Just in time for the first blasts of winter, the Shapiro Brewery in Beit Shemesh has brought out the 2016 version of Jack's Winter Ale. This is a strong and dark Belgian-style ale which is perfect for drinking in the coldest weather.
|The 2016 version of Jack's Winter Ale.|
"One of the major changes has been that the beer has become more alcoholic," Shapiro disclosed. "In the early versions, our alcohol by volume was about 6.5%. Now it's 8.5%. This may change the perception of how people experience the beer, but our brewmaster Yochai Kudler has made no drastic changes in the original recipe."
From the start, Jack's Winter Ale has been aged with wood chips soaked in Jack Daniel's Tennessee Whiskey – which is how it got its name. The whisky chips give the beer a full and rich body, and smooth, buttery finish, but have little effect on the alcoholic content.
To get the complete winter experience, I poured myself a bottle of Jack's 2016 on a particularly cold and blustery afternoon. Like most heavy winter or "holiday" beers, it should not be drunk ice cold, so I took it out of the refrigerator about 20 minutes before I opened it.
It poured out a dark chestnut brown color with a thin tan head. The aroma was strongly chocolate and caramel. The first sip continued with the caramel theme, though a bitter caramel, along with the taste of red fruits. The beer is quite full bodied; you can even say "chewy." There was a nice spiciness in the aftertaste, perhaps cloves or pepper. If there was any whisky in the taste, it was very understated.
This is a great beer for any winter meal, especially foods with intense or spicy tastes, as well as pizza, aged cheeses, and rich, semi-sweet desserts. After the meal, it's a beautiful warming dessert by itself.
Leave the "crisp" and "refreshing" beers for the steamy days of summer. Now is the time to enjoy a bottle of hearty Jack's Winter Ale, before the spring thaw sets in.