HOLIDAY BEERS PART 1 :: Here we go!!!

by David Daugherty on December 15, 2011

The Christmas holiday is fast approaching and as is customary, I celebrate with various holiday beers.  This year has been no exception, luckily the Christmas beers found their way to the shelves a little earlier than usual so I got a jump start on it.  So here we go:

The first holiday beer of the season was Alaskan Winter Ale by Alaskan Brewing Co., Juneau, Alaska.  This very tasty ale is made from Sitka spruce tips and a blend of European and Northwestern hops as well as some specialty malts.  I drank this out of the bottle, but the aroma was still nice, spicy, and lightly malted, but not sweet.  The taste, on the other hand, was sweeter than the aroma, also spicy, lightly carbonated, and enjoyable to drink.  The ABV came in at 6.4 and provided a nice warmth even though it wasn’t needed, considering it was 90 degrees outside.  It’s going to be a strange adjustment going from a cold winter climate to the year round heat of Arizona. Getting into the spirit of the season might be a little awkward, but these holiday beers but I am trying are helping.  If you can get your hands on this refreshing gem, do so.

Next was Winterfest Lager, by Joseph Brau Brewing Co. in San Jose, California.  Now there is some debate as to who creates this beer.There’s been plenty of talk that Trader Joe’s Brewing Co. can really mean anything, the names Gordon Biersch, Firestone Walker, and Goose Island coming up quite a bit.  Well, whoever brews this one does an excellent job.  Mahogany in color with a creamy tan head, the aroma is of bready, roasted malt and fruit! Lagers really aren’t my favorite style but this one was satisfying. Consistent with the nose, I got a malty mouth feel, with caramel and fruit.  At a healthy 7.5% ABV, it warmed as well as it hit the back of the throat.  An enjoyable winter lager, to say the least.

We followed that up with Trader Joe’s Vintage Ale 2011.  I can’t explain it any better than Trader Joe’s themselves:

“The 2011 Vintage Ale is an amber-mahogany hue, abundant with coffee-with-cream colored, foam. The ample aromas are of cocoa and malt, with added notes of lemon and ginger. A single sip leads to the true discovery – mildly sweet and malty flavors, with a captivating suggestion of cocoa, citrus and spice. It’s ready to enjoy right away, chilled but not ice cold. We recommend you forego the beer glass in favor of a wide-rimmed goblet – a glass like this will really showcase the flavor and striking color of the brew. As an added bonus, and one of the features that separates our Vintage Ale from the usual brew, it will age well for a few years, its flavors becoming more complex and interesting as time goes by. Thankfully, you only have to pay for it once. And our price of $4.99 for each 750 ml bottle makes this a vintage to savor.”

I can only add that this was a favorite of both mine and frequent session partner,  my neighbor Tony.  Be mindful, though, with an ABV of 9.0, the alcohol creeps up on you.

Tony then enticed me over with a Samuel Adams Holiday 12 pack.  He suggested that I mix their Black & Brew Coffee Stout which on its own has a wonderful coffee aroma with a rich chocolate/coffee taste, with Sam Adams Chocolate Bock.  Yes, it was as amazing as this combo promises!  The two mixed together sent an explosive shot of chocolate to the taste buds!  Both 5.8% brews, this mix trumped anything I have tried brewed solo with any type of chocolate or cocoa… and I’ve tried a lot.  Also in the 12 pack we sampled the Winter Lager which is amber in color and refreshing as well as Old Fezziwig Ale which we’ve reviewed before, another really good offering from Sam Adams.

Next, I tried Winterbraun Ale brewed by Lost Coast Brewery & Café in Eureka, California.  Poured into a pint glass, this ale had a deep dark brown color with a thick, creamy, tan head that stayed throughout, something we’ve come to expect from an English Brown.  Brewed with American pale, chocolate and caramel malts with Saaz hops, providing spice to the flavor of this winter ale, the aroma is very malty with chocolate up front. The taste, malty again, presented chocolate with a kind of spiciness that gives this ale a unique taste.  The ABV, a nicely balanced  6.5% to keep you warm on a cold winter night.  I really liked this one.  Let’s face it, this is the time of year where not only the trees and lights go up and the kids can’t wait for Santa to bring them their favorite toys, but when I think the breweries step it up and try to bring interesting beers to all of us big boys and girls.  This is only a partial list of the Christmas/Holiday beers I’ve tried, more to follow……

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