Tuesday, 24 December 2013 10:32

Survive the Holidays with Winter Beers

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Do your holiday spirits need some more lifting? These beers will keep you warm as roasting chestnuts with their holiday-ified ABV, spices and rich barrel aged flavors. These seasonally appropriate flavor profiles featuring chocolate, ginger, cinnamon and winter fruits are a welcome respite from ugly Christmas sweaters and that Neil Diamond Christmas album your mom insists on playing every year. Bring goodwill and joy to your fellow man with the gift of the following holiday beers.

Jolly Pumpkin Noel de Calabaza, Belgian Strong Dark Ale, Michigan, 9% ABV - Aromas of sour cherries, oak, barnyard funk and a touch of raisons. The taste is similar, with some pear, sour apple and toffee caramel notes in the background. The seasonal release goes through a unique process of secondary fermentation with wild yeast in oak. The sour and spicy flavors are wonderfully balanced, making it a complex beer that’s a nice twist to the traditional Belgian Strong Dark Ale.  Try it with roastninkasi sleighred duck or ham with cranberry sauce.

Ninkasi Sleigh'r, Dark Double Alt Ale, Oregon, 7.2% ABV - “Normal” alts range from 5-5.5% ABV and 40 IBUs. This rockin’ ale has a higher ABV and 50 IBUs. This hop bitterness balances the beer nicely. Mouthfeel is creamy and very smooth. This deep, dark, toasted malt flavor pairs beautifully with lamb, duck, strong cheeses or chocolate torte. 

The Bruery, 6 Geese-A-Laying, Belgian Strong Dark Ale, California, 11.5% ABV - 6 Geese-A-Laying is the 6th beer in their "12 Days of Christmas” winter seasonal ale series. The classic Christmas verse has been brewed with cape gooseberries, giving off notes of plums and dark cherry. The sweet sugary malt balances with the tart berries making for a voluptuous beer with puckered holiday cheer. Perfect now, or for aging up to six years. Enjoy this with your holiday roast, cranberry stuffing and caroling.

Port Brewing Santa’s Little Helper, Russian Imperial Stout, California, 10.00% ABV – Pouring a jet black color, big, roasted malt character, coffee and dark chocolate fill the air. The flavor is complex but still quite balanced. It's nice and robust with cocoa and toffee overtones, burnt sugar, chicory and some barrel flavors.  Assertive alcohol offers a bit of spice blooms over the tongue. Buy a couple and age this big guy to round out the flavors next winter. I wIsolationAleouldn’t mind getting this in my stocking.

Odell Isolation Ale, Winter Warmer, Colorado, 6.0% ABV – A sweet bready malt aroma accompanies caramel and nutty accents in this winter ale. The taste is very much in line. Brewed with English hops, the spices, malt and hops work in perfect harmony. A sturdy hoppiness, esters full of plum, citrus flavors, great drinkability, toasted grain and hints of clove verify it’s a world class holiday beer.

Deschutes Jubelale, Winter Strong Ale, Oregon, 6.7% ABV - This is a classic annual winter warmer that also celebrates local artists, by showcasing it on the label. Pouring a burgundy hue, Jubelale pleases the pallet with piney hops, coffee bean, caramelized flavors, cherry notes and a bit of floral edge.  Hops make their presence known in the end, a nice little surprise. Pair with short ribs and various cheeses.

Alesmith, YuleSmith (Winter), Imperial Red Ale, California, 9.5% ABV - Sweet caramel, orange marmalade and woodsy pine resins make for a gorgeous earthy & rich aroma. Significant sweet malts like toffee and toasted bread balance with hop grassiness, grapefruit and piney notes. The hops still shine with the heavy malt backbone, giving a luminous quality. This is an exceptional beer, as proven at the World Beer Championships, winning the gold in 2003, 2004 and 2005.AlaskanWinter

Alaskan Winter, English Olde Ale, Alaska, 6.4% ABV -  Based off Captain Cook’s historical recipe, this holiday beer has clean, slightly sweet bready malts and is accented by fresh Sitka spruce tips. Citrus and fruity flavors like orange zest, blueberry and peach cream pack some serious holiday revelry. This beer is brewed with glacier-fed water from the Juneau Ice Field, in the old ale style, which means it’s a little heavier on the alcohol and malt character. The brewery suggests pairing it with roast goose, turkey, ham, lamb or apple pie.  Sipping it solo, sitting in front of a roaring fire is highly suggested, too.

Uncork a bottle of merriment and give the gift of soul-warming, distinctive holiday flavor.



Ninkasi Sleighr photo: Poor Mans Heli


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