A delightful ruby copper color, Snow Crab! Winter Lager reveals gorgeous chestnut highlights when held up to light. In the nose are ripe figs, cooked dates, and a rum raisin character, evocative of the use of rich Munich malts. As advertised on the can this “Malt-focused Amber Lager” is a maltworm’s dream come true. As the saying goes: it takes one (a maltowrm) to know one–hi! It’s me! I’m the maltworm, it’s Stein.

Some amber lagers I find on the market feature an unpleasant oxidized character. Snow Crab! Winter Lager is void of this and has a wonderful malt depth with a deep stone-fruit sweetness before a luxuriously silky mouthfeel dissipates into a dry finish. The beer comes across as big, and with an elevated alcohol by volume content of 6.5% it plays tricks on the palate with its digestibility.

What starts as an overwhelmingly wallop of a malt tribute to toffee fades into a tempered balance of sweetness and slight bitterness before a crisp finish drops this beer into an easy-drinking category. Crooked Crab’s production team treaded lightly on the bitterness and the subtle contribution of Hallertau hops lend the softest kiss of grassy, floral, lemony German hop character to this Munich-influenced lager. Could a brewer use American Cascade, Citra, or Amarillo in a beer like this? Sure, they could. But there is a wonderful soft, floral bitterness contributed by the Hallertau hops that really make this amber lager hum. I would imagine a beer like this with Cascade or Citra might come across as too piney, too red berry, and too American.

Back of the can

As the craft brewing industry has gravitated more and more towards hops, many malt maniacs– like myself–have felt like the beauty of barley has been left behind. Despite losing 12% of the hops crop from 2021 to last year, three US States, Oregon, Washington, and Idaho still grow millions of pounds. Even with 2022’s loss from 2021, these three states grew over 100 million pounds of hops last year.

This amber lager plants a flag in the struggle for breweries bringing barley-flavored beers to market. This lager is an important one in the overall production of lager for its identity within a small market segment of lagers that are not pale and are not between 4 and 5% ABV. Where pale lagers whisper, this amber beer fermented with Munich yeast yodels from a mountaintop with maltiness that can be felt in the deepest corner of the cellar.


When Snow Crab! Malt-focused Amber Lager warms, there are even more aromatic volatile compounds released that fill my nose with a sweetness and a spicy herbal character. These bread crust and molasses aromas remind me of the gentle spicing hands of bakers who rise and sprinkle just the right amount of beautiful brown powders atop their cakes and cookies. This beer makes me think of all of the culinary professionals waking at 4 AM to have bread, cakes, and cookies on the countertop before sunrise.

Snow Crab! Malt-focused Amber Lager was gifted to me by DC Beer’s editor–full disclosure, the brewery gifted it to him–but will run you $14 per 4 pack at Crooked Crab Brewing Company in Odenton, Maryland, and a similar price in Maryland and DC stores. Their fifth anniversary is the weekend of February 18th. Swing by!