Alpenglow Winter Warmer

Originally named Whale’s Tail Winter Warmer after the ski run at Breckenridge, Alpenglow is one of our oldest recipes from our homebrew days, and it was the first beer we won an award with. We had been homebrewing for less than a year and we finally felt comfortable entering beers into competition, so we entered the Snowdown Homebrew Competition hosted by Ska Brewing and took home first place in it’s category. Imagine our excitement for winning a blue ribbon in our very first competition! We’ve brewed it every year since, with adjustments to the recipe of course.

We originally picked Whale’s Tail Winter Warmer because our CFO Brent was renting a ski house in Breckenridge for a weekend with college friends and we were planning on bringing some bottles up to share and show off. It also just so happens to be one of my favorite runs at Breck and one of the most recognizable features you can see from afar. I also have an affinity for alliteration, as you have probably already noticed.

Looking at our original brew sheet from December 15th, 2009, it is actually a little surprising how similar the recipe still is. In fact, the OG and FG from this year are almost identical to the numbers we had 6 years ago. The major differences are that we switched the malts from American origin to English, we cut the nutmeg and allspice additions in half and we added Amber malt as well as orange peel to the recipe. The Amber malt provides strong biscuity flavors as well as pretty amber hues. The other malts are Maris Otter, crystal and a light amount of pale chocolate for color. We bitter with Horizon and ferment with a classic English strain. Spices are cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice and orange peel. The difference between last year and this year’s recipe is this year we used minced orange peel instead of large dried peels. Although we reduced the amount of the orange we added to account for the larger surface area of the minced orange, I feel the orange flavor in this year’s recipe comes through much brighter and much more assertively. I like it much better this way as the sweetness from the orange helps cut the spices and provides a better overall balance. I’m not a huge fan of spice beers in general as I think many times the spices are overdone and overpowering, so when we use spices, I want them to be more of a supporting cast member. As is standard for us, we purchase all of our spices from Savory Spice in Denver.

An alpenglow is the light you see on the mountains on the opposite horizon during a sunrise or sunset. As a front ranger who has been a weekend warrior in the past, I have seen my fair share of alpenglows during my early morning drives to the ski resorts. Someone I worked with once told me that one of their grandfather’s favorite sayings was “when the mountains turn pink, it’s time to drink.” When I told her that the mountains are also pink during the sunrise, we had a good laugh. I do think that the saying is fitting, especially this time of year with cool winter nights. Although there are no mountains on the other side of Sloan’s Lake, the sunsets do provide a very pretty pink hue over the frozen water, and this is a great sipper to take the views in with. I think you’ll also find this beer as a great compliment to sitting by a fireplace if you bring a growler home. Whether you’re unwinding after work or a long day on the slopes, this beer will warm you up and brighten your day. You might even say you’ll be “glowing” to both side of the horizons.

The final stats are 7.1% abv, 35 IBU and 20 SRM. We serve it in our 10oz snifter glass which really helps accentuate the malty and spicy aromas of this beer. It finishes slightly sweet with a subtle warming from the alcohol as it goes down. You’ll find the orange and other spices blend wonderfully with the toasty, bready and light caramel flavors from the malt.

We only brew this beer once each year, so don’t miss your chance to give it a try. Cheers, and Hop On!

~Dave