Style Details

Win­ter Sea­so­nal Beer
Spi­ced Beer
BJCP Style Code
30 C
Gene­ral­ly medi­um amber to very dark brown (dar­ker ver­si­ons are more com­mon). Usual­ly clear, alt­hough dar­ker ver­si­ons may be vir­tual­ly opaque. Some chill haze is accep­ta­ble. Gene­ral­ly has a well-for­med head that is often off-white to tan.
A wide ran­ge of aro­ma­tics is pos­si­ble, alt­hough many examp­les are remi­nis­cent of Christ­mas coo­kies, gin­ger­b­read, Eng­lish-type Christ­mas pud­ding, ever­green trees, or mul­ling spi­ces. Any com­bi­na­ti­on of aro­ma­tics that sug­gests the holi­day sea­son is wel­co­me. The base beer style often has a mal­ty pro­fi­le that sup­ports the balan­ced pre­sen­ta­ti­on of the aro­ma­tics from spi­ces and pos­si­bly other spe­cial ingre­di­ents. Addi­tio­nal fer­men­ta­bles (e.g., honey, molas­ses, map­le syrup, etc.) may lend their own uni­que aro­ma­tics. Hop aro­ma­tics are often absent, sub­dued, or slight­ly spi­cy. Some fruit cha­rac­ter (often of dried citrus peel, or dried fruit such as rai­sins or plums) is optio­nal but accep­ta­ble. Alco­hol aro­ma­tics may be found in some examp­les, but this cha­rac­ter should be res­trai­ned. The over­all aro­ma should be balan­ced and har­mo­nious, and is often fair­ly com­plex and inviting.
Many inter­pre­ta­ti­ons are pos­si­ble; allow for bre­wer crea­ti­vi­ty as long as the resul­ting pro­duct is balan­ced and pro­vi­des some spi­ce pre­sen­ta­ti­on. Spi­ces asso­cia­ted with the holi­day sea­son are typi­cal (as men­tio­ned in the Aro­ma sec­tion). The spi­ces and optio­nal fer­men­ta­bles should be sup­port­i­ve and blend well with the base beer style. Rich, mal­ty and/or sweet malt-based fla­vors are com­mon, and may include cara­mel, toast, nut­ty, or cho­co­la­te fla­vors. May include some dried fruit or dried fruit peel fla­vors such as rai­sin, plum, fig, oran­ge peel or lemon peel. May include distinc­ti­ve fla­vors from spe­ci­fic fer­men­ta­bles (molas­ses, honey, brown sugar, etc.), alt­hough the­se ele­ments are not requi­red. A light ever­green tree cha­rac­ter is optio­nal but found in some examp­les. The wide ran­ge of spe­cial ingre­di­ents should be sup­port­i­ve and balan­ced, not so pro­mi­nent as to overs­ha­dow the base beer. Bit­ter­ness and hop fla­vor are gene­ral­ly res­trai­ned so as to not inter­fe­re with the spi­ces and spe­cial ingre­di­ents. Gene­ral­ly finis­hes rather full and satis­fy­ing, and often has some alco­hol fla­vor. Roas­ted malt cha­rac­te­ristics are rare, and not usual­ly stron­ger than chocolate.
A wide ran­ge of inter­pre­ta­ti­ons is pos­si­ble. Body is gene­ral­ly medi­um to full, and a cer­tain mal­ty che­wi­ness is often pre­sent. Modera­te­ly low to modera­te­ly high car­bo­na­ti­on is typi­cal. Many examp­les will show some well-aged, warm­ing alco­hol con­tent, but wit­hout being over­ly hot. The beers do not have to be over­ly strong to show some warm­ing effects.
Over­all Impression
A stron­ger, dar­ker, spi­ced beer that often has a rich body and warm­ing finish sug­gest­ing a good accom­p­animent for the cold win­ter season.
Typi­cal Ingredients
Gene­ral­ly ales, alt­hough some dark strong lagers exist. Spi­ces are requi­red, and often include tho­se evo­ca­ti­ve of the Christ­mas sea­son (e.g., all­spi­ce, nut­meg, cin­na­mon, cloves, gin­ger) but any com­bi­na­ti­on is pos­si­ble and crea­ti­vi­ty is encou­ra­ged. Fruit peel (e.g., oran­ges, lemon) may be used, as may subt­le addi­ti­ons of other fruits. Fla­vorful adjuncts are often used (e.g., molas­ses, treacle, invert sugar, brown sugar, honey, map­le syrup, etc.).
Throug­hout histo­ry, beer of a some­what hig­her alco­hol con­tent and rich­ness has been enjoy­ed during the win­ter holi­days, when old fri­ends get tog­e­ther to enjoy the sea­son. Many bre­we­ries pro­du­ce uni­que sea­so­nal offe­rings that may be dar­ker, stron­ger, spi­ced, or other­wi­se more cha­rac­terful than their nor­mal beers. Spi­ced ver­si­ons are an Ame­ri­can or Bel­gi­an tra­di­ti­on, sin­ce Eng­lish or Ger­man bre­we­ries tra­di­tio­nal­ly do not use spi­ces in their beer.
Over­all balan­ce is the key to pre­sen­ting a well-made Win­ter Sea­so­nal Beer. The spe­cial ingre­di­ents should com­ple­ment the base beer and not over­whelm it. The bre­wer should reco­gni­ze that some com­bi­na­ti­ons of base beer styl­es and spe­cial ingre­di­ents work well tog­e­ther while others do not make for har­mo­nious com­bi­na­ti­ons. If the base beer is a clas­sic style, the ori­gi­nal style should come through in aro­ma and fla­vor. When­ever spi­ces, herbs or addi­tio­nal fer­men­ta­bles are declared, each should be noti­ceable and distinc­ti­ve in its own way (alt­hough not neces­s­a­ri­ly indi­vi­du­al­ly iden­ti­fia­ble; balan­ced with the other ingre­di­ents is still cri­ti­cal). When­ever spi­ces, herbs or addi­tio­nal fer­men­ta­bles are declared, each should be noti­ceable and distinc­ti­ve in its own way (alt­hough not neces­s­a­ri­ly indi­vi­du­al­ly iden­ti­fia­ble; balan­ced with the other ingre­di­ents is still cri­ti­cal) – in other words, the beer should read as a spi­ced beer but wit­hout having to tell that spe­ci­fic spi­ces are pre­sent (even if declared).
Com­mer­cial Examples
Anchor Our Spe­cial Ale, Goo­se Island Christ­mas Ale, Gre­at Lakes Christ­mas Ale, Har­poon Win­ter War­mer, Lake­front Holi­day Spi­ce Lager Beer, Wey­er­ba­cher Win­ter Ale
Win­ter Sea­so­nal Beers are beers that sug­gest cold wea­ther and the Christ­mas holi­day sea­son, and may include holi­day spi­ces, spe­cial­ty sug­ars, and other pro­ducts that are remi­nis­cent of mul­ling spi­ces or Christ­mas holi­day des­serts. See the Intro­duc­tion to Spe­cial­ty-Type Beer sec­tion for addi­tio­nal comm­ents, par­ti­cu­lar­ly on eva­lua­ting the balan­ce of added ingre­di­ents with the base beer.
Ori­gi­nal Gravity
0.000 - 0.000 SG
Final Gra­vi­ty
0.000 - 0.000 SG
0 - 0 SRM
0.0 - 0.0 %vol
0 - 0 IBU