We Tried Elysian Brewing's Bifrost Winter Ale, And Would Be Happy To See It Under The Tree

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For many unfortunate regions of the country, outdoor temperatures are diving ever closer to the zero mark. Quickly approaching are the days of frigid toes in soggy boots, of pushing a shopping cart through four inches of brackish slush, of hunching over a cold steering wheel as your car's heat sputters to life. Ill-fated folks living in the northernmost states are, for the most part, already deep in the dark and blustery winter trenches.

Of course, some people see a four-month-long battle against frostbite and seasonal affective disorder as a suitable alternative to humidity, weeding flowerbeds, and begrudging participation in swimsuit season — so we digress. You won't find any gleeful willingness from us to shovel snow when a Minnesota blizzard unleashes its wrath, though. Our greatest wintry joys involve thick cashmere mittens, wood-burning stoves, and remote-start-capable vehicles. That's right — the best part of the cold is getting warm. 

Sometimes, standard thawing-out procedures can't shake the stubborn ghost of the tundra air ... and when hot coffee, downy blankets, and furnaces putting in overtime don't entirely chase away your shivers, it's time to reach for what warms from the inside out — beer. But no Bud Light will do when Mr. Meteorologist Man says a polar vortex is on its way. There's something very ancestral about combatting Jack Frost with a hearty winter ale. Is Elysian Brewing's Bifrost Winter Ale a worthy opponent to the cold? We gave this West Coast brewer's seasonal release a try to find out.

What's in Elysian Brewing's Bifrost Winter Ale?

Elysian Bifrost cans do not have a specific ingredient list, but we know from the brand website that this winter ale is made from Pale, Munich, and C-77 malts, plus Magnum, Chinook, and Amarillo hops. The Chinook hops are certainly responsible for the distinctly PNW-style smooth bitterness we picked up on in Bifrost; as More Beer explains, Chinook is known for "heavy bittering characteristics" with tinges of grapefruit. Bifrost's taste also seemed to be heavily influenced by resinous pine, which Magnum hops are often credited with, explains More Beer. 

Looking at the traditional composition of winter ales can also give us a few clues about what Elysian may have used in this brew. According to Craft Beer and Brewing, this unofficial type of beer usually spotlights darker malts and warming spice, with a milder nod to hops. These beers typically employ higher alcohol-by-volume rates — probably to stifle the wintertime shivers — and we do see that with Bifrost's no-nonsense 8.3% ABV. There are a number of common flavor companions that we didn't pick up on in Bifrost's flavor at all — cinnamon, coffee, and chocolate are the chief three — but regardless, the holiday flavor notes of this ale are a careful composition made from naturally occurring malt and hops flavors.

How much does Bifrost cost?

Exact cost details of Elysian's Bifrost Winter Ale is not readily forthcoming information to find online. The price will vary by your state's alcohol deposit and tax laws, but we did find Bifrost in the six pack of 12-ounce bottles through Total Beer and Wine for $11.99. Wine Searcher says the average price of Bifrost is $4 per every 750 milliliters. Craft City lists Bifrost at $5.99 for 22 ounces, but it was sold out at the time of this writing. 

This winter ale does seem to be about on par with the cost of other popular winter beers. The Sam Adams Winter Lager is slightly cheaper at $9.99 for a six-pack of bottles (per Target). The Southern Tier Old Man Winter Ale is marginally less expensive, too, at $10.49 for six of the same sized bottles (Total Wine and More). The Summit Winter Ale bottle pack through Total Wine is a dollar cheaper in price.

Where can you get Bifrost, and for how long?

Bifrost is a seasonal release, so procrastinators may miss out. Elysian Brewing told us that this seasonal beer will taper out at the end of this month, making Bifrost's 2022 run just a couple of short months after hitting shelves in early November. Elysian's popular year-round products, like the Space Dust IPA, are sold at most major grocers that sell spirits, but Bifrost seems to be the most universally available at Total Wine and More, which has locations in 27 states (via Total Wine and More). Elysian also told Mashed that Bifrost is sold through Drizly depending on local stock. According to Elysian Brewing, Bifrost is available in six-pack cans, six-pack bottles, 19.2 ounce cans, 1/2 beer barrel kegs, and 1/6 beer barrel kegs. 

Availability may be heightened around Elysian's Seattle stomping grounds with those bars and restaurants with the good judgment to carry it. You can also find Bifrost on tap at Elysian's four locations

Bifrost vs. other Elysian products

A number of Elysian products were recently put to the test when we tried out the Beers of Cheer 24-pack advent calendar, which Elysian participated in. Even the lowest-scoring of all this brewery's options in that roundup was by a standard metric very enjoyable, and there honestly are only two creations from Elysian that we would reach for before the Bifrost. Elysian's Night Owl Pumpkin Ale, for example, is a well-crafted and smooth ale that delivers far more on the warm holiday spices than the Bifrost. And the robust Split Shot Espresso Milk Stout from Elysian has the same amount of body as the Bifrost does, but our opinion is that the espresso gives the milk stout more personality and more appeal when looking for an after-dinner or snow-day sipper.

But Elysian's many IPAs? Forget about it. We tried Elysian's Full Contact Imperial Hazy IPA and Contact Haze Hazy IPA — and while they were well-done India Pale Ales, we'd take the smooth and cleverly implemented bitterness of the Bifrost over even an expertly crafted Elysian IPA any day. The winter ale carries the same oomph as an IPA, but capitalizes on it with the marriage of toasty malt tones we know in an amber ale. 

Bifrost Winter Ale nutrition details

Elysian told Mashed that the brewery does not have a nutrition label for Bifrost (there is not federal requirement for nutrition disclosure on alcoholic products, explains the U.S. Department of the Treasury Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau) but in looking at other online sources, Recipe of Health states that 22 ounces of Bifrost will run you 225 calories. This is on the lower end of the caloric spectrum for winter warmers, as Drizly says that an average winter warmer ale will contain about 250 calories in just 12 ounces. 

Winter warmers — that is, beers that are meant to warm you up on cold winter nights with their higher ABV and heavier malty body — are typically higher in carbohydrate content, says Drizly. Nutritional information on Harpoon Brewery's Winter Warmer cited by FatSecret stated that 12 ounces of this winter beer contain 19.60 grams of carbs, which is 7% of a 2,000-calorie daily diet's needs. But the oppressive hand of calorie counting seems to ease up a bit during the holidays — or, at least, it should. As far as we are concerned, homemade sugar cookies and a few pints of our favorite winter beer are perfectly acceptable food groups at this time of year.

The verdict: Bifrost is a hearty ale to liven up the holidays

As cold as it gets here in the upper Midwest, our standards for vigorous cold-weather ales are pretty high. Elysian Brewing's Bifrost Winter Ale is a solid performer that we would keep in our winter warmer lineup — although we can't call it an absolutely perfect flavor for this season. It's a hefty beer that fits the bill for that "take the chill away when the snow starts to fall" category, but the most prominent wintry flavor our palate picked up on was pine.

The tinge of resin, combined with the 8.3% ABV wallop, are the leading traits that define Bifrost as a winter ale. The toasted malty flavor was not difficult to pick up on but could have been more intense by a tick or two, and our subjective beer preferences lean more towards brews that prioritize the flavors of cinnamon, nutmeg, caramel, and toffee for December sippers. Bifrost puts more emphasis on the notes of citrus, apple, and general fruitiness bestowed by the hops varieties than we would have cared to see in an ideal cold-weather ale.

If anything, you can say that this classifies Bifrost as a well-done winter ale, and firmly disqualifies it from the holiday ale category. And in that regard, we don't disagree. It's a profound display of classic PNW craft brewing, not to be ignored before its meteoric arc through the holiday drinking space comes to an end.