Tis’ the season for tasty holiday ales, and 2008 is shaping up to be a very nice year for seasonal winter beers. As usual, I am here to give you the inside track on the best combinations of malt, hops, and holiday spices. If a winter warmer is your fancy, here are my most noteworthy beers of the season. I won’t give them all awards though, one particular brew deserved coal in their stocking. Come to think of it, it tasted like they put coal in their beer. Ehhgh!
5. Anchor Steam, Christmas Ale 2008. Sorry, this is not the best of the season… but I had to include it because of the response it elicited from my taste buds. So, my beer friends, I have a question to pose for you: How can a brewery as good as Anchor Steam put out a beer that tastes like malted sh*te? Unreal! I really was stoked about drinking their Christmas Ale, and what a let down. I love Anchor Steam and I love the Liberty Ale, but the Christmas Ale tastes like someone dropped a bouquet of your grandmother’s stale herbs into the brew kettle. It tastes really muddy and weirdly spiced to me… no nuance just a lot of blah. Sorry Anchor Steam, I really wanted to love it.
Now, on to the winners!
4. New Belgium Brewing, Two Below. This beer is very solid. So, imagine the distinctive taste of Colorado’s mother beer, Fat Tire, but then dry-hopped to add some hoppy goodness and aroma. That describes the Two Below… very Fat Tire-ish with hops. it’s not revolutionary, but definitely a great selection. You can’t go wrong if you bring this to a party. And even more so, the brewery is supremely eco-friendly… so, you’re using your holiday dollars to vote for the environment.
3. Avery Brewing, Old Jubilation Ale. Avery is known for their gigantically flavored brews, and the Old Jubilation is a quality Holiday Ale worth your dollars. My friends and I recently partook in a keg of this warming goodness, and it did not disappoint. This beer is very malty, roasty, and has some toffee and Christmas spice in the mix. Yummmmmm. It’s also got a kick, so be careful.
2. Boulder Beer, Never Summer Ale. Boulder Beer makes some great beers and has years of experience as Colorado’s oldest microbrewery, and I think the best beer in their repertoire is their Never Summer Ale. It’s a beautiful red ale, high alcohol which keeps you toasty on snowy days, and has a wonderfully hoppy profile. It really is a winner, and if summer never comes around again, I will be content drinking this until their supply is exhausted.
Last, and certainly the best winter beer I tasted:
1. Anderson Valley Brewing Company, Winter Solstice Ale. I took one drink and I was in heaven. I drink a lot of good beer, and it’s rare that a beer truly hits me in the heart and jolts me into the upper echelons of beer ecstasy . It’s been a while, actually. But the Winter Solstice Ale is the perfect combination of seasonal qualities. The alcohol percentage sits at 6.9% so you can just have another instead of adding wood to the fire. It has a wonderful malty smoothness without being syrupy, and the very slight bitterness is counter balanced by waves of sweet caramel and toffee. It’s perfect, definitely my favorite of the season. I took a six pack to a party a couple nights ago, then bought another six today for my own holiday cheer! I can’t get enough. AND, to top it off… Anderson Valley Brewing Company is solar powered! So, not only can you consume the best beer of the season, but you can do it in eco-style!
So, there you go… be careful in your holiday beer explorations! Enjoy the holidays, and savor your family and friends with some delicious eco-friendly brew!