As much as people around these parts clamor for the Great Lakes Christmas Ale, you'd think nobody in this town brewed anything worthwhile. Enter the Columbus Brewing Company. I've been a fan of most everything this brewery produces, but especially the Scottish Ale (formerly known as the 90 Schilling Ale), the Summerteeth seasonal, and the recently discontinued Apricot Ale. So, when I got a chance to pick up their Winter Warmer, I jumped at the opportunity.
This one would not disappoint, and after my experience with two of the beers in this project (the Bell's and Brooklyn offerings), I needed something to come through and wow me. This is a true winter warmer, clocking in at a heavy 6.8% ABV.
The pour is nothing special: a reddish-amber color with some slight cloudiness. The thin, white head was somewhat disappointing, but would prove to be the only real low point of this beer.
The preliminary smell test reveals a robust aroma of pine, ginger, cinnamon, and lighter notes of berries and caramel malt. Definitely smells like a winter warmer should.
The initial sip gives me a hoppy hit, the first of these beers to do so. Most of these winter seasonals have been all about the malt, but the Columbus Winter Warmer gives a great first impression with hops reminiscent of juniper mingling with the heavy presence of ginger and cinnamon. There's a really pleasurable caramel malt body here that serves as a base for the spice and hops, rather than overpowering you with sweetness. Really nicely done.
It's got a pretty thin texture, not heavily carbonated but still feels crisp. Since the hops are the main player here, I'm not surprised that I get a slight dry, hoppy finish. This is one that I could knock back a few pints of on a cold, Columbus night. Matter of fact, I think I may already have accomplished that particular mission.
CBC really hits a home run with their Winter Warmer, and I'm not just saying that as hometowner. This is more than worth a try and gives the highly vaunted Great Lakes varietal a serious run for its money.
Beer Advocate readers: B+
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