|As we suffer in the chills and freezing temperatures of winter many of us like to enjoy a "winter ale".
Well, winter ale is not technically a beer style? The custom of brewing a stronger-than-normal dark ale
has, however, been a part of brewing tradition since brewing in Northern Europe began.
Earlier unhopped or lightly hopped ales were particularly suitable for being heated and spiced, giving rise to
such winter’s drinks as ale posset, a drink mixing piping hot ale mixed with bread, milk, sugar, ginger, and nutmeg.
Other beer-based winter drinks included lamb’s wool, a combination of spiced hot ale and roasted apples, and
egg flip, hot, mild ale mixed with eggs, brandy, and nutmeg.
British winter ales were also flavored by the traditional method of floating spiced toast on the surface, a
habit that survived until at least the start of the 19th century.
The rise of hopped beer, which reacts badly to being heated, seems to have meant the decline of hot ale drinks.
However, drinkers continued to express a desire for stronger, sweeter, and often darker beers in the winter
months. In London, in particular, this was met by the original Burton ale, a type made by the brewers of
Burton-on-Trent before they began producing highly hopped pale ales for the Indian market. Burton ale
became a widely available style of beer in the UK, particularly during the colder months.
The tradition of winter warmer beers or seasonal old ales was revived, like so many other beer styles, from the
mid-1970s onward by the growing craft beer sector in the United States, the UK, and elsewhere. These seasonal
beers, generally at 5% to 8% alcohol by volume, have an emphasis on darker malts and sometimes use spices
alongside hops, recalling the old heated spiced ales.
Pasteur, it is said, was not a great lover of beer, but as a result of the Franco-Prussian War of 1870, the out-
come of which resulted in France ceding the hop-growing region of Alsace-Lorraine, Pasteur had an animosity
for all things German. This resulted in his determination to improve the quality of French-made beers, or as
Pasteur himself stated, to make the “Beer of National Revenge”!
Many of the hottest new beers are using New Zealand hops. They were first grown at the northern end of the
southern island of New Zealand shortly after the arrival of English settlers there in the mid-1800s.
New Zealand is well suited for growing organic hops because many of the pests and diseases that are a
problem for hops in the Northern hemisphere are not present in remote parts of NZ. This greatly reduces or even
eliminates the need for plant protection spraying.
Most of the cultivars grown in New Zealand are a mix of European and North American genetic material. They
are unique to the island country and are bred there. Some of the most notable are Green Bullet, Southern Cross,
Pacific Gem, and everyone's favorite, Nelson Sauvin.
New Zealand grows barely 1% of the world’s hops. Among craft brewers, especially in the United States and the
UK, New Zealand’s claim to hop fame rests largely with the distinctive passion fruit-like Nelson Sauvin, with
Southern Cross gaining increasing notice as well.
Hope you found this month's column of interest. If you have any questions about beer or brewing
or just want to submit a word for me to discuss here just e-mail it to me.
Thanks and Cheers!
|Winter Ales // New Zeland Hops
|A new column by
|Jack O'Reilly attended the
famous Siebel Institute/ World
Brewing Academy in Chicago.
|I'm very excited to be part of the BeerNexus team. I think my many years in the
beer business both as a brewer and manger will enable me to explain and
investigate many topics of interest for those who really love craft beer. Hope you
join me every month.
More by Jack: #1, #2, #3, #4