Bend Brewing Company’s winter beer, Sno’d In Winter IPA, hit the taps this week. The beer is an annual collaboration with local ski and snowboard manufacturer SnoPlanks. A release party is planned for Saturday to welcome its return.
The past several years, Sno’d In was brewed in the style of an English old ale, a strong and malty style well suited for the season. This year the brewery changed it up; according to the press release, “2019 Sno’d In was conceived as a ‘more sessionable’ 6% ABV winter IPA perfect for crushing on the mountain.”
I reached out to head brewer Zach Beckwith to find out more about this year’s change. “Sno’d In has always been a true collaboration with SnoPlanks and so we sought out their input into what kind of beers they enjoy and no surprise a ‘sessionable’ IPA was what they wanted,” he said via email.
You may be thinking, what is a winter IPA? There is no one answer; it could feature a rich, sweet malt body, or emphasize piney, resinous hops reminiscent of pine or fir trees, or it could be an IPA with botanicals or spices added, such as spruce tips or holiday spices.
It could also simply be a solid, hoppy IPA released only in the winter months. Such is the case with Sierra Nevada Brewing Company’s Celebration Ale, widely considered to be the original winter IPA. First brewed in 1981, Celebration is also largely credited as being the template for modern American IPAs.
One of the things that makes Celebration special is the use of what Sierra Nevada terms “fresh hops” in the beer. Not fresh (or wet) hops in the sense that many are familiar with, in which hops are added to the beer within 24 hours of picking, but the freshest hops possible from the current year’s harvest. The resulting beer is vibrant and aromatic and one of my seasonal favorites.
Beckwith appreciates Celebration, but did not model Sno’d In on it. “Whereas Celebration has that old school caramel malt character, we wanted to build malt complexity without the cloying caramel character that tends to mute hop flavor,” he said.
“That’s why we chose to include a good percentage of rye malt, which provides a nice full mouthfeel and some spicy notes that would complement the hop character. Winter brings to mind snow covered pine forests so we wanted to make it pine dominate with an underlying fruity hop character that makes you almost think fruitcake.”
Beckwith provided me with a preview sample of the beer to review. It’s an attractive copper orange color with a slight haze (though not a hazy IPA), with aroma full of piney, resinous hops that evoke spicy evergreens and grapefruit zest.
The spicy hops continue into the flavor with a lightly minty herbal tea character and a mellow forest floor bitterness. There are some luscious, toasted biscuit notes from the malts that have a hint of candied sugar and bread crust, balancing the hop bitterness nicely.
Sno’d In is currently available on tap at Bend Brewing, and at stores in cans. At the release party, one dollar from every Sno’d In sold will be donated to Oregon Adaptive Sports, which provides outdoor recreation experiences to individuals with disabilities. SnoPlanks will also auction off a snowboard with proceeds also donated to OAS.
If you’re interested in further exploring the winter IPA style, Silver Moon Brewing Company released its Polar Shaman Winter IPA at the beginning of November. According to Silver Moon, the beer “opens up with dark Belgian caramel malts that leads into notes of pine, berries, plum, citrus peel and light toasted sugar.”
Hood River’s Double Mountain Brewery brews Fa La La La La, its winter IPA, each year, featuring Centennial hops for a big, old-school bitterness. Ecliptic Brewing Company in Portland releases Filament Winter IPA for the season, with rich malty notes and citrus hop character. And for something a bit different, Pelican Brewing Company’s Bad Santa is a black IPA (also known as Cascadian dark ale) that blends roasty darker malts with herbal hops.
Beckwith himself enjoys a variety of seasonals this time of year. “Around the holidays it’s always important to have a good mix of sessionable beers, classic holiday beers and some special cellar beers on hand for those family gatherings,” he said.
Sno’d In is a worthy addition to this holiday lineup, and one you’ll want to have on hand when the snow flies.