Deschutes is a name that comes up quite often when we talk about breweries that don't sell their beers in our state. Deschutes has a reputation of making very desirable beers, none of which I've been able to obtain before a couple months ago. Since then I've had a Mirror Pond, Hop in the Dark and Inversion IPA. I've been trying to keep an open mind about Deschutes but they seem to be a one trick brewery who's brewing philosophy seems to be, "PUT MORE HOPS IN IT!" In fairness, I haven't had a Deschutes beer that was too hoppy, but there's a common thread in all the beers I've had from Bend, Oregon...
I was especially proud of finding this bottle of at the liquor store, not because it was particularly rare but because it was on the clearance rank. I'd seen a few bottle of these on the shelves over the holidays but didn't get around to picking one up. Even though the holidays are a month behind us I couldn't pass up getting a bottle of this collaboration for half price. The timing worked out well because just enough time had passed that I was no longer burnt out on holiday seasonal beers. After picking up this bottle I realized something a little strange...
I've had nothing but good experiences with Hitachino beers so I jumped at the chance to pick up a bottle of their winter seasonal Commemorative Ale. The label isn't terribly informative so I wasn't real sure what to expect from this beer. All I knew at the time of purchase is that this beer is 9% alcohol and was brewed with coriander, orange peel, nutmeg and cinnamon. Sound festive? Yeah, not really... but it still sounds pretty good and considering Hitachino beers have been quite good to me so far, I took the gamble and got a bottle.
I've had Schlafly's Christmas Ale a number of times over the past couple of years and I've come to an important conclusion, this beer is a million times better on tap. I don't want to make it sound like the Christmas Ale is bad when it's poured from a bottle, that isn't the case. What I mean is this beer goes from good to amazing when you have it direct from a keg. Schlafly's Christmas Ale is a great example of how a Winter Warmer can be spiced without tasting being too harsh on the palate. Whether you have this beer from a bottle or a tap, it'll have the same malty base with cinnamon spice.
This was one of my favorites beer from the original series of Jingle Beers. Anchor's Our Special Ale is a Christmas seasonal that is rich and spicy in a very well balanced way. This beer starts off tasting a bit like cinnamon and nutmeg, not super strong but still obviously spiced. Those flavors meld into a syrupy caramel, almost butterscotch, maltiness that mellows everything out before the finish. Our Special Ale finishes with a flavor reminiscent of a pine cone. Distinctly like pine yet syrupy, like I'd imagine sap tasting... Afterward, you're palate is coated in a sweet flavor similar to a mild maple syrup.
This is probably the strongest flavored Winter Warmer I've had this season. It also happens to be the most mellow flavored Avery beer I've had yet. The Old Jubilation is a roasty, spiced Winter Warmer that has a very warming flavor. There is a strong bitterness in this beer, but that's something you can pretty much expect with all Avery beers. That bitterness isn't overpowering, at times it even tastes a little like chocolate. The other flavors in this beer balance out the bitterness to a degree, but in the end the Old Jubilation tastes like an oaked brown ale with a touch more dry roasted malt.
Dear Boulder Beer Company,
Why must all of your beers but hopped within an inch of sanity? I think you have a problem, you've stuff an ungodly amount of hops into your Never Summer Ale. This beer, as you know, is your Christmas seasonal and it tastes like a liquified 2x4... I'm affraid this condition has gotten so bad that you're unable to recognize malts or other flavors that beer drinkers might appreciate. I hope you see the error of your ways and learn to use hops responsibly, for the sake of those who love you.
My expectations of this beer were pretty low. I've had a couple Stevens Point beers before and I remember them being nothing special. They were better than mass produced macrobrews but in the pantheon of great craft beers, Stevens Point is pretty far down the list. Also, it seems like the bulk of O'Fallon's beers are being brewed in Stevens Point now... and they're pretty poor quality. I tried to keep an open mind though and give this beer as fair shake. I'm pleased to say the St. Benedict's Winter Ale is better than I was originally expecting. How much better? Well... not much.
"Bah Humbug" pretty much sums this one up... BridgePort's Ebenezer is a Winter Warmer that is incredibly thin and watery. I expect Winter Warmers to be thicker, darker beers that are rich in flavor and warm you up. The Ebenezer is really none of those things... It smells nice and has a malty flavor with a little caramel but that's all it has in common with other Winter Warmers. This beer tastes a little flat, like a glass of Coca Cola that's been sitting in the fridge for a couple hours. The Ebenezer has a bit more malt and hops than a glass a flat Coke but other than that they're pretty indistinguishable from each other.
Nutmeg. Oak. Cinnamon. Caramel. There's a whole lot of Christmas in this beer. Dundee's Festive Ale is... just that, festive. This beer pours a deep copper color and develops a thin tan head. The dominant aroma in the glass is caramel but there are hints of cinnamon. When you take a sip of this beer you'll notice that it's flavor profile follows the aroma very closely. When Dundee's Festive Ale hits your palate you'll notice the sweet caramel and butterscotch maltiness right away. A counterbalance to all that sweetness is a cinnamon bite that takes your attention off the sweet malts before this beer finishes with a hint of oak.