Since I found the holiday ales so disappointing last week, Nancy and I decided we had to jump right back on the bar stool and try some winter brews as opposed to Christmas or holiday brews.

So, the Saturday after Thanksgiving, I went to Shaw’s and the Pond Cove IGA in Cape Elizabeth and found Peak Organic Winter Session Ale, Geary’s Winter Ale, Long Trail Hibernator out of Vermont, Samuel Adams Winter Lager and Harpoon Winter Warmer.

And I am pleased to report that we disliked only one of these five beers and liked three of them. And I really loved the fifth.

The one we disliked was the Harpoon Winter Warmer, the only spiced ale of the five. It had a sweet aroma and good dark amber to brown color, but the cinnamon and nutmeg were overpowering. “It tastes like cookies,” said Nancy, who had been baking. She couldn’t take more than a couple of sips before dumping it.

As I reported last week, I like Samuel Adams Old Fezziwig, so I was trying to figure out why I like that and disliked the Winter Warmer so much. I think it’s because with Harpoon, the spices dominated with the malt in the background. With Fezziwig, the malt dominates, and the spices are in the background.

Samuel Adams Winter Lager was the last beer we tasted, and it is simply a good beer. I have had this many times. It tastes sweet in the front, and is smooth. The hops are fragrant, and it is a good, well-balanced beer.


Long Trail’s Hibernator was the only unfiltered beer of the five, so it was cloudy rather than clear, and fairly dark. It had a good, strong malt flavor with the hops secondary, but a solid hoppy finish. There also were notes of smokiness in the mix, and could probably be described as Scottish Ale.

Long Trail is located in Bridgewater Corners, Vt., about 15 miles west of White River Junction. I am a big fan of their Double Bag, a strong-flavored and distinctive ale that I have to have every couple of months.

Geary’s Winter Ale is a dark amber with fairly light carbonation. It smells of caramel and maybe a bit of toffee, but it wasn’t overly sweet. It had more body than any of the other five beers we tasted. It is described as an India Pale Ale, but I didn’t find it as full of hops as most IPAs. It had a nice aftertaste, and is a beer I could keep drinking.

The Peak Organic Winter Session Ale just simply grew on me. It had a nice head, good carbonation and a fairly distinctive hops aroma, and was just a little bit dry. It first came across as a good beer, well balanced, with nothing standing out. I took a second sip, went off to do an errand, and my mind came wandering back.

The flavor lingered and sort of changed. It’s a wheat ale with dark malt and Citra hops, according to the Peak website, The website also describes it as having pineapple notes, which I didn’t catch. But it did have an engaging finish that kept me wanting more.

Nancy wasn’t as crazy about this beer as I was — giving it a tie with the Geary’s for the best in the bunch. But we will be drinking some more of this over the winter.


I am wondering, though, why I liked the winter beers better than the holiday ones from the week earlier. Was it actually the beers, or was it something about my mood?

But it is nice that I found a good friend for the coming winter.

Tom Atwell can be contacted at 791-6362 or at:


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