisingly and if I am honest, thankfully too…it did not. The alcohol’s strength was expertly balanced and subtle to taste. Full marks just for that.
The real tastes where all very rich and sweet. Caramel (far more pungent now in the exhale than the pre-taste sniff) and medium to dark roasted malts.These are the 2 dominant flavors from start to finish. The mouth feel is medium bodied and leaves a very satisfying, slightly dry after taste.
As this is not a hoppy or aromatic beer, the burp wont offer much in the way of secondary aroma tastes. However, what it will give you is a deep satisfying release of more sweetness. To be honest, don’t really over try it with this one, leave it for your next Amber ale or something!
So what exactly is a Winter Ale? Well the truth is I am not entirely certain. I know that as the days got shorter, home brewers throughout the ages began making their ales stronger as to make them last for greater periods of time. I have even drank a few but they have significantly varied in tastes, so much so that I wouldn’t want to judge any by such erratic standards with the only common discriminator being the alc volume. So in my book, a winter ale is “The kind of beer I would like to drink on Channukah 2014 when its cold and rainy outside” – (when this definition is stolen by the experts and judges just remember you heard it here first direct from the horses mouth).
And this particular ‘Jack’s Winter Ale’ spectacularly ticks all the right boxes. Strong, mature, balanced and sweet. They haven’t made this to refresh your palate so don’t get ahead of yourselves, they have made this exclusively to fill your tummy and warm the cockles of your heart. And now after 2 bottles, my hearts cockles and my head are absolutely steaming. *HIC*