The names for all ales under the category of a winter ale: old ale, strong ale or winter warmer. Here in the United States, especially up here in New Hampshire and above in Canada know the bite of a winter chill all too well.
In short, it’s damn cold.
This is also true in higher altitudes and is no exception in England and much of Europe. What does one do after a hard day of working in the ice cold breezes of winter? They snuggle up to a fire with a winer ale of course! Imagine a time where most workers spend their lives doing hands-on work, typically outside, or in facilities with very little insulation and warmth. A strong ale with a good deal of alcohol content helps to warm your soul, or give you the feeling of warmth.
Your typical winter ale will be dark, perhaps not as dark as a rich stout but darker than a typical ale (especially that of a pale ale.) They contain a large presence of malt taste, perhaps have a few spices tossed in like a US Octoberfest (but not as harsh in many cases) and have 6% to 8% alcohol by volume. A good recipe may smell of the holidays, perhaps a Christmas presence, however their is a chance we just are in that mood and a good winter ale reminds us of good times with the family?
“The first thing one notices in a Samuel Adams® Winter Lager is its color: the deep brown of winter. Then comes the magical aroma which promises something special on the tongue. The warm aroma of cinnamon and ginger which blends with the roasty sweetness of the malted barley and hint of citrus from the orange peel. ” (SamuelAdams)
You can find many winter ale brews, including Smuttynose Winter Ale, Sam Adams Winter Lager, River Horse Belgian Freeze and Pete’s Wicked Winter Brew. I think most microbrews that create seasonal beers will have an Ale or Lager for the wintertime chill with a bit more alcohol, strength and spice. What would we do without these great winters? The beer I mean.