Rahr & Sons Brewing Company’s Winter Warmer Has Strong Roasted And Dried Fruit Flavors That Make This High-ABV Beer Just The Brew To Keep Warm With.

Welcome to On Tap! Each week in this recurring feature, we’ll take an in-depth look at one of the many beers now available in the suddenly crowded North Texas brew scene. The goal here is to look at these area beers without our local goggles on and to wonder aloud, “Is this beer good or do I just like it because it’s local?” Should be a fun experiment, no? Cheers to that!

This week, we sipped on Rahr & Sons Brewing Company’s Winter Warmer.

Fast Facts on Rahr & Sons Brewery Winter Warmer.

Style: Winter Seasonal Beer.
ABV: 8 percent.
International Bitterness Units (IBUs): 44.
Color: Deep brown.
Availability: Cans & kegs, seasonal.

Overview.
Some years back, I would devote time with each beer run to look for Rahr’s annual release of its Bourbon Barrel-Aged Winter Warmer. But something happened: the price went way and I mean way up the next time I found it. Drag, dude. I suppose it was due to some sort of economic reason between its yearly release. Or maybe Rahr saw lots of other competitors out there charging more for other variations on winter-type barrel-aged beers. Either way, my penchant waned and my internal hysteria about the price gouge died down. Now I’ll buy it if I see it and I’m in the mood, or I’ll pick it up if it beckons me from a random booze store end cap. This year, it looks like Rahr has switched its BBA Winter Warmer from the larger glass bomber format over to a smaller, more manageable, solo-session 12-ounce can format. In fact, it looks like Rahr has completely switched its packaging to cans for most, if not all of its beers. For times when a barrel-aged beer might not be your thing – which should be practically never – Rahr has released its Winter Warmer in a more normal variety. Because I came from the BBA-first camp, I imagined that this beer might not meet my expectations. But hot damn, Rahr keeps the good thing going with its Winter Warmer, even without the barrel.

Background on Winter Seasonal Beer.
For a primer on the Winter Seasonal Beer (WSB) style, spend a little time with our review of Peticolas Wintervention. At the time of the Wintervention review, the beer was classified as a sub-style of the Spice, Herb, Vegetable (SHV) beer. Since then, the Beer Judge Certification Program has updated its style guidelines and now this variety of beer has a more official home. The WSB style is a darker, stronger version of a spiced beer that typically has a warming finish, a great candidate for the two whole months of winter we get here in DFW. A wide range of factors can play in the aroma space: gingerbread, evergreen, mulling spices, honey, molasses or dried fruit. Yet while the aroma can have some complexity going on, it should still balance the beer. Flavor echoes much of the same situation: there’s lots of latitude available, but the beer should be balanced at its essence. Flavor and aroma additions should complement the base beer and not overwhelm it.

Appearance.
Winter Warmer pours very dark brown, with a massive amount of beautiful foam that stands up for a long while. The light tan foam makes pockets of larger bubbles that emerge and slowly fade, much in the same way that pancake batter begins to bubble and pop as it sets and cooks on a griddle. As I drink, small foam rings cling to the inside of the glass.

Aroma.
I get subtle coffee and chocolate on the nose first. Right behind, dried dark fruit lingers with a small amount of caramel. After I let my bias get out of the way, this non-barrel-aged beer smells pretty damn good.

Flavor.
The dried fruit and dark malt roast flavors stand out to me most. Both are subtle and don’t overpower the beer. I do get a noticeable amount of booziness on the swallow. But as this beer has an advertised elevated ABV, I can’t knock it. Also, this beer is a winter seasonal style beer, so a bit of warm booziness is acceptable here because of the warming sensation it provides.

Mouthfeel.
As stated with the flavor, there’s a bit of booziness to work through with this beer. The medium level of carbonation gives my tongue a tingle, but then the sturdy malt backbone arrives and gives this beer a chewy, creamy sort of coating in my mouth. I’m not going to sit here and say that this beer is creamy like a nitro beer because that’s a wholly different carbonation game. But the beer reminds me of a pub-style, creamy sort of beer.

Overall Impression.
Winter Warmer is a successful beer. And get this: the barrel isn’t required for this warmer style beer. Granted, the barrel edition does take this beer up a notch. But this clean, no-barrel approach is growing on me. Unlike the BBA Winter Warmer, this plain Winter Warmer beckons to me on an average weeknight. So there’s no special occasion required to crack one of these beers and that’s part of why I like it so much. The coffee, roasty and dark fruit notes give this beer a holiday sort of vibe, but without the blatant holiday potpourri avalanche that some holiday brews contain. Unlike a brighter, cheery seasonal style I find annoying, Rahr keeps it dialed back with Winter Warmer and the beer remains balanced.

Score. On a scale of 1 to 10, I’d give Rahr & Sons Winter Warmer a 8.25.

Previous On Tap Reviews:
• Revolver’s Sangre y Miel: 10.
• Peticolas’ Royal Scandal: 10.
• Community’s Mosaic IPA: 10.
• Peticolas’ Velvet Hammer: 10.
• Collective Brewing Project’s Boysenbarrel: 10.
• Community’s Barrel-Aged Legion: 10.
• Community’s Legion: 10.
• Martin House River Horse: 9.75.
• BrainDead’s Fill in the Blancs: 9.5.
• Oak Highlands’ Freaky Deaky: 9.5.
• Braindead Brewing’s P-Wing: 9.5.
• Lakewood Brewing Company’s Coconut Temptress: 9.5.
• Deep Ellum’s Barrel Aged Four Swords: 9.5.
• Lakewood’s Saint Dymphna: 9.5.
• Peticolas’ Lost Epic: 9.5.
• Community’s Ascension Porter: 9.5.
• Lakewood’s Temptress: 9.5.
• Lakewood’s Goatman: 9.5.
• Community’s Public Ale: 9.5.
• Peticolas’ Thrilla in Brazilla: 9.5.
• Collective Brewing Project’s SMaSHY: 9.2
• On Rotation’s Lingonberry Sahti: 9.25.
• On Rotation’s Jalapeno Saison: 9.
• Woodcreek’s Bourbon Barrel Bock: 9.
• Braindead Brewing Company’s Dr. Dreipricot: 9.
• Lakewood’s Wild Manimal: 9.
• Revolver’s Blood & Honey: 9.
• Martin House’s Imperial Texan: 9.
• Community’s Trinity Tripel: 9.
• Peticolas’ Irish Goodbye: 9.
• Four Corners’ Block Party Porter: 9.
• Bankhead Brewing Co.’s Giggle Water: 9.
• Cedar Creek’s Belgian Dubbel: 9.
• Cedar Creek’s Poblano Paradise: 8.75.
• Rahr & Sons Brewing Company’s Oktoberfest: 8.75.
• Small Brewpub’s Black Pepper Pils: 8.5.
• Peticolas’ Ghost Of Alfred Brown: 8.5.
• Deep Ellum’s Easy Peasy IPA: 8.5.
• Community Beer Company’s Passiflora: 8.5.
• Deep Ellum’s Oak Cliff Coffee Ale: 8.5.
• Community Beer Company’s Wit ‘N Wild: 8.5.
• Lakewood’s Rock Ryder: 8.5.
• Rahr’s Bourbon Barrel Aged Winter Warmer: 8.5.
• Lakewood’s Raspberry Temptress: 8.5.
• Peticolas’ Prime Minister: 8.25.
• Rahr & Sons Brewing Company’s Winter Warmer: 8.25.
• Lakewood’s Peach Artsy Tarsty: 8.25.
• Lakewood Brewing Grand Allowance: 8.
• HopFusion Ale Works’ Hairpin: 8
• Armadillo Ale Works’ Greenbelt Farmhouse Ale: 8.
• Community’s Texas Helles: 8.
• On Rotation’s Moar Blackberry: 8.
• Peticolas Brewing Company’s Doctor’s Orders: 8.
• Lakewood’s Thread Spinner: 8.
• Bishop Cider Co.’s Sour Cherry: 8.
• Texas Ale Project 50 Ft. Jackrabbit: 8.
• Pegasus City Brewing’ Nine Volt: 8.
• Texas Ale Project’s Payne Pils: 8.
• Noble Rey’s Bridesmaid’s Tears: 8.
• Collective Brewing’s Urban Funk House: 8.
• Pegasus City Brewery’s Cannoneer: 8.
• Lakewood’s On Call: 8.
• Oak Highlands’ Golden Mustache: 8.
• 903 Brewers’ Crackin’ Up: 8.
• Deep Ellum’s Play Date: 8.
• Rahr & Sons Brewing Company’s 11th Anniversary Russian Imperial Stout: 8.
• Bitter Sisters’ Belgian Tripel: 8.
• Noble Rey’s SteamPunk: 8.
• 903 Brewers’ Citra On Top: 8.
• Bitter Sisters’ Hissy Fit: 8.
• BrainDead’s Gritz: 8.
• Community’s Barrel-Aged Inspiration : 8.
• Cedar Creek’s Fisticuffs: 8.
• Lakewood’s Punkel: 8.
• Four Corners’ El Chingon IPA: 8.
• Martin House’s Day Break: 8.
• Deep Ellum’s GOURDzilla: 8.
• Peticolas’ The Duke (Aged 12 Months): 8.
• Deep Ellum’s Pale Ale: 8.
• Revolver’s Bock: 8.
• 903 Brewers’ Sasquatch: 8.
• Peticolas’ Wintervention: 8.
• Armadillo Ale Works’ Brunch Money: 8.
• Martin House’s Salsa Verde: 8.
• Cedar Creek’s Spinning Mule Robust Porter: 8.
• Lakewood’s Holiday Bonus: 8.
• Lakewood’s Hop Trapp: 8.
• Four Corners Brewing Company Homie Brew: 7.75.
• Cedar Creek’s Grapefruit Haze: 7.75.
• Martin House Brewing’s Big Hoppa: 7.75.
• TUPPS Full Grown Man: 7.75.
• 3 Nations American Wit: 7.75.
• Armadillo Ale Works’ Dapper Apple: 7.75.
• Chimera Dirty Dog: 7.5.
• 3 Nations Brewing Company’s Imperial Milk Stout: 7.5.
• Legal Draft’s Accused Amber Lager: 7.5.
• Grapevine’s Reserve Tart Cherry Berliner Weisse: 7.5.
• Martin House’s Stars Above: 7.5.
• Grapevine’s Prickly Pear Wheat Ale: 7.5.
• Texas Ale Project’s Good To Go: 7.5.
• Bitter Sisters’ Knock Out: 7.5.
• Four Corners’ Notorious O.A.T.: 7.5.
• Noble Rey Golden Rey With Raspberries and Ginger: 7.5.
• On Rotation Saved By The Belma: 7.5.
• True Vine’s Unicorn’s Revenge: 7.5.
• Deep Ellum’s Hop Seeker: 7.5.
• Four Corners’ El Super Bee: 7.5.
• Lakewood’s Hopochondria: 7.5.
• Three Nations GPA: 7.5.
• Martin House’s Rubberneck Red: 7.5.
• Lakewood’s Antigoon’s Revenge: 7.5.
• Community’s Texas Pils: 7.5.
• Lakewood’s Zomer Pils: 7.5.
• Cedar Creek’s Dankosaurus: 7.5.
• Cedar Creek Brewery Clover Kicker: 7.25.
• Noble Rey Sex In A Canoe: 7.25.
• Oak Highlands Brewery’s Oktoberfest.: 7.25.
• Deep Ellum Rye Pils: 7.
• 3 Nations Mango SMASH IPA: 7.
• Legal Draft Chief Justice Stout: 7.
• Manhattan Project’s Plutonium-239: 7.
• Backcountry’s Texas IPA: 7.
• Backcountry’s Double IPA: 7.
• Wild Acre Brewing Company’s Billy Jenkins: 7.
• Rahr’s Visionary: 7.
• Shannon Brewing’s Irish Cream Ale: 7.
• Oak Highlands’ Guava Good: 7.
• TUPPS Brewery’ Northbound 75: 7.
• Rahr & Sons’ Iron Joe: 7.
• BrainDead’s I Like Harvey IPA: 7.
• Martin House’s Turtle Power: 7.
• Collective’s Petite Golden Sour: 7.
• Shannon’s Chocolate Stout: 7.
• BrainDead’s Red Ale: 7.
• Community’s Razzy Raspberry Witbier: 7.
• Martin House’s Gateway Blonde Ale: 7.
• Bearded Eel’s Purple Unicorn: 7.
• Noble Rey’s Off The Leash: 7.
• Shannon Brewing Company’s Irish Red: 7.
• Texas Ale Project’s Somethin’ Shady: 7.
• Deep Ellum IPA: 7.
• Cedar Creek’s The Lawn Ranger: 7.
• Martin House Brewing Company’s Cellarman’s Reserve IPA (Amarillo).: 7.
• Lakewood’s Till & Toil: 7.
• 903 Brewers’ The Chosen One: 7.
• 903 Brewers’ Sugar On Top: 7.
• Martin House’s Gateway XPA: 7.
• Armadillo Ale Work’s Quakertown Stout: 7.
• Revolver’s High Brass: 7.
• Community’s Pale Ale: 7.
• Oak Highlands’ Chump Change: 7.
• Martin House’s River House: 7.
• Grapevine Craft Brewery’s Sir William’s Brown Ale: 7.
• Community’s Funnel Cake Ale: 7.
• Audacity’s Boss Raptor IPA: 7.
• Community Brewing Company’s Silly Gose: 6.75
• Martin House’s Queen of the Mist (Prickly Pear): 6.75.
• Three Nations Texas Xmas Hazelnut Ale: 6.5.
• Martin House’s The Juice: 6.5.
• Collective Brewing Project’s Mom Azacca: 6.5.
• Four Corners’ La Lechuza: 6.5.
• Revolver’s Ironhead IPA: 6.5.
• 903 Brewers’ Trot Line: 6.5.
• Four Corners’ Celebración: 6.5.
• Peticolas’ Operation Collaboration: 6.5.
• Rahr & Sons Brewing Company’s Pumpkin Ale: 6.5.
• Grapevine Craft Brewery’s Nightwatch: 6.5.
• Peticolas’ The Duke: 6.5.
• Deep Ellum’s Double Brown Stout : 6.5.
• Cedar Creek’s Maui Wowie: 6.25.
• On Rotation’s Mexican Barleywine: 6.25.
• Wild Acre’s Tarantula Hawk: 6.
• Martin House’s Kafkaesque: 6.
• TUPPS’ Cotton Mill Gold: 6.
• Rabbit Hole’s Tweedleyum: 6.
• Rabbit Hole’s Off With Your Red: 6.
• Cedar Creek’s Elliott’s Phoned Home Pale Ale: 6
• Grapevine Craft Brewery’s Lakefire: 6
• Armadillo Ale Works’ WunderMelon: 6
• Cobra Brewing Company’s Dawn of the Dank: 6
• Deep Ellum Pale Ale: 6
• Lakewood’s Troll Toll: 5.5.
• Martin House’s Hell Below: 5.5.
• Lakewood’s La Dame Du Lac: 5.5.
• Woodcreek’s Lakeside Cerveza: 5.
• Legal Draft Beer Company’s Smash & Grab IPA: 5.
• Martin House Cuvee Pumpkin Latte: 5.
• Intrinsic’s Crunktoberfest: 5.
• Martin House’s Mind On My Money: 5.
• 903 Brewers’ The Land Of Milk And Honey: 5.
• Deep Ellum’s Numb Comfort: 5.
• TUPPS’ Day Off: 4.75.
• Four Bullets’ Black Jack Brown: 4.5.
• Audacity’s Checkered Past: 4.
• Four Corners Heart O’ Texas: 4.
• Audacity’s Sunset Boulevard: 4.
• Shannon Brewing Company’s IPA: 4.
• Grapevine’s Monarch: 4.
• Good Neighbor Brews Slim Sweetness: 3.
• Good Neighbor Brews O’Carrol’s Irish Red: 3.
• Twin Peaks’ Dirty Blonde: 3.
• Franconia Wheat: 3.
• 903 Brewers’ Mythical Creatures: 2.5.
• Miller Lite: 1.

All photos by Ben Smithson.

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