Though winter just recently began in the past few weeks, it feels to me that the season is almost over. Of course, being from New England I know that the odds are good that it may very well carry on with the periodic cold snaps and flurries of snow and ice well into July. However with temperatures being mild by comparison to years gone by and with the days now slowly getting longer as a result of the winter solstice having come and passed, I’m almost readying myself for the inevitable change to lighter spring fare in respect to the offerings by the beer world. Also, more run-on sentences to be sure.
However this aside we are still in the midst of winter and as such, winter beers remain all the rage. Whether they be stouts and porters or winter warmers, these colder months of the year make dark beers all but impossible to avoid. But then again, why would you want to? Why would anyone?
Thus do we come to yet another seasonal release from a rather well known brewery, Red Hook. Based originally out of Seattle, Washington and now maintaining a secondary brewery just down the road in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, Red Hook is one of the longer serving craft breweries in the country with a history that dates back to 1981. Though to my UK and other European readers this undoubtedly sounds like a laughably young company, here in the U.S. breweries that old and that large which are not of the Budweiser or Coors variety are something of a rarity as craft enthusiasm has only really started growing into a mainstream trend. However, I’m getting off topic as I’m known to do.
So here we have the Winter Hook. A dark ale, it pours with a rich, deep mahogany hue which though translucent is dark enough to present a generally solid center body with creeping hints of light around the edges. Sporting a pillowy head of ever-so-slightly off-white color, the foam lingers for a decent spell and webs nicely as you drink. At a sip the palate is offered a medium overall texture with rather interesting notes of hoppy bittern and malty semi-sweetness.
At 6.0% ABV it packs just enough punch in terms of feeling and effect, to where one can be sure they’re drinking a proper dark ale, all the while not being so strong as to affect the flavor too much. Between the notes of sweet and bitter they appear, at a first sip to follow that order, with successive sips mingling the two aspects together rather seamlessly. Not so heavy as to pose one with an actual challenge to sip down casually as one may find with a barley wine or the like, it does remain heavy enough to where it does force a slight slow down for those who may be used to large, quick gobs of their beer for…whatever reason they may have to drink like that.
Brewed seasonally since 1984, the brewery boasts of each successive round being unique unto itself, meaning in this and each case of its release that it is only possible to try during its limited seasonal run, with the specific recipe being then discarded in favor of a new one the following year. Not exactly the most intense beer I’ve had this season, it does offer the balanced sort of combination of standard notes that makes for both an easy and seasonally appropriate sip, all while avoiding and real significant pretension or theme. While I am a fan of these in some cases, it is often nice simply to find something uncomplicated and enjoyable that differs from other beers, if only in its own humble way.
So for this, it is to Red Hook, to the spirit of annual innovation and of course to you, that I say as always…
While the brewery may have provided the product mentioned above for free, I was not required to write a positive review, I did not receive any monetary compensation, and the honest opinions I have expressed are my own.
Nicholas Goroff is an actor, writer and craft beer reviewer at EveryJoe.com. Certified as a Cicerone beer server, he is working towards obtaining certification as a beer judge while employed at Bert’s Better Beers in Hooksett, NH. When not reviewing beer, wine and spirits, he is typically writing political essays, screenplays and short fiction. Follow him on Twitter @wizardofcause.
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