Chad9976 (1067) - Albany, New York, USA - JAN 11, 2010
2.7 AROMA 5/10 APPEARANCE 3/5 TASTE 5/10 PALATE 4/5 OVERALL 10/20
The winter warmer is one of my favorite styles of beer since it lends itself so well to craft brewing. These beers are known for their complex, spicy palates and heavier bodies. So what happens when a macro brewery conglomerate takes a shot at it? The answer is Winter’s Bourbon Cask Ale by Michelob – the faux craft line of Anheuser-Busch/InBev.
This is a beer made for the Joe and Jane Six Packs looking for a beer with a bit more character than they’re used to that doesn’t sacrifice drinkability. And if that’s the intention then I’d say they’ve succeeded. However, the fact remains it’s still a macro brew made with adjuncts and has a truly mild palate at best.
APPEARANCE AND AROMA
The best way to compare the appearance of Winter’s Bourbon Cask Ale would be to carbonated Nyquil (the red one). It’s a clear, copper/cherry red color which is initially effervescent, but eventually settles down and becomes completely tepid. It also generates a two-finger, foamy, off-white head that does leave just the slightest bit of lacing on the glass but eventually fizzles away completely.
There isn’t much of an aroma to speak of. I get a generic “beer smell” which is common for a beer from this type of brewery. It’s not quite as skunky or intensely grainy as an adjunct lager and does have a trace amount of dark fruit in the nose. It’s not inviting, but I’ve smelled much worse.
What’s funny about this beer is the way the flavors actually compete for attention. It’s quite obvious to me Winter’s Bourbon Cask Ale is made with either adjuncts or at least lower-quality ingredients which comprise a significant portion of the palate. The other half is made up of seemingly genuine fruit and vanilla flavors.
Michelob claims this beer is aged on oak bourbon oak casks and whole Madagascar vanilla beans – which sounds like something you’d see on a Dogfish Head label. It’s too bad the flavor doesn’t exactly live up to the hype. While I do detect something of an earthy, woody quality to the palate - it’s very mild. Had the generic grainy taste and texture not been so distracting I think it would be much easier to appreciate and enjoy. There’s a fairly sweet taste in the finish but it does not linger.
In the true craft beer world, a cask-aged winter warmer would be a pretty hearty brew and probably appeal to a niche audience. Michelob has done their best to make such a beer appeal to a mass audience with this ale. The mild palate, combined with the soft, watery mouthfeel makes it a rather quaffable beer (if you’re used to drinking macro beers).
Beer snobs like me might find it to be slightly astringent, but the relatively thin body makes it at least drinkable. At 6% ABV, Winter’s Bourbon Cask Ale is actually quite light for both a winter warmer, but rather heavy for a macro beer. Personally, I didn’t taste or notice the alcohol and I doubt the average drinker would, either.
I have serious doubts to the authenticity of the casks and the aging process this brew allegedly undergoes. Perhaps the pedestrian beer drinker might use Winter’s Bourbon Cask Ale as a jumping-on point for higher-end craft beers that actually use such brewing methods. And if so, we beer geeks might actually thank Michelob for pointing potential drinkers in our direction.
NOTE: watch the video version of this review at:
badwhale (336) - Bitterville, Pennsylvania, USA - NOV 1, 2013
2.1 AROMA 5/10 APPEARANCE 3/5 TASTE 4/10 PALATE 3/5 OVERALL 6/20
Bottle to a glass mug. Pours a dark amber color, with a faint yellow head. Aroma is caramel. Flavor pretty much the same. Real sweet and malty, and tastes like caramel. Not that whippy.
RedSox2004 (1101) - Pacific Palisades, California, USA - JUN 6, 2013
2.2 AROMA 5/10 APPEARANCE 2/5 TASTE 4/10 PALATE 2/5 OVERALL 9/20
Hazy amber brown with a small white head that disappeared quickly and left little lace. Aromas of caramel malt, vanilla, oak, and spice. Caramel sweetness is pretty heavy, with strong vanilla and oak notes and a whisper of bourbon. Thin and watery, minimal carbonaiton, and a short sweet finish. Ok, but I probably drank it too cold.
scooterbub (773) - Lander, Wyoming, USA - DEC 1, 2012
2.8 AROMA 5/10 APPEARANCE 3/5 TASTE 5/10 PALATE 3/5 OVERALL 12/20
From memory and notes. 12 ounce bottle. Pours a dark brown-amber with a large off white head that fades. Taste is of bourbon, wood, malt, caramel, vanilla and some hops. Similar aroma. Decent body with some warming alcohol. Good beer, wish I could find it again.
rob6239 (563) - Ontario, CANADA - JUN 21, 2012
3.1 AROMA 6/10 APPEARANCE 3/5 TASTE 7/10 PALATE 3/5 OVERALL 12/20
Surprisingly good . A Michelob product as well. Pours nice colour and good vanilla aroma and taste. I would buy again.
j12601 (6585) - Poughkeepsie, New York, USA - MAY 17, 2012
3.2 AROMA 7/10 APPEARANCE 3/5 TASTE 6/10 PALATE 3/5 OVERALL 13/20
Bottle as an extra from a trade a while back. Pours a hazed ruby amber with a medium to large yellowed beige head that deflates a good amount, but remains intact. A bit of paper on the nose followed by a healthy amount of bourbon and candied stone fruits. Medium bodied, sweet and woody, bourbon, caramel. Empties out a bit, but the bourbon does still come through. Wouldnít peg this as a Michelob beer, so well done on that. Finishes with a light bitterness, and a bit more toasted wood and bourbon. A touch too sweet on the finish, and overall a bit empty, but decent enough.
jmagnus87 (2183) - Rockford, Illinois, USA - JAN 18, 2012
3.3 AROMA 7/10 APPEARANCE 2/5 TASTE 8/10 PALATE 3/5 OVERALL 13/20
From a bunch of old notes I found. Pours a dark amber with almost no head. Aroma of sweet vanilla extract and a nice bit of oaky bourbon. Taste is the same. Lots of vanilla and a little bourbon. Light-medium bodied with a thin texture. Soft carbonation and a decently long finish. Overall, not that bad. I canít hate it that much because it was one of my introductions to craft beer.
jcweaver (768) - VA Beach, Virginia, USA - NOV 13, 2011
1 AROMA 3/10 APPEARANCE 2/5 TASTE 2/10 PALATE 2/5 OVERALL 1/20
Bottle. YUCK. Pours amber with a thin, white head. Aroma/flavor is all vanilla extract. No bourbon. No spices. No bitterness.
ADesenberg (468) - Ohio, USA - JUL 29, 2011
3 AROMA 6/10 APPEARANCE 3/5 TASTE 6/10 PALATE 2/5 OVERALL 13/20
Bottle: pours a nice coppery red color. With no head to speak of. It has a sweet aroma with a hint of raisins in it. It tastes almost overwhelmingly of vanilla, but the bourbon is present in the background for sure. As long as I ignore the fact that I am drinking a michelob, this is a very drinkable beer.
TheBeerBaron (261) - Florida, USA - JUL 18, 2011
3.5 AROMA 7/10 APPEARANCE 4/5 TASTE 6/10 PALATE 4/5 OVERALL 14/20
Brown colored ale with a beige head that fades to a slight skim on the surface. I donít notice much carbonation but that may be due to the dark color of the beer. The aroma has plum, raisin, and cinnamon spices attributed to a holiday spice cake over an impressive malt base. It smell sugary. The malt base makes for a sweet bread taste with the molasses and fruit. Despite the name, I canít discern a bourbon flavor but I do notice a vanilla bean which must be a pricey ingredient. I did not find hops in the taste profile. I would call it a tasty beer and will rate it as such. I think these specialty beers from Anheuser suffer from small brewer snobbery.
bowlnman1990 (78) - Lansing, Michigan, USA - JUL 15, 2011
2 AROMA 5/10 APPEARANCE 3/5 TASTE 4/10 PALATE 3/5 OVERALL 5/20
Bottle at home, rated against my interpretation of BJCP 2008 guidelines. Aroma: sweet, slightly floral, not overpowering. Appearance: dark amber, almost no head. Taste: very oaky, sweet, hint of alcohol. Palate: seems a little thin, slightly creamy, medium carbonation. Overall: started out ok, gets old quickly, not a huge fan.