Review Date 10/26/2000 Last Updated 1/2/2014
are better left alone and unchanged. For years, Samuel Adams Winter Lager
was one of my very favorite holiday beers. I still have the empty bottle
from the first Winter Lager I ever tasted, marked 1989 on the neck.
That was the year Winter Lager debuted. In subsequent years, it was a grand
beer moment indeed when it arrived in the package store at the end of fall.
The brewery described this as a “traditional German wheat bock” (the Germans
call this Weizenbock). It’s not really a Weizenbock in the classic German
notion of that term however, but rather it is a bock beer with wheat in the
mash. Then too, this is a lager; weizenbock is an ale.
A few years ago, Boston Beer decided to add spices to Winter Lager. I’m not sure why they did. This coincided with a lightening of the body of the beer. I wrote the following about the 1999 Winter Lager:
Dark amber color, rich foamy head, slightly cidery nose. Disappointing malt body is much thinner than I recall in previous years; even the spices are not readily apparent here. There are some hints of chocolate that make the beer drinkable, a touch of grassy hops round out the finish. All in all not a bad beer but it suffers in comparison to past years' batches.
I am happy to say that though the spices remain in the beer, the body has returned to it’s former rich self.
This year’s Samuel Adams Winter Lager pours to burnt amber to light brown color with a huge tan head formation and a malty, spicy nose. The palate is rich and very malty, slightly toasty, with plenty of chocolate and a touch of spice in the finish. I get a touch of orange and gingerbread. The rich mouthfeel is best appreciated as the beer warms slightly. The beer will warm your mouth slightly too with its considerable 7% by volume alcohol content. It’s a rich and satisfying beer for the winter months.
I think I would really like this with gingerbread cookies.
Update, 2001 : Beers change as the years go by, and Sam Adams Winter Lager is no exception. Less chocolaty than last year, but much more toasty. This year Samuel Adams Winter Lager pours to a dark mahogany color with a minimal head formation and a sweet malty nose. The beer has a wonderful, firm toasty palate, a delightful stickiness, and a subtly spiced finish of cinnamon and ginger. It's well balanced too.
Update January 13, 2007: Winter is upon us once again, and the cooler weather calls for rich, hearty beers like Samuel Adams Winter Lager. This year's edition is ruby reddish brown in color with loads of rich sweet nutty malt. It's screaming toasty Munich malt, chocolate, and delicious spices: cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and a hint of citrus. A rich, slightly sweet finish with a touch of warming alcohol makes this a real treat indeed. I've been enjoying it in the bottle and on draft. Although I've always said I preferred this one when it was not spiced, this year's edition is changing my mind. The spices and sweet malt go together wonderfully. Stock up: this one will keep well through the spring.
Update December 29, 2011: As per usual, I am enjoying Samuel Adams Winter Lager during the holiday season. This beer was a treat in the bottle and on draft at my local Taco Mac last year. For 2011, it has made repeat performances in both forms. Tonight I'm sipping a bottle from the 2011 Winter Classics sampler, and it's wonderfully dark malty, chocolaty and spicy with hints of zesty orange, pungent ginger and tangy cinnamon. The perfect beer to brighten the depths of winter.
Update January 2nd, 2014: Earlier this year, I bought the Samuel Adams Winter sampler 12-pack that featured two bottles of this beer. As per usual, Samuel Adams Winter Lager was delicious-malty up front with notes of caramel and chocolate, then spicy with cinnamon and nutmeg, zesty orange and ginger. This year, though, I also bought a few 22-ounce bomber bottles of this beer at $2.69 each. Seriously folks? A bomber of delicious beer for $2.69 in 2013? it still exists, and as this one is freshness dated until April 2014, I suggest you grab it at that price. While you can.
And remember, try a new beer today, and drink outside the box.
*Pricing data accurate at time of review or latest update. For reference only, based on actual price paid by reviewer.