7/25/21: Christmas in July! (Sons of Toil Brewing's Winter Warmer)

3:26 PM

I always worry that I begin looking for a good brew to save for Christmas in July a little too late in the season. To be fair, I never actually look for one--I somehow manage to stumble upon a can or bottle in the wild. 

This year, I changed it up. I found a bottle that I wanted to use for today's post in mid-December '20. I saw one of my local bottleshops share an image of it on their social, and I sped out to nab a bottle. I say bottle--it was actually a box set of two bottles. Yes, I thought. Finally, I've managed to prep myself adequately for Christmas in July. I don't have to sweat it from New Year's until I stumble upon a beer.

Today's beer isn't a beer from that set I bought. No, this is a beer I stumbled upon in February as Michelle and I were on our way out of town for a short holiday. I'd never been to Mount Orab, OH's Sons of Toil Brewing although I'd intended to get out and sample some of their wares for years . When I discovered our route was going to take us by their facility, I packed a growler to fill up with something they had on tap. 

While the bartender was filling my growler, I noticed they had bombers in a fridge. One of those bombers was Winter Warmer, their holiday ale. I quickly weighed my options and bought one. That box set I bought with intentions for today can wait. This year's Christmas in July is all about Sons of Toil's Winter Warmer.

Sons of Toil is, like I said, based in Mount Orab. They seek to be as true to their community as they can be and, through actions like locally-sourcing ingredients and gifting their spent grain to local farms, I'd say they're hitting the mark. Here's their "Our Story" page if you'd like to read more.

Winter Warmer isn't featured on Sons of Toil's website. I did find a BeerAdvocate profile for it, listing the 8.8% ABV ale as featuring "Brown Sugar, Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Sweet Orange Peel and Ginger." Yeah, that checks out for a holiday beer.

The label on my bomber agrees with BA's listed ABV.

Sure, it's 85° here on my porch. But that doesn't diminish the sheer delight I'm finding in my first waft of the bomber's bouquet. Cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, honey, and a bit of orange. Christmas in July for sure. A return waft begets allspice and brown sugar. None of the ale's alcohol content comes through in the nose. Instead, it's festive--like standing in a kitchen and decorating freshly-baked gingerbread men. Purrl, to my surprise, is also a fan of Winter Warmer. She gave the bomber nine whiffs.

Given the ale's aroma, I was concerned about Winter Warmer's heaviness. Sure, in the midst of December I crave a Christmas ale stuffed with complex and dark flavors. But in today's muggy heat? Not so much. 

Luckily, Winter Warmer isn't as heavily-flavored as its nose might lead you to believe. There are absolutely flavors of cinnamon, ginger, honey, nutmeg, allspice, and orange-- I'm not saying there not present. But these are all subtle. What I'm finding, swig after swig, is hearty brown ale. That ABV isn't showing up in the flavor at all. There's a bit of oakiness in the finish and I guess if I'm really scrutinizing it I can kind of find some booze in flavor only (no burn) but this is pushing it.

The mouthfeel here is light and easy drinking. Just imagine a brown ale. It's actually damn refreshing this evening.

I once had a college professor tell me that you can tell a lot about a man's patience by asking him to hang Christmas lights. I never realized how true that was until Michelle and I spent our first Christmas season in our home. See, hanging Christmas lights is a "John job." It's something I do. 

We don't have a lot of lights that we put up each year (our house is pretty small), but I do hang icicle lights around the roof over our porch and I wrap a string of lights around the big old pine in our front yard. I usually hang them just after Thanksgiving, when the air's nice and crisp, with holiday tunes pumping from a speaker I bring out onto the porch with me. 

It's far from my favorite Christmassy chore (my professor would quickly discover I'm not a super patient person!), but the payoff is worth the effort. It just doesn't feel like Christmas unless there's still lights twinkling outside when you're laying down for bed each night.

Let me state, for the record, that I'm incredibly happy I happened upon this bottle of Sons of Toil's Winter Warmer in February. Its crisp, easy-drinking quality paired with its robust bouquet make it a perfect Christmas in July beer. If they bring it back this holiday season, squirrel a bottle or two away for next summer to see what I mean. Overall, this beer gets a 9.5/10 from me. Highly recommended.

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