Pyramid Snow Cap Ale 2008 Review

Snow Cap Ale is winter seasonal beer available from October to January from Pyramid Breweries, which is located in 5 locations on the West Coast. Both the brewer, Pyramid, and Beer Advocate list the style of this beer as a winter warmer. Pyramid goes on to say that this beer is crafted in the British tradition:

A rich, full-bodied winter warmer crafted in the British tradition of holiday beers. This deep mahogany colored brew balances complex fruit flavors with a refreshingly smooth texture, making Snow Cap a highly drinkable and desirable cold weather companion.

I heartily agree with the assessment that Snow Cap Ale is a great cold weather brew. This beer contains a hefty 7.0% alcohol and when you drink this beer you know, from both the taste and the affects, that it is strong.

Pyramid should be commended for listing so much detail about Snow Cap and their other beers on their website. If you’re a home brewer, you can use some of these details to approximate a clone recipe or at the very least use it for inspiration. For instance, this beer contains the following malts: 2-Row Barley, Caramel 80L , and Chocolate Malt. And the following hops:  Nugget, Willamette, East Kent Goldings. Pyramid lists Snow Cap as having a gravity of 17.3 degrees Plato or about 1.071 specific gravity. With 7.0% alcohol by volume, the final gravity should be about 1.018 specific gravity.

Where I Found It. I picked up a 12oz bottle 6-pack at a Beverages and More in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Serving Type. When I sampled this brew, it it was served from a 12oz bottle into a pint glass.

Appearance. The head had a nice cappuccino color but the head did not last too long. The color of the Snow Cap Ale is a very dark amber or a mahogany wood finish. Although mostly opaque due to the color, the beer was clear and not cloudy.

Smell. The aroma had an earthy smell with an essence of roasted chestnuts, which, if you have not had them, are sweet, roasty, and starchy. I also sensed a hint of banana and cloves and this makes me very curious about the yeast that was used. The hop bouquet was slightly spicy and smelled like an evergreen tree, possibly a douglas fir. I’m not certain right now which of the 3 hops would contribute to that type of bouquet.

Taste. When I tasted Snow Cap Ale, it reminded me of a beer from New Belgium Brewing, either 1559 or 2-Below. It had a roasty-burnt taste but not a bad burnt taste maybe like flambé. There was also a flavor of cloves. This is a 7.0% alcohol beer and I tasted the alcohol astringency in the beer. The hop bitterness was well balanced and not overhelming at all.

Mouthfeel. Snow Cap Ale felt like a full-bodied beer with an appropriate amount of carbonation. The aftertaste had a lingering bitterness.

Drinkability. This beer was surpisingly smooth and drinkable beer especially in colder weather. Snow Cap Ale, however, is not a session beer. It is strong and one is enough. Despite the fact that I prefer other winter seasonals, this is a top notch winter warmer that I would drink again.

Rating. My ratings below are on a five point scale with five being the best score. The overall rating is calculated exactly the same way as Beer Advocate.

  • Appearance (20%): 4.0
  • Smell (20%): 3.5
  • Taste (40%): 3.5
  • Mouthfeel (10%): 3.5
  • Drinkability (10%): 3.5
  • Overall: 3.6

What Others Thought

It is always more enjoyable to share a beer with friends and family. As part of this blog I plan on not only reviewing the beer myself but also gathering feedback from others. Below is what Liz, Erin, and Patrick thought about Snow Cap Ale.

Liz

  • Appearance. Coffee dark. Frothy head.
  • Smell. Coffee grounds.
  • Taste. Rich, smooth, roasty, sweet.
  • Mouthfeel. Creamy.
  • Drinkability. Yes.

Erin

  • Appearance. Dark brown, clear, amber. 5.0
  • Smell. Coffee, chocolate, hops, and wood. 4.5
  • Taste. Coffee, choclate, hops, woody but not as strong a sandalwood, cream soda. 4.0
  • Mouthfeel. Smooth. 4.0
  • Drinkability. Very good and smooth but not a strong finish. 3.5

Patrick

  • Appearance. Very dark brown, coffee color. Samll, tight head. 4.0
  • Smell. Alcohol, banana, cherry. 3.0
  • Taste. Sweet, no hoppiness, strong. 3.5
  • Mouthfeel. Astringent with tight bubbles and a bitter finish. 4.0
  • Drinkability. Drinkable. Not a session beer. Goes down easy. 3.0

Caption from the Bottle

The following caption is found on the neck of the bottle:

It’s not winter without it. Snow Cap is a complex ale that is mahogany in color and deliciously smooth. Drink it while you can because when the snow’s gone so’t the Snow Cap.

Information

  • Alcohol content: 7.0% alcohol by volume
  • Malts: 2-Row Barley, Caramel 80L, Chocolate Malt
  • Hops: Nugget, Willamette, East Kent Goldings
  • Gravity: 1.071 specific gravity or 17.2 degree Plato
  • Style: winter warmer
  • Brewery: Pyramid Breweries
  • Beer Advocate rating: 3.59 (on January 17, 2009)

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About David Jensen

David is a craft beer and photography enthusiast.
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