MOST WINTER ALES can be counted on for heartiness, body, deep amber colors, and enough alcohol to serve as a warming blanket on a chilled palate. So what happened with Samuel Smith’s Winter Welcome? The beer is advertised as the first winter seasonal to be imported for the U.S. market in 1990 and is indeed substantial at 6% ABV. But after that the story goes awry.
More honey-colored than copper, its body is off-medium instead of staunch (the estimated 3 Plato no larger than the standard Nut Brown Ale), and the finish a somewhat tepid fuzz of effervescence. Not entirely non-descript, it offers some caramel and nutty notes in both aroma and flavor, bolstered by a touch of roast later on. The slight boost of alcohol gives a touch of slickness on the finish, but this denouement is brief compared to many winter warmers and thus offers little space for contemplation. At 32 IBUs it has some slight extra hop presence late (a little floral and herbal in traditional English fashion) though the impression is not a confident one. And that sums up the beer overall—a presence, yes, but not one that lasts. At least not this year.
Served: 550 ml bottle