Thursday, 08 December 2011 13:46

Holiday Beers 2011

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The cold winter months not only bring us sparkly lights, lingering spiced aromas and tryptophan induced naps, but Winter Warmers and Christmas Ales with mountains of malt, spices, fruit and herbs, completely devoid of subtlety.  My kinda’ beers.


These once-a-year beers pack a cornucopia of flavors, with plenty of alcohol by volume to keep you warm and toasty…and maybe even slightly toasted.

For this winter season, the Boston-based brewery has released a selection of 2011 holiday beers, featuring the new line of Samuel Adams beers called Single Batch. These special brews (Tasman Red, Third Voyage, The Vixen and Griffin’s Bow) are available in a limited supply.  Available in 22-ounce bombers, the series boast more alcohol by volume than a typical beer.

Coming in at 6.5% ABV, the name Tasman Red, derives from the hops, which are grown around the Tasmanian Sea.  I envision winter in the piney, woodsy and maybe even eucalyptus aromas. This red IPA has some serious grapefruit action going on. The molasses and toffee malt backbone really anchors the abundance of hops nicely. I’m pleased that Sam Adams is getting even more exploratory in their releases, because I think I’d have to say this is one of my favorite SA brews. This mahogany colored, earthy, citrus beer is definitely quaffable.

Brasserie Dupont Avec Les Bons Voeux: 9.5% ABV. Translating to "With the best wishes of the Brewery Dupont," this Christmas beer pours a clear golden color. The typical Saison funk and mustiness is present, but not overpowering. It’s fresh, with a hint of Belgian candy sugar and lemon peel. This is another beautiful, earthy beer to enjoy with the plethora of scents, wafting from the Christmas tree and the table’s feast.

Get into the festive feeling with Great Lakes Christmas Ale. A four-time gold medal winner at the World Beer Championships, the cinnamon and ginger brings that warming, sweet taste of home-made cookies.  The honey and malts combine for a nice texture and make for a perfect holiday beer.

Deschutes Jubelale is a dark number lending flavors of brown sugar, dark fruit and a piney resinous character.  This holiday-ized beer finishes with notes of nutmeg, cinnamon and molasses.  Another reason to pick this up during the holidays?  You’ll seem cool and artsy.  For the past 17 years, Deschutes Brewery has selected a local Oregon artist to create an image evocative of the season’s festive atmosphere.  This year, the collaborative art of Central Oregon artists Cara Thayer and Louie Van Patten adorns this year's label. Check out the making of the label here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=3vKdPs8owyo#!

Colorado is known not only for their awesome skiing and snowboarding, but for their audacious winter brews. Avery Brewing's Old Jubilation Ale is an 8.3% ABV Old Ale that packs some serious holiday revelry. Biscuit and nutty aromas prepare you for a great malt complexity. The finish has a nice bitter, hop spice character and it’s surprisingly easy to drink, for the high ABV. Stay inside by the fire with this one, kids.

Great Divide Yeti Imperial Stout isn’t a holiday beer specifically, but one that can be enjoyed any time of the year, especially the winter months.  The 9.5% ABV beer has a massive caramel and burnt coffee malt backbone and hints of dark fruit.   The flavors are layer beautifully and lend to a rich and creamy mouthfeel.  It’s just a fantastic beer.

Ridgeway Lump of Coal is an 8% bittersweet chocolate stout and just may be more than you deserve for Christmas this year. Burnt sugar, dark fruit and molasses notes make their presence known.  It’s a bit boozy, a little aging would do well for this beer.

Sierra Nevada Celebration is like a little celebration in a bottle.  This American IPA smells delicious.  If they sold this as an air freshener, I would totally buy it. Chinook, Cascade and Centennial hops make more than an appearance, while grapefruit, notes of apple cider and resin balance with tempered sweetness.  Hop heads usually love this one. With this beer, I think I can safely say, “whooooo hooooooo!!”

Other holiday beer suggestions:
Affligem Noel Christmas Ale
Port Brewing Santa’s Little Helper Imperial Stout

Merry drinking!

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