I’m a fan of Colorado’s Odell Brewing Company, greatly enjoying their Double Pilsner and St. Lupulin, both reviewed here, as well as most of their other beers that I had pre-blog. Since it is winter, it seemed appropriate to try Odell’s winter warmer, Isolation Ale.
The winter warmers, often called Christmas beers, are a popular, but varied style, comprising everything from something malty and slightly sweet to beers spiced with aromatic “holiday” spices such as nutmeg, mulling spices, or dark fruits, citrus peel, etc. As varied as winter warmers can be, they get their name from the “warming” effect of a higher alcohol content, something shared among most beers in this style.
Not much information can be found on Odell’s website other than that Isolation Ale comes in at 29 IBU’s and 6% ABV. Odell claims Isolation Ale is a “traditional winter brew” made from malts that are imported from England. Interestingly, somewhat against the style, Isolation Ale is not spiced and is a fairly simple, straightforward beer.
The beer pours a nice dark tea color with redding highlights. Bringing the glass up to light, I could see a lot of sediment in suspension. The head was off-white and of a shaving cream consistency. I didn’t get a whole lot from the aroma (as usual, stupid nose!), but what aroma I did perceive was of a light, floral hoppiness, again somewhat against this style, which tend to be very lightly hopped. The aroma wasn’t like a hop bomb, keep in mind, but I could definitely detect them in the nose.
The flavor was more malt-forward, with the hops serving to add slight bitterness and mainly balance. The malt character leaned more toward the bready side of things, especially in the aftertaste. If I didn’t know better, I would have thought I’d just eaten a slice of artisanal bread! The mouthfeel on this beer is really good, with well-hidden carbonation and a nice heavy body. This is a fairly one-dimensional beer, but it is well balanced and a pleasure to drink.
It may lack some of the complexity you would think of in a beer designed to be enjoyed sitting next to a fire in a log cabin (well, that’s what I think of when I consider this style), but it does have a bready, malty character that is well-balanced, something I often find missing in other beers like doppelbocks, for example, which tend to be too sweet and cloying for me. I think Odell’s Isolation Ale would pair nicely with some of the heavier holiday foods, such as sweets, cheeses and roasts, and I think the spices that may be found in those dishes, especially the cloves in a ham and pumpkin pie spices, for example, would really complement the flavors in this beer.