Off The Wall: Winter Warmer and The Mad Czar

SanTan Brewing Company Winter WarmerName: Winter Warmer
Brewery: SanTan Brewing Company
Country of Origin: United States
City & State: Chandler, Arizona
Style: Winter Warmer
Alcohol Content (ABV): 9.5%

A few months ago, when SanTan Brewing Company first released Winter Warmer, I got a can to review. For whatever reason, the beer has been sitting in the fridge ever since. When they released The Mad Czar last week, I grabbed a can of that, too. Rather than writing multiple blog posts, I figured we would combine them and write one Off The Wall post. Winter has come and gone, but I am excited to try the Winter Warmer. I’ve been craving a Russian Imperial Stout for a few days now, so I am excited to try The Mad Czar, too.

Since Winter Warmer came out first, we will review that one first. Here we go. Cheers!

Earlier today I commented about these two beers on Facebook. Someone said they didn’t like the Winter Warmer. It is a unique style that traditionally comes out and tastes better around the holidays. It’s hard to believe Valentine’s Day is next weekend. Oh, and that means Arizona Beer Week is almost here. The Arizona Strong Beer Festival kicks off Arizona Craft Beer Week, and we will be there dawning pretzel necklaces and drinking some of the best and strongest craft beer in the nation. But tonight we are drinking Winter Warmer.

Ricky’s Thoughts

In the Glass: The beer is really dark, and produced a nice thick tan head. There is a nice lace, too. A lot of brewing companies make a Winter Warmer, like Great Lakes, Sam Adams and Full Sail… But this one is local, it’s canned, and I am pumped to drink and continue to support SanTan.

Nose: This beer smells awesome. Nice and spicy; nutmeg, cinnamon and a subtle sweetness is coming in. This beer, according to the can, is brewed with ginger and Arizona honey. Does that mean they use Arizona bees? Speaking of ginger, we had a ginger cider earlier today. But I bet this beer is better than that cider.

Flavor: This is really nice. You get a bunch of spice up front, and then the sweetness from the honey comes in as you swallow. The finish is smooth, and the spicy flavors really stick around. Also, you would never know this beer is 9.5% ABV. Very well balanced. I just wish the finish lasted a little bit longer. Still a delicious beer and a good example of the style.

Mouthfeel: It is quite smooth, and has a hint of carbonation around the edges. Sheryl has asked me three times, “This is the Winter Warmer, right?” Yes! Just smell the thing. I want to hurry up and finish this so we can drink The Mad Czar.

Aftertaste:The finish is solid. The same spicy notes I was getting on the nose are there. I am not tasting much ginger. It’s almost an allspice. But the sweetness from the honey is really coming out in the finish. Might want to call this lip smacking good!

Again, this beer has been sitting in the fridge for a few months, but I am glad that we finally got the chance to try it and review it. Now, can we please drink The Mad Czar? Cheers!

Rating: 3.5/5 (If the finish was a little bit longer, I would give this a 4/5. If I could rate a beer 3.75/5, I would give it that.)

Sheryl’s Thoughts

Ricky is forcing me to drink beer today. He keeps giving me more even though it is over my calories for today. He is detrimental to the cause of me trying to lose weight. I mean, if he is drinking beer and I have paid for half of it, of course I am going to drink it! Ugh. Oh well.

Tonight we are reviewing two of SanTan’s new beers from their Vault series, their Winter Warmer and Mad Czar. I like both of these styles, so I kind of have high expectations for them. We are drinking the Winter Warmer first. It is darker than I expected. Ricky just got upset when I asked him again if it was really the Winter Warmer. It is basically black. I thought it could’ve been the Czar, which is a Russian Imperial Stout. It does not, however, smell like a Russian Imperial Stout. Instead, it does smell more like a Winter Warmer. It has a very subtle nose of spice to it. It’s definitely not overpowering, but it is a nice balance.

Time to take a sip. It’s got a kind of velvety mouthfeel, and much richer and boozier than I expected. It does have a spicy taste to, but that is much more evident in the aftertaste than in the sip of the beer. Drinking it you notice the mouthfeel and booziness more than the spice. It’s got almost a bit of fruit flavor to it. Not citrus fruit, but dark fruit, like raisins or currants. It’s an interesting balance. Maybe a bit too boozy for a Winter Warmer, but not too bad. This is one I would likely buy again if I was in the mood for it.

Rating: 3.5/5

SanTan Brewing Company The Mad CzarName: The Mad Czar
Brewery: SanTan Brewing Company
Country of Origin: United States
City & State: Chandler, Arizona
Style:  Russian Imperial Stout
Alcohol Content (ABV): 9.9%

Now it’s time to review The Mad Czar. This one is going to taste better as it warms up, but I am ready to dig in. I wonder if SanTan has ever thought about barrel aging this… Guys, do it! That would be a delicious beer, regardless of what The Mad Czar tastes like.

Ricky’s Thoughts

In the Glass: This beer is dark as night. It has a nice thick head on it, too. I know a beer like this is going to get better as it warms up, but I need to smell and taste this beer as soon as possible.

Nose: That smells awesome! I love a good Russian Imperial Stout, and have been craving one for a few weeks. I am getting a ton of dark roasted malt notes with a lovely sweet character. For a beer that is 10% ABV, it should smell and taste boozy. I’m done smelling. Let’s drink!

Flavor: That is really good. That is what a Russian Imperial Stout should taste like! I am getting a hint of charcoal flavor, and while I want a hint of smoke on the finish, it is simply smooth and delicious. I would love a scoop of ice cream with this bad boy. Hmm… Maybe I will grab a scoop of ice cream from the freezer. I am going to the gym tomorrow. I’ve earned it. Right?

Mouthfeel: The mouthfeel is great. It is smooth and creamy. I got yelled out on Friday during the Craft Beer Nation Friday Night Hangout for calling a beer creamy. But to each their own. I am going to call this beer creamy. Deal with it! I hope SanTan plans to barrel age this. I would love to taste this with some bourbon notes. Does anyone know if they are planning to age this stuff?

Aftertaste: The finish is good, but like the Winter Warmer, doesn’t really linger. Those same chocolate malt things I was smelling and tasting sticks around. I just can’t get over the fact this is 10% ABV. They do a great job hiding the alcohol in these.

Glad we got the chance to try The Mad Czar before it hit store shelves. I also hear that Christian Chandler will be reviewing this in an upcoming issue of Ocotillo Living Magazine. I didn’t even know he wrote reviews for them… But when I saw his review of Sirius Black, I was glad to hear he was reviewing another local beer next month.

Regardless of what you are drinking, make sure it’s local. Stay thirsty my friends. Did I really just say that?

Rating: 4/5

Sheryl’s Thoughts

This is our next one in the SanTan Vault series. I’m excited about this one – it’s a Russian Imperial Stout, one of my favorite styles. Yep, I like the big heavy beers. It’s a problem when we are out drinking somewhere. I tend to like the high ABV beers, the ones that have a lot of calories and get you drunk really fast. Can you see how that would be a problem?

Well, let’s check this one out. It’s pretty dark, basically black, typical of the style. It smells… well, a little boozy. Not a really strong nose. I don’t really get a whole lot from it. I hope there’s more flavor than smell.

It also tastes of booze. I wonder if there’s an average ABV for the Vault series, because the last two we have had have tasted boozy to me, although I don’t even know for sure what the ABV of them were. This one is decent, but not as good as I had hoped. It has more booze flavor than any other flavor, in my opinion. Although – I just took a second sip, and maybe it’s getting better as it warms up. It definitely has an aftertaste to it. There’s a little bit of bitter, dark chocolate flavor to it that lasts long after you have swallowed. This is good – not the best, but still good. I’m not sure if I would buy it again or not. Not because I don’t like it, but because there are better Russian Imperial Stouts readily available.

Rating: 3.5/5

To find a pint or can of SanTan’s beers near you, visit SanTan Brewing Company’s Beer Finder online at

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