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.