Two expressions of an English winter's ale, to the left Winter Welcome from Samuel Smith's, one of the most ancient of brewers, and to the left Winter Ale from St. Peter's the great modern traditionalists. Winter beer is not a style so much as a harkening. Each is actually a recollection of a Victorian style a burton and a porter respectfully.
Burton is one of the rarer ales left to us from the 18th century, predating the product of that town, the India Pale Ale by perhaps a century. The best reference to that latter strong ale, as I have noted before, is in Wind in the Willows when Rat and Mole in the chapter "Dulce Domum" discover it in Mole's old pantry as they prepare a winter night's feed:
The Rat, meanwhile, was busy examining the label on one of the beer-bottles. "I perceive this to be Old Burton,' he remarked approvingly. "Sensible Mole! The very thing! Now we shall be able to mull some ale! Get the things ready, Mole, while I draw the corks."Winter Warmer is a remarkable ale for its 6%. It is malty and secondarily hoppy and rich. I think it is likely the most balanced ale I have ever had as it is actually like a very strong mild if such a thing were possible - exceedingly moreish yet deeply satisfying. A meal of an ale. Surprisingly, 8% of advocatonians say nay, which I think is a bit off the mark.
The Winter Ale, by St. Peters is, is called a strong ale but I think it is really a porter. It is dark and rich with strong flavours of coffee and licorice. Smoke and burnt raisin and a lot of other flavours I would want to have wind up in a figgy pud. The advocatonians are as one and all shout hurrah! OK......point taken...but I have been reading Master and Commander the last few days and I am a wee bit pip, pip and all but really if you are going to write about these ales you have to get into the mood of it all. Instead of say porter, take a long draught of this one and shout "PORTAH!". You will get the point.