Archive for the 'Winter' category
The weather forecasters were correct and we actually got a dusting of roughly a foot of snow today. With snow on the ground, and it being the holiday season, I thought I would crack open a “holiday/winter beer”.
In the snifter the beer is a lush ruby red that is perfectly clear. The head is snow white, and very thin, lasting mere seconds before fading to a ring against the glass walls. Even without a head the aromas are quite pronounced with bushels of cherry aroma inundating my nose. The cherry however is wrapped in this exquisite spiced note.
The tip of the tongue tingles with a slight warming sensation but this is quickly swept away by the beer’s cherry flavor. The cherry flavor is a mix of sweet and tart, with a dash of bitter chocolate thrown in for good measure. Before I can dwell too much on these flavors however, the spice notes, originally noticed in the aroma, come and take charge. They do not muscle the cherry flavors out however, they enhance them. The beer finishes slightly syrupy, the rest of the mouthfeel was quite light, and with some hints of rustic, unrefined honey.
Without the spice this would just beer a fruit beer. Granted a some what interesting fruit beer due to the sweet and tart combo, but still a fruit beer. The spice of the beer, which came from the beer’s Belgian yeast strain and was tough to peg down taste wise… some cinnamon, coriander, a few others… is what elevated this beer, and worked so well with the sweet/tart cherry, and bitter chocolate combination. I am not a huge “holiday/winter beer” person. I find most brewers over due the spice or alcohol, by the way The Mad Elf is 11% but you will never notice it in the aroma or taste, in their offerings. This beer however, it should be produced all year.
Back in February the wife and I took a weekend trip up to New Hampshire for some dog sledding. The sledding was excellent (the weekend was rather “warm” for February) and it was quite a treat to see the sled dogs in their stride. On the drive back home I decided to pick up some local beer; Woodstock Inn Brewery’s Wassail and Pemi Pale Ale. I have already reviewed the Pemi (from a different session), so lets get to the Wassail.
The beer poured a dark, rich amber, with an off-white head, into the pint glass. Aromas of “winter” spice, caramel and malt mingled relatively well together. Things seemed promising for this beer, but once it hit the tongue everything fell apart. The caramel and malt definitely had some play but these flavors clashed with a very strange spice mixture. The taste also had some burnt characteristics, and finished quite harsh. This beer came in four-pack form and fortunately so, because I could not imagine going through any more.
So, here’s another Stoudt’s beer I picked up. You’ve seen a few favorable reviews on here for these guys lately. That’s because they seem to make some pretty good beers. This is probably gonna be another one.
The winter ale pours a very dark brown color, actually looking more like a stout than any winter ale. The head on this is dense and fairly thick, with a deep caramel color. Though the head does dissipate a bit over time, it maintains a rather lush thickness over the surface of the beer. In the nose, I’m getting mostly light caramel and nut aromas – it’s quite rich, with a light sweetness to it, and very delectable. In the mouth, this is big and rich, as expected. The early flavors are of nutty sweetness and toffee, merging into a thicker taste of dark malt, and finally becoming a bit more rootsy and bitter, with some peanut and toffee essences towards the back of the mouth. That peanut-y bitterness tends to predominate around the back of the throat and into the aftertaste, sticking around for ages. Meanwhile, the malt seems to stick around through the mouth, due to the thicker consistency of the brew. Overall, it’s a tasty winter ale. It tends more towards the rich and malty and less to the holiday spiciness, which isn’t bad. Honestly, I usually go for the spicier, but I’m kinda liking this one right now. As the appearance suggests, there are some definite stout characteristics to this, but it comes together a bit lighter and more accessible than a stout, which is a welcome attribute after a season of way-too-many dark beers.
Next up from the nice folks at the Beer of the Month Club is the single winter ale in this shipment, from Lancaster brewery.
This beer pours a very dark brown color that doesn’t let any light in to speak of. The head here is thick, rocky, and light brown, seeming quite pillowy and luxurious. In the nose, this is a bit odd – very sweet, there are notes of sticky caramel and sweet cream, along with some light hints of dark grape and cherry. The flavor, as well, is peculiar for a winter ale. There is both a lot of sweetness and an interesting sourness that makes the mouth pucker up a bit. The sweetness comes at the front of the mouth, and is somewhat maple and candy-like (in some ways like a caramel creme candy). In the second half of the flavor, the beer suddenly turns earthy and sour/bitter with some bits of anise and interesting, almost ginseng-like, qualities. It’s a unique flavor blend – initially, I didn’t like it, but I find it growing on me as I progress through the beer. All of these flavors are big, and the presence of this beer is huge in the mouth. However, as I’ve said, there are two definite and separate flavor profiles involved, and it may be a bit much for some people. This may not be a beer I reach for often, though I can appreciate it’s flavor, which could be construed as either adventurous or accidental or flawed. At any rate, it’s unique. Let’s just leave it at that.
Merry Christmas! And what better way to celebrate this day than with a local Christmas brew, and one of my favorite holiday brews all-around. And, for those of you who are local, be sure to stop by the Carolina Brewery on Franklin Street to have a pint or, if you want to be a true supporter like Matt and I, grab a keg for the house.
The Santa’s Secret Ale pours a hazy light-ish brown color, appearing chocolatey in color and dense with debris (or, as Matt calls it, ‘burnt sienna’). The head is slightly off white, but fairly thick and pillowy. The aroma here is very spicy with hints of nutmeg and cinnamon. There is some background graininess to the aroma, but it’s mostly just big holiday spice and very pleasant. In the mouth, this beer is big and flavorful, but not too thick or filling. The flavor isn’t terribly complex. Mostly, it carries some dark malty brown ale flavors through the mouth while contributing that holiday spice to keep things interesting and seasonal. The flavor of the spice tends to spike at the front of the mouth and in the aftertaste, taking a brief break through the middle of the tongue. The mouthfeel of this is relatively thin, which is a bit different for a Christmas Ale, but rather welcome. The thinner mouthfeel allows us to enjoy the flavors, but it makes for a less filling beer and one that is fairly refreshing for the genre. Overall, this ranks as one of my top 5 holiday beers most years – Carolina Brewery puts out a consistent product with this, and I think it’s one of the best brews they do. While you won’t find this in bottles anywhere, I highly recommend it to anyone in the area – hopefully, for your sake, they’ll keep this one around for another month or so…
I have not been in the big/boozy/thick/rich beer mood, so I have been avoiding the winter seasonal beers hitting the store shelves recently (since a fair majority of those beers tend to be big/boozy/thick/rich). With the first snow storm upon Boston and Christmas quickly approaching however, I thought I should delve into a “winter” beer.
For whatever reason the Anchor Brewing winter offering was proclaiming “Dave purchase me!”, so that is what I did and here I sit writing about it. This beer is actually in its 34th year of brewing, and its recipe has changed every one of those 34 years. If you want to check out how this beer has progressed, Ben reviewed the 2005 edition.
The beer pours a dark-rich brown with an off-white head that dissipates, in about a minute, to a very thin, even non-existent, covering. To get the full impact of the beer’s smell, I need to stick my nose deep inside the snifter glass. This allows me to receive the full blast of the holiday bouquet that is this beer. Ginger, allspice, cinnamon, caramel, liquorice and orange peel all make an appearance. All the smells mix well together, though some are a little harder to distinguish then others.
In the mouth the beer is surprisingly light, and a hint watery. The beer goes down quick and smooth. There is a nice toasted malt presence mid-tongue, with a spice bouquet finish. Much like the aroma, the spice finish is well mixed and not overpowering. If anything I notice a hint more ginger then any other aspect.
For someone not looking for a “winter” beer, this one was a pleasant surprise. It was quite light and easy to drink. If you do not like spiced beers, this probably will not suit you, but the spice is not all that overpowering. After a day of shoveling, this beer hit the spot for me.
This is one of the seasonal/holiday offerings in our most recent BOMC pakage. I started a review for this beer a week or so ago but I was so taken aback by the taste that I chalked it up as a loss and decided to give it a go another day. Ben tried it and like myself, was overcome with weirdness. He then decided he would rather not review it. This is by far the strangest beer we’ve gotten from BOMC although as you will see I wouldn’t necessarily call it the worst.
It has a deep copper color in the glass with an off-white head that rises and falls to just a smidge. It’s at this point that the weirdness commences. The smell is heavy with citrus, orange to be more specific, with a spiciness that tickles the nares. This smell which on paper sounds great is so sweet and candy like that I think I might go into a diabetic coma at this very moment. I can’t figure out if it reminds me more of jolly ranchers or skittles but either way it smells too much like candy for my blood. The taste is more subdued. The spice and a thick mouthfeel cut the sweetness making this beer drinkable, which up to this point I was afraid would not be the case. The pepperiness and effervescence merge and culminate in the middle of the mouth while the citrus weaves itself over the entire tongue and then disperses at the back of the mouth. The aftertaste is fairly clean, a touch of orange and alcohol loiter for a brief moment. This isn’t a “big” beer, only 6%, but the abv is noticeable nonetheless. I was surprised by the complexity of the Pickled Santa and at times was quite impressed with its “architecture.” But each time I raise my glass I am attacked by the offsetting aroma, so my experience is a little tainted and I can’t quite get passed it. I think you will agree after tasting it the experience is a roller coaster, it’s up to you to decide how many times to ride.
Tis the season, friends, for holiday beers. I haven’t had a whole heckuva lot of these so far this season – honestly it can be a bit overwhelming to choose, even for a very frequent drinker like myself. This time of year, these things tend to come out of the woodwork. However, I happen to know that Bell’s generally makes a tasty brew and, furthermore, I really like the understated label on this beer (much better than the creepy Pickled Santa label – stay tuned to see that one). So, I felt like it was a safe bet to invest in about 6 of these.
This beer pours a very hazy dark brown color with tons of suspended debris. The head on this is pretty understated in its own right, but what exists is of a caramel color. In the nose, this is mostly rich brown malts, but with some spicing. I believe this brew is intended to be an interpretation of a Scotch ale, and that’s more or less what we get, with the exception of some holiday-ey spice characteristics. In the mouth, this is a rich and warming brew (even when it’s cold). The initial sensation here is sweet and malty with a light alcohol burn. However, as the beer travels down the tongue, the spiciness takes the forefront – it seems there is some pepper heat to this, as well as those myriad other Christmas spices for which I don’t know the name, but you’ll recognize as soon as you either drink this beer, crack open a fruitcake, or smell the potpourri at your Mom’s house. The mouthfeel to this is surprisingly viscous and doesn’t stick to the tongue that much. Rather, it washes pretty clean, leaving just a bit of pepper heat and a light malt presence. Overall, it’s a tasty brew, and a great session beer, as far as Christmas Ales go. It’s tasty, but not a standout – the kind of beer you can safely bring to your holiday gathering and feel confident that everyone will like it…
Tonight we’re trying the second offering this month from the Beer of the Month Club. This one is a Winter Ale from Maine. I’m pretty excited to try this, as I love the Winter Ale varieties. However, in the same breath, I sure am ready for some light spring beers – I feel like I’ve been slamming my tastebuds for the past few months and I’m ready for a little something lighter. Anyway, I won’t let that hamper my review here – just wanted to let you guys know where I’m at…
This beer pours a medium-dark ruby color with a sticky white head. The aroma of this is uber-spicy with tons of cinnamon and various holiday spices, making this smell like a Christmas dessert banquet at your local Moose Lodge. In the mouth, the spice just keeps coming. Honestly, this is the nearest beer I’ve found to my favorite Winter Ale, the Highland Cold Mountain. There is a ton of cinnamon and spice, and an interesting backbone of dark malt with hints of blueberry. The flavor is certainly not subtle, but throws it all right in your face. The aftertaste is almost cloying, it’s so strong. It really kicks you right in the teeth and makes this beer almost dessert-like. Frankly, I like this type of winter ale. I know I just complained that I’ve had about enough of Winter Ales, and this is true. However, I have to admit that this is one of the best Winter Ales that has crossed my lips this winter – I just hate I found it so late in the season! (I also hate that we can’t get this stuff in NC – why don’t you start giving us North Carolinians some distribution, Casco?)
‘Tis the season for tasty winter ales! I was happy to try this, the first offering from Full Sail to make its way onto SevenPack and my first Christmas beer of the season. Not only is this a good name for a holiday brew, but it’s also known to be a decent, independently owned brewery. And, they seem to make a big deal out of the fact that they’re ‘independent’ and ‘employee owned’. Hopefully that means that they put a lot of pride in their beers, and that this fact will shine through in the taste.
This brew pours a clear medium amber with a very slight but lightly off-white head. The aroma of this isn’t terribly pungent, but it shines through with a metallic overtone and some hints of holiday spice. In the mouth, I would consider this an excellent holiday ale. There is a great deal of sweet, bready dark malts that give this a full and pleasing mouthfeel. In addition, there is just the right amount of spice here. The spice is light enough not to be overpowering, but heavy enough to definitively place this into the holiday ale category. Now, I haven’t had a ton of Christmas ales yet this season, as they are just beginning to appear on shelves. However, if my memory serves me well, then I’d rank this up there with some of the best that I tasted last season. While not terribly complex, this is flavorful and subtle, all in the right proportions, and it only becomes more pleasing as it begins to warm up in the glass. And, not to be overlooked is the great aftertaste that is both sweet and quite hoppy, leaving you with a great taste in your mouth and anxiously awaiting the next drink. Great job, Full Sail!
This is a little gem that I brought back with me from lovely Seattle. You see a lot of Deschutes brews over there, and it’s a good thing, because they make some pretty mean brews. Since I’m quite excited about the holiday beers coming around, I’m very glad to give this one a try.
The Jubelale pours a deep purplish brown with an aroma full of sweet spice and dark fruits. There are certain hints of dark cherry in the aroma, as well as various holiday spice and a touch of licorice (just a touch). In the mouth, this beer has a great, full flavor. The first flavor is slightly grapelike on the tip of the tongue. On through the mouth, some noticeable bitterness springs up that is both hoppy and reminiscent of horehound. Finally, there is a nice base of sweet malt that is intertwined with lots of holiday spice to give this a continually interesting ride all the way through the mouth to the back of the throat, leaving you with a sweet and rooty aftertaste that sticks to the roof of the mouth and plays its way up into your nose. All in all, a great beer, and one more that I can complement Deschutes on.
This particular Sam Adams brew is one that I’ve heard a ton about over the past couple of years, but I have surprisingly never tasted. So, I gotta say that this is the beer from the new Winter sampler that I’m most excited about. So, no reason to waste time beating around the bush – let’s get to drinkin’!
My first instinct of this from the pour is that it’ll be a dark, slightly unfiltered, winter dark ale. In fact, it’s dark enough to be mistaken for a stout, but it doesn’t QUITE take it to that level. The aroma of this is full of toffee and hints of chocolate and is quite rich. In the mouth, this is a very rich and decadent ale. Initially, you are hit with a heavy dose of dark malts. There’s a great sweet bready flavor with a backbone of nut and some slightly bitter spice. On through the mouth, the toffee sweetness develops itself and blends with just a hint of licorice. Finally, in the aftertaste, we get another dose of nuttiness pushing up into the nasal cavity, and the texture of the beer coats the back of the throat. The mouthfeel of this is quite large and just the slightest bit syrupy, giving this a healthy presence in the mouth that remains for some time. All in all, this is a good beer, but it honestly is a bit of a letdown. Granted, there was a big build up, and I think that’s the reason for any disappointment. Had I had this without any forewarning, I would’ve found it to be a super holiday brew. It reminds me a bit of a fuller bodied Newcastle brown ale with some holiday spice added for effect. So, take this for what it is, and judge for yourself – Odds are good that this is one you’re sure to enjoy, despite the fact that it didn’t knock my socks off…
Okay, I made this, so I’m bound to like it. Nevertheless, this is the first beer I have produced that nailed the original and terminal gravities where I wanted them, and it is the first beer I have produced that manages a concentration of flavor that I find competitive with other beers of this varietal. This is most definitely my favorite batch of homebrew yet, but hopefully this title will soon be taken by another, and better, batch
This beer is disappointing like Christian Laettner. It has all the ingredients of being excellent, but sticks them in all the wrong places, winding up performing like an offensive hack. The pleasing flavors of coffee, dark chocolate, and caramel somehow get misplaced to form a flavor that you wish to soon leave your mouth. I’ll give this one a miss until the brewmaster ties it all together a bit tighter
This beer tastes more like the leftovers from the quadrupel vat and less like a Christmas ale. I enjoy the beer on the whole, but it is not what I would expect from something labeled as a ‘Christmas Ale’. I need to give this a negative review, but only because it bears no outstanding characteristic that makes it a Christmas beer – otherwise, for a belgian quadrupel or tripel, I would say that it is a tasty brew