Fremont Winter Ale
Product description: This is a tasty Winter Ale to snuggle up to, released for the winter months when snow blankets the terrain of the mind and the body craves warmth and, let’s be honest, it’s dark and wet most of the time so your beer better be damn good. Winter Ale is dark like the weather with roast chocolate and warm malt flavors balanced by Noble hop aroma and subtle hoppy spice. Warm up to it. Because Beer Matters!
Fremont Brewing – Fremont Winter Ale – 12 oz. can poured into specialty glassware – 8.0% abv.
Fremont makes some of the best beers I’ve ever had, but I have barely scratched the surface of their regular and seasonal lineup. Sampled from a 1-month-old, 12oz can, Fremont’s Winter Ale (well, read lower on the can it says Imperial Winter Ale) is a deep brown color with maroon highlights. Pouring into the glass, it generates perfect mousse-like, tan foam that sticks around for a couple of minutes. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but after staring at Bell’s Winter White Ale in my fridge for the past few weeks, I have the unfortunate subliminal expectation that a winter ale with an all white and blue label design is going to be a witbier. Ridiculous. Damn you Bell’s.
Thankfully, Fremont’s take on a Winter Ale is the polar opposite – no pun intended. This beer is essentially a robust porter or stout with a major focus on roasted barley and dark malts (Carafa type 2 roasted malt and chocolate malt) all set in a creamy, smooth vehicle. The ABV is a shocking 8%, which is not apparent thanks to a hefty body and plenty of bittering Columbus hops that push this to 60 IBUs – not something you might expect in a winter ale.
The aroma is really the only thing I could possibly describe as wintery with just the slightest hint of star anise and maybe allspice peppercorns. But it could all be the power of suggestion as I still think dark chocolate ganache and high-quality espresso dominate. It’s an amazing nose for sure.
There’s a savory quality to this beer where salt, baker’s chocolate, espresso, and cocoa nibs are closer taste adjectives than what you might expect from traditional winter ales where you get dark fruits (black cherry, prunes, dates), cinnamon and other phenolic spices, yeast esters, and a brown sugar heavy body. That type of beer is really not of interest to me these days, so I’m a big fan of what Fremont has done for this seasonal.
Overall, this is a phenomenal beer that would make for a perfect porter or stout. The 8% is higher than it lets on when you’re enjoying it, which is fantastic. That may push it into imperial porter/stout territory. Still, Fremont’s attention to detail and brewing talent show in all aspects of this beer. It’s perfect in my opinion. Though your casual beer shopper may be in for quite the surprise when a strong porter comes out of that can.