Sunday, December 28, 2008

Monster Ale 2007, Brooklyn Brewery, Brooklyn New York

Barley wine - winter - happy.
I like the barley wine style of ales and am excited to try out Brooklyn Brewery's offering, the Monster Ale. As the website mentions, it is 10.1% with Scottish Floor-Malted Maris Otter and English Two-Row Malts; along with Willamette, Cascade and American Fuggle hops. It is aged four months... Now for it's due respect....

It pours a hazy amber with a tight head.

The aroma is sweet and a bit oaky - with a distinct alcohol.

The taste:
Cold: It has a full body with a lot of the oak flavor in there. It is sweet at the end with a little roastiness, as well.
As it warms: Oak/alcohol become more apparent, it becomes a little more thicker and the aftertaste is more dominant.

The aftertaste is complex with sweet malt and an earthy characteristic. It has a little tang and some brown sugar tones, as well.

This is a great barely wine. It is a wonderful sipper for the colder of cold nights. It's a little tough to find, but definitely worth seeking out!


Saturday, December 27, 2008

Snow Cap, Pyramid Breweries, Seattle Washington

Pyramid has several locations including Berkeley, Seattle and Portland. It offers up a variety of beers and I'm sure most of us beer drinkers have had at least one of their beers. One of their most popular brews is Snow Cap. Some years, I like this beer a lot - some years, not as much. Which will it be....

It pours a deep deep red, nearly opaque.

There is not much aroma - just mildly malty.

The taste is smooth malt. It has a medium/full body and is mildly sweet and mildly bitter. It is a good winter standard with a lot of girth to it. Easy to drink, but particularly strong. A great holiday party beer.

The aftertaste is mildly malty and bitter.

From the website:
Malts: 2-Row, Caramel, Chocolate
Hops: Nugget, Willamette, East Kent Goldings

It is available all over - grab one, this year - I like it!


Saturday, December 20, 2008

Mistletoe Bliss, Lazy Boy Brewing, Everett Washington

This is my first Lazy Boy beer. It is a brown ale, on the hefty side. The website states that it is 7.5% and brewed with Pale, Crystal, Munich, Brown, Vienna, & Chocolate malts and with Ahtanum hops....

It pours a deep reddish hue with a big foamy head.

The aroma is malt, spruce and a hop earthiness.

It has a medium body and very malt forward. It is sweet and becomes creamy as it warms. There is mild hop, but it is below the vanilla sweet that becomes more dominant as it is enjoyed.

The aftertaste is biscuity malt. It is very drinkable. Available in the 22 oz bottles, it disappeared quite quickly one fine evening!

Harvey's Christmas Ale, Harvey's, Lewes Sussex England

Our first International Holiday brew. Harvey's is available at several places in small 9.3 oz heavy bottles. Look for it at your local beer proprietor and occasionally at your well-stocked neighborhood grocer.
I've not had Harvey's before, so let's give it a try...

It pours a deep red with a big head.

The aroma is very sweet malt, almost cherry-ish.

The taste is malt and barley forward. It is a little sour in the body. There is a weird sweet/sour thing going on that seems to balance itself out by the finish. There are big hints of the cherry-ness throughout.

The aftertaste finishes sour and a bit bitter, but the palate seems to reset fairly quickly - which is good, otherwise, the cherry would get a little sticky and overbearing.

It is a good after dinner brew to drink slowly while watching the snow fall. I highly recommend it to those who have been around the usual block of Holiday ales and are looking for something different to quaff.


Winter Lager, Samuel Adams, Jamaica Plain Massachusetts

Massachusetts...I just moved from Boston where I enjoyed a couple of years of East Coast living. Of course, I had Sam Adams beer while there - as well as many beers from the Boston and Mass. area. One thing about Sam Adams - they have some free tastings you can sign up for once a month - which is a lot of fun. Though, in my view, a lot of their beers are baseline - that is the place where beer should start at and go up from, but never below - it is always fun to have free beer. One thing to note is that a little bird back east told me that most of the brewing is done away from Boston - they still have a facility in Boston, where they develop their beers and try them out on happily willing people like me!

The Winter Lager pours a medium amber with a thin head.

The aroma is sweet malt with a little spiciness.

The taste is malty, mild roasty and mildly sweet. It is easy to drink with a medium body. It is clean and crisp and would be easy to pair or drink alone.

The aftertaste is mild mild bitter and the palate resets quickly.

This is the kind of beer that would go over well with the middle-road beer drinkers. It is mild and subtle, but still offers some dimension. It goes well with a warm meal on a cold night. I prefer it with some Bluestone pizza on Commonwealth Avenue with mine!


Never Summer Ale, Boulder Beer Company, Boulder Colorado

Our next beer comes from somewhere that definitely knows something about winter. The Boulder Beer Company is advertised as Colorado's first brewery. They have an assortment of beers with a decent amount of distribution around the US.

The Never Summer Ale pours a deep red with a thin tight head.

The aroma is earthy hop and mildly sweet.

The taste is bright hop, fairly aggressive from the get-go, but the bitterness is balanced out in the body by the malt. It mellows to a soft malty and very subtle finish. It is a little creamy and very smooth. There is a slight sweetness with the malt in the finish. The hop mellows over drinking and the beer becomes a subtle winter warmer that is easy to drink and very easy to pair.

The aftertaste is mildly bitter with mild malt. The palate resets quickly.

This is an easy party beer - a little something for everyone in it's hop and malt. Not too extreme, so it is a safe bet -

From their website:

Bitish Dark Caramel Malt & U.S. 2-row Barley. The hops are: Nugget, Willamette, Cascade and "Top-Secret Brewmater's Spice"


Monday, December 15, 2008

Winter Ale, Alaska Brewing Company, Juneau Alaska

So, we've all heard of the Alaska Brewing Company - let's see how their Winter Ale holds up. Its an English Old (or Olde - a little more authentic) Ale...

It pours a bright glowing amber with a medium head.

The aroma is hop with a mild tree-ish flavor. The website identifies it as Spruce, I'm not sure I can be that specific.

The taste is clean crisp hop with very little bitterness. It is a balanced ale - with a hearty body, that is definitely a warmer for the winter. The "tree"ness i.e. Spruce is definitely there in the finish. It finishes more complex than it starts and lingers nicely.

The aftertaste is mild - the malt, tree and hop linger before leaving the palate clean. It has a great warmth to it that grows as it is consumed!

I've seen the beer all over - it's an easy drinker that is a sure bet for enjoyment at a party. I think you could pair it with any holiday meal - it is 6.4 % with 27 IBU's.


Winter Warmer, Magnolia Pub and Brewery, San Francisco California

We took a recent trip to San Francisco and were lucky to discover the Magnolia Pub & Brewery on Haight Street. They had their Winter Warmer on tap, so we gave it a try -

It pours opaque.

The aroma is roasty mild sweetness and malt.

The taste is roasty malt finished with vanilla. However, it is not too sweet at all. There is no spice, but a full-body malt that gets better as it warms.

The aftertaste is mild bitter with mild vanilla sweetness.

I definitely recommend it to anyone in San Francisco - I don't think they bottle at all, so you have to go to them - which isn't a bad thing at all!

It is 7.8% with 15 IBU's


Old Bawdy, Pike Brewing Company, Seattle Washington

Barleywine. Excellent. I enjoy this style immensely, it is to some degree an acquired taste. The first time I had it, I didn't really enjoy it much. Now, it's a different story. We'll be sampling several Barleywine's here - as the Pike website mentions, it's been brewed for six thousand years - so, we'll definitely be giving it it's due respect!

I should mention, that no animals were hurt in this tasting. Above, is our guest sampler, Tank - my sister & brother-in-law's dawg.

It pours amber with a big head.

The aroma is sweet malt and smoky.

The taste is mild, but complex. There is sweetness and hop as well, but that gives way to an oak and smoky flavor. There is also caramel/brown sugar in there as well. It is a viscous brew.

The aftertaste is hop floral and mild oak.

This is a sipper, for sure. Quite drinkable, but good to take it slow - enjoy all the flavors in there. We had it post Thanksgiving meal, which was a perfect time for it. It's a great beer to share. Obviously, Tank enjoyed it - but then again, I've never seen her turn her back on a beer before.

From the website:

10% with 90 IBU's.

It is available in several stores, including Whole Foods. Look for it in 12oz and 22oz bottles.

Malt: Pale, Wheat, Crystal, & Peated.
Hop: Magnum, Chinook, Centennial, & Columbus.


Santa's Private Reserve, Rogue Ales, Newport Oregon

Let's keep it on the West Coast for now...The next comes from the well-known Rogue Brewery...Santa's Private Reserve, nice of him to share it with us, let's see how it goes....It is a double-hopped red ale. I'm not always a fan of red ales, but the double-hopped sounds alright to me...

It pours tawny with a big head.

The aroma is hop, fragrant and flowery. Mild sweetness, as well.

The taste is hop forward, but then balanced back in the body with mild malt. It is very lively on the palate - almost a sparkling on the tongue. It is not the flowery hop flavor that is detectable in the aroma, it is more mild and earthy. There is a spicy/peppery finish to it.

The aftertaste is mild hop and bitter. It leaves a clean palate, especially since it is such a sparky body.

It is a good bright winter warmer, easy to drink and easy to pair with a variety of meals on the Holiday menu, especially anything spicy.

From the website: Malts include: Great Western Harrington, Klages, Munich & Hugh Baird Carastan, & Crystal.
Hops include: Chinook & Centennial.
Rogue's Pacman Yeast.

It is available all over in 12oz, 22oz, & draft, of course.


Friday, December 12, 2008

Jolly Roger Christmas Ale, Maritime Brewery, Seattle Washington

Back to Washington State.

It pours a deep amber with a thin head.

The smell is hop and sweet malt. It has a bourbon barrel type essence. Mild brown sugar or maple is detectable.

The taste is balanced malt. It's not sweet - more of a Strong Ale type of beer. A little of that bourbon barrel-ness is there. It has some of that maple/brown sugar flavor evident just behind the body.

The aftertaste reminds me of a barley wine style ale. It is mildly sweet, mildly bitter; aggressive and energizing on the palate -

This is an excellent sipping winter warmer for the coldest of the cold days. I've found it available in 12oz bottles in just a few locations around Portland here - Belmont Station and one or two grocers. A good beer to join a big holiday meal or to sip on the porch for some fresh air after dinner. It gains bold characteristics as it warms.

Cheers! or as the bottle says - Yo Ho Ho.

Shiner Holiday Cheer, Spoetzl Brewery, Shiner Texas

Texas? Winter Beer? Wha? That's right. Our next beer comes from the Spoetzl Brewery in Shiner, Texas. Most of us are familiar with the well-distributed Shiner Bock Beer. This is the first time I've come across Shiner's winter, so I am excited to give it a try - I have a special fondness for Shiner, which I will elaborate on later when I blog their bock beer sometime. For now, Holiday Cheer - it sounds interesting - the bottle mentions it being brewed with Texas peaches adn roasted pecans along with malted barley. Interesting for sure! As my friend Adam is fond of saying "Don't fruit the beer!", which I think is a good rule of thumb, but let's go in with an open mind....

It pours dark brown with a thin head.

The aroma is sweet and peachy. I get a little scared. There is malt, but the peach is most noticeable.

The taste is initially peachy and I'm afraid my fears may be confirmed. However, it isn't too sweet and the initial peach is rounded off by an earthy malt and nuttiness that is evident in the body. The roasty nuttiness makes me think this would be a good warm weather winter warmer - I'm thinking about bbq while I drink it. I think it would go well with some glazed salmon or some other bbq items.

The aftertaste reveals the peach again, it is a little sweet. It leaves a desert aftertaste or something akin to the marshmallow sweet potato dish occasionally prevalent in Holiday meals.

It isn't a bad beer! I kind of like it for it's bold distinction and the reminiscence of bbq/warm weather in these cold days. Definitely not for those of us not interested in fruit in the beer or those who don't like the flavor of peach. But if you are looking for something truly unique this season or for a conversation starter at a holiday party, this'll do the trick for y'all. Like the sweet potato dish, I can't imagine over-indulging. I think the sweetness would be too much after a few of these beers, but worth the try. Plus it has some amazing packaging - so it makes for a nice stocking stuffer for the experimental beer lover in your life.

From their website: 5.4% with 22 IBU's.


10 Below, Scuttlebutt Brewing Company, Everett Washington

Another first for me. I haven't had one of Scuttlebutt's beers before - so let's give it a try...It's an imperial dunkel weiss (Dark Wheat). Sounds good!

It pours opaque with a bubbly head.

The aroma is malt with roasty coffee tones, but still fairly crisp. There is sweetness and slight vanilla at the end.

The taste is malty and wheaty at first. It is very smooth even from the beginning. It has a full body - the sweetness is balanced by the roasty tones and slight coffee notes.

The aftertaste goes quickly leaving a slight roasty flavor.

This is an excellent beer - it demonstrates perfectly the difference between a one dimensional beer and a well balanced beer. Tones are evident without being overwhelming - sweetness doesn't dominate the beer, the flavor blossoms delicately even for a robust beer.

This is an excellent strong winter warmer.

From their website: Hops: Mt. Hood & American Sazz with 22 ibu’s. 7.4%.

I haven't seen their beer too many places. Check for it in 12 oz and 22 oz bottles - I got mine at Belmont Station.


Yellow Snow IPA, Rogue Ales, Newport Oregon

Nothing truly says winter like Yellow Snow. This IPA from Rogue Ales is one of their winter seasonal offerings. This is the first year that I've tried it - I love the idea of an IPA in the dead of winter....

It pours bright yellow with a big foamy head....Of course.

The smell is big earthy hop.

It is all big earthy hop with a slight spice. The bitterness is evident throughout, but it's not over the top or too biting. It is balanced back in the medium body. It has a bitter and hop finish.

The aftertaste is bitter with flowery notes at the very end.

I love IPAs. There isn't a whole lot to say about this one - it's delicious and clean. Not too extreme. It offers a great reprieve from the big malty winter brews that rule the season. Definitely recommended for any hop fan - it is available in fairly wide distribution.

From their website: Two Row Pale, Cara Foam & Melanoiden malts. Hops: Amarillo. Yeast: Rogue's Pacman Yeast. 70 IBU's.

Another fine ale from one of my favorite breweries!


Thursday, December 11, 2008

Wee Heavy, Hales Ales, Seattle Washington

Our next beer hails from new my old neighborhood in Seattle, Washington. Hales offers up their winter brew in the form of the Wee Heavy - sounds good - let's give it a try....

It pours opaque with a thin head.

The aroma is sweet and roasty.

It is malty, but balanced with a medium body. It gets better as it warms toward room temperature. It finishes with a burnt roastiness at the end. It sounds odd, but there seems to be a little dried banana amidst the body. Interesting - not terrible, but interesting.

The aftertaste is mildly sweet with burnt roastiness.

The character isn't overly prominent and I would suggest some other ales if your winter tasting season is on budget or short. It isn't terrible, but at that bar of where ales should start.


Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Glacier Pilot Winter Warmer, Lang Creek Brewery, Marion Montana

Our next beer arrives from Marion, Montana - I had it last year, but don't remember it too well, so let's refresh....

It pours nearly opaque with a tight head.

The aroma has big notes of vanilla malt, there is sweetness and mild caramel.

In the taste, the vanilla is very aggressive at first, but is fades to sweet malt. Mild roastiness takes over in the body. The sweetness seems to build throughout the beer. There is mild bitterness, but not enough to balance the sweetness.

The aftertaste is roasty malt sweetness with tones of caramel.

This is an interesting winter warmer, but it tends toward the sweet side. If you are a fan of the vanilla/caramel malt beers, this is a decent one to try. I think it makes for a nice desert or stand alone late evening beer. I'm unable to access their website right now for details, but will try again to see if it's online tomorrow -

I found mine at Belmont Station here in Portland. I've seen it at a few stores, so I think their distribution is decent for the Northwest.


Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Brrr, Widmer Brothers Brewing, Portland Oregon

So again we're hitting the big boys. Not that Widmer is a huge brewery, but I'm sure most of us out there have heard of their famous Hefeweizen. I blogged on their Snowplow earlier, this is their other seasonal - Brrr. It is the opposite of the milk stout, this one promises a hoppy distinction - let's see how it goes...

It pours a cloudy amber with a thin head.

The smell is festive, hoppy and spicy.

The taste is hoppy and tangy at first. There is an initial slight sweetness, but that gives away to hop bitter rather quickly. It has a slight sourness to it as well, which balances the beer back from the sweetness, as well. It sound strange, but I like that aspect. The sweetness plays out through the beer in the background - a little brown sugar or gingerbready at times. It never gets too sweet and the bitterness is held back as well.

It finishes clean with some hop on the back of the tongue, a little bitterness and then back for another sip!

I very much enjoyed the beer - for fans of Winterfish or Celebration, I think you'll enjoy Brrr. It cuts nicely through the cold night to make a great addition to a holiday meal or beer that holds it's own at any winter beer party.

It is 7.2% with 50 IBU's. The malts used are: Pale, Caramel, Munich, Carapils and Dark Chocolate. Hops: Bittering: Alchemy; Aroma: Simcoe and Cascade.


Monday, December 8, 2008

Full Moon, Blue Moon Brewing Company, Golden Colorado

Our next winter ale comes from the well known Blue Moon Brewing Company. I'm sure we are all well familiar if not with the beer, with the name. They are owned by the Coors company - but let's not let that fog our judgment...yet, anyway.

It pours a dark amber, nearly opaque.

The smell is malt with plenty of sugar.

The taste is sweet, right away it is noticeable. However, the sweetness is quickly balanced by the malt. It has a slight pine taste, which adds to its' holiday-ness. It is an easy drinker. It finishes a bit toward the sweet side.

The aftertaste is slight. It is a little sugary and some slight slight bitterness.

All-in-all a decent winter ale. In a season when there is sudden availability of beers from smaller breweries, it is hard to recommend the larger company's beers, but all in all, this makes a good beer - especially as a six-pack to bring to a holiday party.


Sunday, December 7, 2008

Vinter Varmer, Laurelwood Public House and Brewery, Portland Oregon

Let's bring it home! The Laurelwood Public House & Brewery has a spot just a hop (sorry, I'm a sucker for bad puns) up the street from us here in Northwest Portland. They have some brilliant brews and from limited experience some very good food. Their beers are available in stores around Portland and from their Public House locations. Those outside of Oregon may find it hard to find.... So let's see how their seasonal holds up....

It pours nearly opaque with a big head.

The smell is all malt with some slight vanilla.

The taste is initially malty. I was worried it might be sweet from the notes of vanilla I detected in the aroma, but it is not overly sweet at all. It retains big notes of vanilla, but the sweetness is capped by the malt, which holds a roastiness throughout the brew. There is slight caramel at the end, but it again isn't enough to overwhelm. The beer holds balanced throughout and has a nice medium/full body that fits into a winter evening quite well.

The aftertaste is a nice roastiness and it finishes with a nice warmth.

This is a great solid non-spicy winter warmer. I highly encourage you to grab one while they are available. In a season overwhelmed by holiday ales, this is a nice classic warmer to enjoy with a hearty meal or by itself...


Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Gingerbread Ale, Bison Brewing Company, San Francisco California

Our next beer comes from Bison Brewing Company and I raved about their Pumpkin ale this year - let's see how their Christmas seasonal holds up....The name Gingerbread Ale deterred me at first, as any idea of flavoring beer is a challenging proposition for me, which rarely proves successful, but my last experience with Bison was so good, let's do it!

It pours opaque with a big head.

The aroma is mild gingerbread, lots of malt. There is mild sweetness. Vague cinnamon is there as well.

The taste is big roasty malt. It is very mild in it's spice. The gingerbread is very very mild - I actually think the pumpkin ale was more gingerbready than this ale. It has a full body, and the malt is very biscuit. The spice is mostly cinnamon, but it's very late on the palate.

The aftertaste is mildly sweet and slightly cookie-ish.

All in all, it is a solid ale. I'm not sure it's as gingerbread-y as I imagined it would be, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. It's a big roasty beer that is a great sipper around the fire.

21 IBU's with 2-Row, Caramel, Chocolate, Roast Barley, and Black malts. I found mine at Belmont Station. I've seen it at a few grocery stores such as Whole Foods.


Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Snowplow Milk Stout, Widmer Brothers, Portland Oregon

Snowplow - one of the Widmer Brothers winter brews....

It pours opaque with a big head.

The smell is all sweet malt.

The taste is creamy, there are coffee tones right away along with big roasty malt. It has a full body, but not much bitterness. It is well-balanced, not really sweet at all. The delicious creamy flavor holds throughout the beer.

The aftertaste is all roasty and coffee.

This is a delicious beer that is sure to help you plow your way through the holidays. It is available in 22oz bottles for a limited time.

It has 28 IBU's and is 5.5%.
Malts: Pale, Caramel, 60L, Wheat, Oats Carapils, Black Roasted Barley with Alchemy Bittering hops and Willamette Aroma hops.

Drink up before it's gone - it is well distributed!