I don’t know what it is about the holiday season, but there are so many good beers! Brooklyn Brewing’s seasonal Imperial Stout, called Black Chocolate Stout is yet another. At 10% ABV it’s a big, and heavy beer, excellent for the deep winter evenings. The nose is roasted cocoa, and the middle is sweet with chocolate malt, bitter with coffee, and finished with a warming alcohol and sweet chocolate. The sweet and the bitter notes seem to stand strongly on their own…I would prefer it a bit more if they were blended and balanced each other out a bit better instead, but that aside, this is a good, strong winter stout.
The 2011 version of Anchor Christmas Ale is the 37th version, different every year since Anchor Brewing started making it in the holiday season of 1975. They won’t say what malts or hops are in it, and I’m not good enough to discern them on my own, but based on the taste profile I’d call it a winter warmer. It’s a medium to heavy bodied ale, with roasted chocolate on the nose, chocolate and cherry in the middle and a sweet fruity finish. I think they’ve come up with a winner in this year’s recipe.
It’s Boxing Day, which calls for a…Holiday IPA? Well, I guess it does! Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. calls Celebration Ale a special holiday ale, and an IPA featuring the first hops of the growing season. I call it the very definition of a classic IPA, with fresh pine scents, and a hoppy bitter middle with some citrus zest and more pine in the finish. Holiday special or not, this is a truly stellar IPA.
Merry Christmas! What better treat on Christmas Day than Bell’s Brewery’s Christmas Ale? Bell’s Christmas Ale is a winter seasonal that is unusual for a holiday beer in that there are no spices at all. It’s strictly a barley and hops beer, that’s very well balanced with a hit of sweet malt in the middle and bitter hops on the finish. It’s fruity, with orange in the nose, and both orange and cherries in the middle that remind me of a Belgian. A really outstanding Christmas treat.
Old Fezziwig Ale is exactly what I think of when I think of a holiday beer. It’s malty and spicy, with caramel and chocolate notes accentuated by cinnamon, ginger, and orange peel. It’s not overly sweet though, and in fact it leans overall definitively towards the bitter side. This is an excellent beer to relax with late on Christmas Eve, and one of my favorites from Samuel Adams.
I give it a 4.3 out of 5.
Getting toward the end of my mixed case of Costco’s white-labeled Kirkland Signature ales brewed for them by the New York Brewing Company. The amber ale is a bit of an odd one. The nose has a hint of chocolate, the middle is slightly bitter, and the finish is slightly sweet. It’s definitely titled toward the malty side. The flavor profile improves as it warms, and it loses some of the bitterness in the middle. This is an ok beer, but overall, not my favorite in the case.
Namaste is a White Ale from Dogfish Head, and like most of their offerings, it’s got some added spice and is bit off-centered. It’s a wheat ale brewed with coriander, orange, and lemongrass. The nose is spicy, and showcases the coriander. The middle is where you taste the wheat and the lemongrass, and it fades to the essence of orange in the finish. This is a slightly spicy but very smooth beer. It’s very different, but I think it’s one of Dogfish Head’s best, simply because of how well it’s executed. If you like wheat beers and spice beers, you’ll probably like this one.
Dogfish Head recently announced the publication of the 2012 release schedule. There are some changes…Burton Barton is becoming a year-round brew, they’re bottling 75-Minute IPA which previously has only been available in the brewpub, and for those who don’t want (or can’t have) glutens, there’s a new gluten-free beer coming out. It’s not all good news though; several occasional beers won’t be brewed at all next year.
And a full-color printable version that I personally enjoy is here: http://www.dogfish.com/files/DFH_2012ReleaseCalendar.pdf (PDF link)
Stone Brewing Co. doesn’t waste a lot of time and effort naming their beers. Their pale ale has a slightly citrusy scent, and the middle is all bitter hops with a touch of grapefruit trailing off to a bitter, slightly piney finish. This is, to me, a pure pale ale, and it’s dominated by a clean bitterness. If you like bitter beers, this is a good one.