Santa’s Winter Brew Round Up!

Well, it is that time of year when the clock tolls holidays, time slows down, you see your aunt with the blue hair, and the winter seasonals hit the shelves!  Well, I have been a busy little elf this year and had a whole bunch of the various seasonal brews, and thought I would share them all in one big post!  So far this season I have drank five seasonal brews, and quite frankly four of them had almost an identical flavor profile, and one was…kinda interesting…

I figured I would just go in the order that I drank them, because it seems to fit pretty good that way.  I started with a 22oz bomber of Ninkasi Sleighr.  This was a Double Alt Ale, what ever the heck that means.  It was brown and medium bodied and had about a 1/2 finger head when I poured it.  The head on this one did hang around quite a bit though, refusing to go totally away.  This was a malt forward ale that was very easy drinking.  Not too carbonated or big, it just had good flavor and went sown very smooth.  Pretty good stuff.  This brew was also about 7.8% so with as easy drinking as it was, it could be dangerous if you had a few laying around.

Next up was the Great Divide’s Hibernation Ale.  This was the biggest of the group at 8.7%ABV and you could taste the alcohol in the beer.  Not at all off putting, but well integrated.  This was a big brown ale that tasted the part.  Very malt forward but with the alcohol catching in your throat it wasn’t as smooth or as easy drinking as the Ninkasi, but good nonetheless.  I don’t think Great Divide makes a bad beer.  If they do I haven’t had it.

Next up was the Deschutes Jubelale.  This was a very interesting brew, even though it is similar to the other two.  It had the lowest ABV of the three so far at 6.7%, and it was the most malt forward, and the most flavorful of the three.  It was so malty that there was a touch of bitterness, but just when you thought it might get too bitter, it faded nicely away…must be Christmas Magic.  Really its flavor surprised me quite a bit, it was very good.  I love Deschutes BrewMaster series beers, the Black Butte XXII I got to have at GABF this year was just fantastic, and their Mirror Mirror is a great Barleywine, and the Abyss is just an amazing stout.  But their regular line up is somewhat pedestrian.  The Red Chair, the Black Butte Porter, the Mirror Pond, they are all solid, but nothing to get overly excited about, so when I saw this came in their 12 oz standard bottle, I was a little skeptical, but it delivered.  I really liked this beer, and what’s better is it is only about $6 a six pack!

Last night Jim and I recorded a podcast that will be up a little later for the holidays.  During the podcast I had a couple more seasonal brews.   I started with the Lost Coast Winterbraun.  I actually got confused on this one, because all along I was thinking it was actually brewed by North Coast Brewing out of Petaluma, California but it is actually Lost Coast, a few hundred miles north in Eureka, California.  Think Redwoods!  Anyway, this was probably the dog of the bunch.  It was just a brown ale.  Nothing special.  It tasted good, but was a typical malt bomb.  Perhaps it had something to do with its lower ABV at 6.5% but it was just ok.

Finally I had the most interesting of the bunch.  This is Boulevard Brewing’s Nut Cracker Ale.  It was a real treat.  Surprisingly it was the lowest ABV of the bunch at 5.9% so it is quite sessionable.  And its flavor is where it shined.  Many of you probably remember last year when my brother Jim was trying a bunch of Christmas Brews trying to find the “Taste of Christmas” in a beer.  He went on and on about it and whined quite a bit like he usually does.  Then he found Troeg’s Mad Elf and it was like an epiphany for him.  He had found the “Flavor of Christmas” in a beer…blah, blah, blah.  Well, this could be my Mad Elf.

The Boulevard Nut Cracker Ale poured a crimson red with a fluffy off white head, just like Santa’s coat,  so it looks the part.  Didn’t have much of a nose to it but its taste was really nice.  It was malty for sure, but they also use a blend of hops that give it a fruity quality.  The hops however are balanced nicely by the malt giving the impression of dark fruit like plumbs and cherries, with a touch of pink grapefruit thrown in there too.  It reminded me of Christmas Morning when we have hot cinnamon roles and fresh cut apples and oranges and grapefruit.  It really spoke to me, and I think it might speak to you as well.  Give it a try, I don’t think you will be disappointed.

So there you have it, Santa’s Christmas round up of beers.  They were all pretty tasty, and I found one really special brew which is always a huge bonus.  So what have you been drinking this holiday season?  Have you found your go to brew?  Let us know in the comments.


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39 Comments on “Santa’s Winter Brew Round Up!”

  1. December 9, 2010 at 12:52 pm #

    I had the Hibernator and it was a nice malty beer, with a slightly more aggressive hop profile than the other holiday malt bombs. But as you say, most winter warmers are alike.

    • Don
      December 9, 2010 at 12:58 pm #

      Hibernation Ale is a very good beer. Not particularly remarkable, but good. One thing I forgot to mention was the mouthfeel on the Hibernation Ale was a little silkier than the others. Like I said I don’t think Great Divide makes a bad beer, and this one certainly proves that.

  2. Greg K.
    December 9, 2010 at 1:19 pm #

    Reading this just made me jealous of all the great West Coast beer you get haha.

    • Don
      December 9, 2010 at 1:23 pm #

      I think that is the way it always is Greg. For example I can’t get Dogfish Head or Voodoo or Oskar Blues. So I want them. I forget that people out East don’t have access to Great Divide, Deschutes, or Lost Coast. We all want what we can’t get! 😉

  3. December 9, 2010 at 1:50 pm #

    Need to get your hands on some Cold Mountain from Highlands.

    • Don
      December 9, 2010 at 1:53 pm #

      Do you want my address?

  4. December 9, 2010 at 1:58 pm #

    Let me see if I can find it in bottles…we could set up a trade.

  5. Alex
    December 9, 2010 at 2:23 pm #

    Hey Don, I also really dig the Nut Cracker Ale. I think the fact that it is a fresh hop beer really sets it apart. As far as I know, Sierra Nevada is the only other brewery to do this with their Winter beer.

    I like Jubelale too, but I’m really looking forward to cracking open the first of two bottles of Jubel 2010 ( I got last year.

    And you can never go wrong with Great Divide. Hell, even their Wild Raspberry Ale is tolerable (for a fruity beer, that is).

    • Don
      December 9, 2010 at 3:54 pm #

      Liked them both, but the Nutcracker was really nice. I’m not sure they intended the malt and the hops to play off of each other like they do, but it is really a special flavor.

  6. Mark S.
    December 9, 2010 at 3:26 pm #

    I’ve tried the Troegs, but liked the Bethlehem Brew Work’s Rude Elf Reserve better (and need to get my hands on some more). I also had a bottle of the Breckenridge Brewery’s Christmas Ale, which was good if unremarkable. Over Thanksgiving I had Sam Adam’s Winter Lager and Harpoon’s Winter Warmer, which are perennial favorites for their combination of sheer drinkability and seasonal flavor…

    I’ve been meaning to get down to my local liquor store to see what else is in stock. Maybe see what Saranac has to offer…


    • Don
      December 9, 2010 at 4:01 pm #

      I actually think I can get the Rude Elf, and the Criminally Insane Elf. I’ll have to give them a try. Thanks for the reco.

      • Mark S.
        December 10, 2010 at 7:51 am #

        That would be impressive, given I haven’t even seen the Rude Elf here across the Delaware in NJ!

        The history behind bringing Rude Elf is kind of interesting, and echoes some of the frustrations documented in “Beer Wars”…

      • Mark S.
        December 10, 2010 at 7:55 am #

        that should read “bringing Rude Elf to market”…

      • Greg K.
        December 10, 2010 at 8:51 am #


        Not sure where you are in NJ, but I saw Rude Elf and Criminally Insane Elf at the Somerville Super Savers on Route 22 last week

        • December 10, 2010 at 10:58 am #

          I think I need to visit my company’s Bridgewater office soon!!

      • Greg K.
        December 10, 2010 at 11:30 am #

        Somerville Super Saver is a great store. Good prices and a huge selection. Found a bottle of Three French Hens when I was there last week.

        • December 10, 2010 at 12:24 pm #

          I prefer Two Turtle Doves 🙂

      • Greg K.
        December 10, 2010 at 12:33 pm #

        Looked everywhere for it. Could not find it at all. Oh well…can’t try everything

    • December 9, 2010 at 4:49 pm #

      Saranac?! I just threw up in my mouth a little bit. 😦

      • Don
        December 9, 2010 at 4:55 pm #

        Jim, don’t be mean to Mark…he like’s the Saranac Sh…tuff. You actually used to drink it too, so don’t go over the edge here. Perhaps suggest something else…Like Bud or Coors.

        • December 9, 2010 at 5:04 pm #

          Or just start with Yuengling and squeeze different flavors into it. Want a chocolate beer? Squeeze in some Hershey’s! How about a Lambic? Please pass the jelly!

        • Don
          December 9, 2010 at 5:08 pm #

          Or for Christmas…Egg Nog anybody?

        • December 9, 2010 at 5:27 pm #


          [that was me puking]

      • Mark S.
        December 10, 2010 at 7:56 am #


  7. December 9, 2010 at 3:41 pm #

    “He went on and on about it and whined quite a bit like he usually does.” Hilarious.

    I’ve been drinking the Boulevard Nutcracker since college. I was classy- I’d bring a sixer of it to my fraternity’s Christmas formal. And a big bottle of egg nog.

    My favorite Schlafly product is their Christmas Ale. It’s “spicy” to the point that maybe they overdo it with the cloves and rainbows and reindeer smiles or whatever they put into it, but I sure like it. It reminds me a great deal of the New Glarus Dancing Man Wheat.

    • Don
      December 9, 2010 at 3:59 pm #

      You keep writing but all I’m hearing is ….blah blah blah. What is the Schlafly and New Glarus you speak of sir? Oh well at least I can get Egg Nog! 😉

      • December 9, 2010 at 4:21 pm #

        If it weren’t for Schlafly and Boulevard, I’d be stuck drinking Bud Light or Bud Fat a lot more often.

      • December 9, 2010 at 4:21 pm #

        As for New Glarus, I highly recommend a once-annual trip to Wisconsin purely for the sake of smuggling their beers across state lines. In fact, my annual trip is coming up in a month or so.

        • December 9, 2010 at 4:51 pm #

          Why would he be in Wisconsin? it’s not like his parents live there or anything. Oh wait…

  8. December 9, 2010 at 10:37 pm #

    Nice lineup Don. It sucks that I’m almost positive that I don’t see any of them out here in Jersey! I’d love to try that last one from Boulevard.

    • Don
      December 10, 2010 at 9:42 am #

      I’m surprised Scott that you don’t get the one from Boulevard. The Nut Cracker Ale was truly nice. The funny thing was that there was no adding in cherries or spices, it was just the brewers love and some reindeer tears shed from joy that make the fruity character of the brew.

    • Don
      December 10, 2010 at 9:47 am #

      I’m pretty sure Jim said he got some of the Great Divide Hibernation Ale. You should be able to find at least that.

  9. December 10, 2010 at 10:46 am #

    You’re right – Great Divide is relatively easy to find out here. I’ll look for it! I hope that it too, contains reindeer tears of love and joy.

  10. Mark S.
    December 10, 2010 at 1:58 pm #

    Thanks for the tip about Somerville Super Savers. I work relatively near there. I found that the Wegman’s in Bethlehem, PA also had a good and diverse selection of beers (including Bell’s, Jim!). Not sure if the Wegman’s in Bridgewater, NJ is the same (although I think someone in the comments a few months back stated that they are). Can’t hurt to check since it is relatively close to Somerville also.

    Thanks again!

    • Greg K.
      December 10, 2010 at 2:08 pm #

      No Bell’s in NJ sadly.

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