SanTan Winter Warmer

SanTan Brewing Company reviews: Sunspot Gold, Devil’s Pale Ale, Count Hopula, Epicenter Amber AleHopShock IPA


This is certainly turning out to be a week of inconsistencies.  I was going to write this post last night, but a few things came into play to prevent that from happening, namely how late it was and high alcohol content.  On a Tuesday night, of all nights!  Needless to say, I have absolutely no plans for Thanksgiving this year, which is a huge downer, but saving money for a wedding and buying a house are not conducive to splurging on lots of food or visiting family (yet for some reason, I can justify craft beer purchases).  Oh, and I really don’t want to deal with the TSA right now, seeing as they’re all excessively grope-happy and pointedly ignorant of personal space for the sake of…wait, who’s supposed to be attacking us right now?  Maybe if the US was nicer to other countries and started taking care of itself, we wouldn’t have to worry about airplane bombers or suicidal missions to take us down a hundred people at a time.  But I digress, beer is good, beer people are good people, and I’m thankful for everyone I’ve met through this little blog and twitter and for all of the delicious beer I’ve tasted and reviewed.  So far, out of two months of reviews, there have only been two or three brews that haven’t tickled my palate;  those are pretty good numbers and I hope to exponentially increase my tasty horizons for a long time to come.

So what was I doing out so late on a Tuesday night?  Well, I have never been to a keg tapping nor have I been one of the first people to try a beer that’s just been released for the season, so naturally, I had to remedy that.  I think you can see where this is going.  I still don’t know enough people who live near me to beg them to meet me at a bar at 10pm on a Tuesday for a glass of beer, so until that happens, I’ll continue to beg my fiance to take me.  Lucky for us, we live a block from SanTan so it’s never difficult to waltz up to the place any time of the day.  It’s actually more dangerous than anything…maybe a little too dangerous, especially now that they’ve tapped their Winter Warmer for the season.  Oh yeah, that’s what I was doing last night, finally being one of the first people to try a beer that’s just been opened.  I’m on top of things.  Once I start getting paid to review beer, you can bet I’ll find ways to get to other local Arizona breweries for their keg tappings and seasonal brews on tap.  Now I have to find a good place to get business cards and start tossing them out like confetti.  Until then, I’ll continue writing my blog address on my receipts, where I can only hope someone is getting their interest piqued by the random title.  Anyway, last night, SanTan, Winter Warmer.

Sitting at a high top table in SanTan, I waited patiently for the clock to strike 9:00 so I could order the Winter Warmer straight from the first keg of the season.  My fiance was sipping on some orange pekoe tea while a tiny dish holding three bite-size gingersnap cookies sat in front of me.  I was strongly urged not to eat them until I had my beer.  Finally, one of the bartenders reached up and rang the bell that hangs over the bar for announcements and loudly declared that the Winter Warmer was now tapped and ready for consumption.  Cheers and claps rang out along the bar and the beer was doled out glass by glass and all was right with the world.  What?  It was a good time!  I’m working on getting out more…

The first glass arrived with no head whatsoever, so after I slowly polished it off, I ordered was tricked was easily coerced into trying a second.  For science.  And reviewing.  And pictures.  I need a good head for pictures.  Lucky for me, the second beer arrived with a nice finger-thick, khaki colored whipped cream layer of foam resting atop a clear concentrated cola brown brew with gorgeous garnet red highlights.  The head didn’t stick around long, though, and the little bit of retention it had quickly diminished to thin webby lacing along the glass while it was cold.  As it warmed, all traces of foam vanished.

The nose was full of toasted sweet malts, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg.  While it was sweeter on the nose initially, it did hold quite a bit of a bittersweet note that was punctuated by hints of pine needles and a very faint bon fire off in the distance.  Warming up, the spices were much more pronounced and a faint dry spicy yeast, toasted barely, and a caramelized citrus – most likely orange zest – became present.  It was rather comforting to sit with this beer in the dark, warm bar with the sounds of lightly clinking glassware, garbled laughter, and that ever present hum of friendly conversation going on around me.  It’s moments like this that I revel in, being able to relax and curiously watch the interactions and movements between people from the sideline without any interference.  It’s a very calming experience enhanced by a nice warming beer.

With 9.5%ABV, ten pounds of honey and five pounds of ginger thrown into a beer, it better be warming (don’t worry, it is).  Especially now that the temperatures in central Arizona are starting to drop below 60º, the natives need something to complain about the “cold” over.  Hey, I think it’s cold, too, even though I’m from Wisconsin – where -10º is about where people expect you to start whining.  Just one more reason I belong here, right?  I keep getting off-track here…the Winter Warmer, while being warming, comes across with a medium body thanks to adequate tingly carbonation even though it holds a thinner mouthfeel overall.  Early on it was quickly hoppy and dry with a light piney resin, but was smoothed out nicely by lots of honey and a faint caramelized orange zest that became more prominent as it warmed.  There were plenty of dark, sweet malts throughout, followed by toasted grains, nutmeg, allspice, and a hearty kick of ginger right at the end that left my mouth slightly dry and spicy.  I really liked the complexity of this beer and found it difficult to pick out quite a few aromas and flavors as I came across them – which of course kept me going back for more.  At one point, I even started dipping my fresh little gingersnap cookies in the beer to bring out the sweetness from under all the spice!  Honestly, I should probably get a growler of the Winter Warmer so I can make my own gingersnap cookies for my family when they come visit in a month.

SanTan has not disappointed me with any of there beers, and I am so glad I was able to visit last night for the tapping of the first keg of this seasonal brew.  I will definitely be back for more as the holiday season goes on and I find myself needing some respite from the hectic shopping, moving, and preparing for the end of the year festivities.  This beer is a great substitute for a crackling fireplace and blankets while longingly staring outside for any hints of snow for a white Christmas (this will be my first Christmas without snow).  I hope everyone has a safe and happy Thanksgiving, stuff yourself with as much food as you can, and enjoy a few choice craft beers with your family and friends!  Cheers!


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