Wednesday, December 26, 2018

War of the Christmas Novelty Ales 2018

The tradition continues! I explore some special brews made especially for the special Christmas season. Here are the lists from previous years:

  • Winter Cheers by Victory Brewing Company (6.7% alcohol by volume)--The bottle says, "Luscious NOTES OF FRUIT AND SPICE make this celebratory WHEAT ALE the perfect brew to chase winter's chill and fuel festive times." The fruit and spice are quite subtle (what's with those caps, bottle labeller?). The ale does taste more like a lager than a wheat ale, which counts against it. This is a surprisingly average beer.

  • Big Moose Winter Ale by Saranac (5.7% alcohol by volume)--The bottle has no write-up, just the picture of a moose wearing Santa's hat. On the website, it says, "The Moose is on the loose. An American Pale Ale brewed with Amarillo, Centennial, and Citra hops for a fresh floral and citrus hop character. Look out reindeer ‘ cause Big Moose is coming to town." They call it an American Pale Ale, and it is much like an IPA, so naturally it's not to my taste.

  • Blizzard of Hops by Troegs Independent Brewing (6.4% alcohol by volume)--The label says, "We created this Winter IPA to toast hop growers around the world for another successful harvest. This storm of hoppy citrus and pine notes is a bright reminder that the end of the Hop Cycle is only the beginning." So it has the IPA going against it. On the other hand, the citrus isn't bitter (more orange than grapefruit) and the hint of pine, which sounds terrible for a beverage, is actually rather interesting. This may be the best IPA I've ever had, or at least the one I enjoyed the most. But it's probably not going to win the war.

  • Winter Warmer Cinnamon & Nutmeg Holiday Ale by Harpoon Brewery (5.9% alcohol by volume)--According to the label, "'Tis not the first snow that falls or the first holiday song. "tis that seasonal aroma of cinnamon and nutmeg drifting from the brewhouse that heralds this season of tradition, wonder, and the overuse of ''Tis.' We've been brewing Harpoon Winter Warmer since 1988. This is our holiday tradition." The beer has a lovely ruby red color and just the right amount of spices to flavor and not overpower the drink. I can see why the brew has lasted for thirty years. A very strong contender!

  • Bourbon Barrel-Aged Adoration by Brewery Ommegang (11% alcohol by volume)--From the label: "Brewed with coriander, mace, cardamom, grains of paradise and sweet orange peel, then aged in bourbon barrels for at least six months, Bourbon Barrel-aged Adoration continues the Belgian tradition of spiced Noel ales. This is a beer to be shared and sipped with friends and family, whether across the table or by the fireside. May aromas of oak, bourbon and spice, and rich, layered flavors haunt your house pleasantly." This beer is very flavorful in the most delightful way. The spices make a show, then the bourbon flavor kicks in. The blend is great and the taste is wonderful.

  • K-9 Winter Warmer by Flying Dog Brewery (7.4% alcohol by volume)--The label says, "Now is the winter of our content. In the bosom of the rug of the bear, warmed by the blaze of the fire, the idle pleasures of the night speak to you. Entertain the fair well-spoken days. Then, embrace the prophecies, libels and dreams of the longer nights." Very poetic, but not very descriptive. The flavor is a bit flat and bitter, like eating baker's chocolate. The flavor is not awful like that of baker's chocolate. On the other hand, it doesn't have any particular positive qualities, either. I'm always willing to give Flying Dog a chance but so far have not been impressed by anything I've had from them. This is another "meh" beer.

  • Hofbrau Winter Spezial by Hofbrau Munchen (8.4% alcohol by volume)--The label is pretty bland: "A Hofbrau Brewery Specialty brewed with roasted Munich malt; therefore appearing dark brown up to black color. Large, persistent light brown head. Taste is intensely malty and toasty." The taste does have toastiness along with some caramel. It has the right amount of bitterness and spice to make it flavorful on its own. While it's not especially Christmasy, it is a very nice beer.

  • Shiner Holiday Cheer by Spoetzl Brewery (5.4% alcohol by volume)--The label has a really long paragraph about the beer! Here's the highlights: "....We hope you enjoy Shiner Cheer, an old-world Donkelweizen brewed with Texas peaches and roasted pecans. The malty flavors of this dark wheat flavored ale are enhanced through the use of malted barley and wheat. And Krausening ensures a smoothness that makes the subtle peach and pecan flavors all the more satisfying." Read about Krausening here. It's basically an alternate way to get carbonation and some extra fermenting in the bottle. Usually fruit flavor is a huge problem for beer (at least to my way of tasting) but this is surprisingly satisfying. It's more peach than pecan, and neither is a particularly Christmas flavor, but I like it.

  • Rude Elf's Reserve by Fegley's Brewworks (10.5% alcohol by volume)--According to the label, "After being pestered by crazy worksop elves and celebrity reindeer, the Rude Elf found his true calling in Santa's brew house. Ye kept his edge and brewed a new Christmas legend for us all. Cheers! The fegley family." Yes, the Fegleys were too modest to capitalize their own last name (in striking contrast to Victory Brewing Company's all caps earlier). The brew is quite nice, with a nutty Belgian flavor and a fun bit of holiday flavoring. A nice and satisfying drink for a cold winter's night.

This year's winner--Bourbon Barrel-Aged Adoration by Brewery Ommegang!

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