So what did you stock up on for last weekend's blizzard? Many people run to the grocery store for provisions like milk, toilet paper, chips, salsa and the standard assortment of frozen oven-ready entrees.
But for my bad-weather planning, I took full advantage of the beautiful sunny Saturday before the storm and drove to Wisconsin Dells. Unlike those who go there for a mid-winter weekend dip at a water park, I was searching for the antidote to cabin fever -- a growler of one of the best of this season's winter warmers from the Moosejaw Pizza & Brewing Company.
What is it? Imperial Winter Warmer from Moosejaw Pizza & Brewing Company in the Wisconsin Dells.
Style: Imperial Winter Warmer is not of a named style, but it perhaps is most like an English strong ale. Characteristics emphasize sweetness, maltiness and significant alcoholic strength. They are usually dark or even a deep reddish amber color.
Background: Brewmaster Jamie Martin used peated malt, the type commonly used in Scotch whisky, for an assertive, smoky background. She aged this beer in oak, which allows for a sweetness that is rich and smooth. Unfortunately, this is only available as a seasonal beer at Moose Jaw, and you'll need to travel to the Dells to get it. But for $14, a take-home growler is all you need for an all-day snow storm.
- Aroma: A robust maltiness with hints of oak.
- Appearance: Deep, dark bronze color with copper highlights. Medium to thin bubbly tan head.
- Texture: Medium- to full-bodied, and slick.
- Taste: Sweet with hints of caramel and chocolate malt.
- Finish/Aftertaste: Mildly yet firmly accented by smoked peatiness and oaky tones.
Glassware: The snifter is perfect for this beer. The bulbous bottom of this glass will allow the beer to warm, while focusing the malty, peated, nose. It also encourages one to sip and appreciate this beer's smoothness.
Pairs well with: The English strong ale (a.k.a. winter warmer) can be a bit tricky to pair a meal entrée with because of the sweetness and the warmth from the high alcohol content. These beers do make wonderful companions to a pre-dinner cheese selection of your favorite well-aged sharp cheddar. They are also wonderful after-dinner dessert beers that stand up well on a cold winter's night -- for best results, add a roaring fire. The peaty background and aftertaste make this a beer you should, at least initially, try on its own without any competing flavors.
Rating: Four Bottle Openers.
(I am using a one to four bottle opener scale: four is a great beer, distinctive, you'll have this over others; three is a beer you enjoy, reliable, close to its described style; two is problematic, lacks distinction, but worth having again; one is a beer that isn't true to its style, you would not recommend it to a friend.)
The Verdict: This has a wonderful, malty body that finishes with a light smokiness. I liked the peaty accent that is mild, firm, and not at all burnt. This made a wonderful companion to last weekend's snow and blizzard conditions -- as I sipped it inside, away from the storm.