Beer Journal

A quasi-daily examination of beer and things related to beer.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Favorite Holiday Beers

When I say "holiday", I primarily mean Christmas, but these beers can and should be enjoyed whatever your winter celebration. Most holiday beers vary their recipe, or at least their batch, from year to year. As a result, there is a welcome inconsistency with each new calendar. While I always prefer my beers served the American way, that is, cold, each of the brews on this list have a bit of spice or an extra push of alcohol: both suitably will warm you up this season. Here are ten suggestions for your Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Winter Solstice, New Year's or whichever festive occasion you've got on the docket for these cold, winter months. Why six? These are the only ones I know!

10. K-9 Cruiser Winter Ale by Flying Dog Brewery (Denver, CO)
Style: Dark and malty ale
Alcohol: 6.4%
The beers of Flying Dog are at their best when kicking you in the teeth with excessive hops. This is not one of those cases, but hey, it's got a dog on the label! And it's snowboarding!
9. Winter Wheat by Middle Ages Brewing Company (Syracuse, NY)
Style: Wheat beer
Alcohol: 6.3%
You don't usually find light wheat beers on the December shelf. This drink warrants mentioning simply for that.
8. Winter Welcome Ale by Samuel Smith Brewery (Tadcaster, Yorkshire, England)
Style: Winter warmer
Alcohol: 6%
Very similar in look and flavor to other brown English ales. Nothing specifically holiday about it, other than the packaging.
7. Noche Buena by Moctezuma (Monterrey, NL, Mexico)
Style: Munich dark lager/bock
Alcohol: 4.8
Traditionally, this beer is meant to be had on Christmas Eve. It is made by the same Mexican brewery that does Sol and Bohemia, this dark lager bears the traits of the same German settlers of northern Mexico, south and central Texas.
6. Winter Waissal by Saranac (Utica, NY)
Style: Spiced Ale
Alcohol: 5.9
I've waxed poetic before about Saranac's more than solid run of beers. Here is another one for the list.
5. Christmas Ale by Saint Arnold Brewing Company (Houston, TX)
Style: Spicy ale
Alcohol: 7%
The Saint Arnold beers are rather under-appreciated in the world of microbrews. Doesn't help that they stem from a state that positively loves its mass-marketed pilsners. Worth your dollar, though.
4. Samuel Adams Cranberry Lambic by Boston Beer Company (Boston, MA)
Style: Fruit beer
Alcohol: 5.9%
The first one is damn tasty, the second a bit sweet, the third very sweet and every successive pint too much.
3. Old Fezziwig Ale by Boston Beer Company (Boston, MA
Style: Spicy dessert beer
Alcohol: 5.6%
Not a beer you would have with dinner, but a fine accompaniment to a thick holiday dessert.
2. Anchor Christmas Ale by Anchor Brewing Company (San Fransisco, CA)
Style: Spiced beer
Alcohol: 5.5%
The poster child for a seasonal beer. Every year, the recipe changes so that no two vintages are the same. To coincide with the flavor, Anchor alters the label each time - not too much, though. It's still recognizable as an Anchor in flavor and on the shelf.
1. Celebration Ale by Sierra Nevada Brewing Company (Chico, CA).
Style: Winter Ale
Alcohol: 6.8%
Not just my favorite holiday beer, but one of my more beloved brews altogether.

So what'd I miss?

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Review: Full Moon

Style: Abby Ale
Brewer: Blue Moon from Coors Brewing Company (MolsonCoors)
Location: Denver, CO
Alcohol: 5.6%

There is a wonderful copper color at it's base but the snowy white head that unfortunately runs off rather quickly in a pint of Full Moon. It carries the moniker of "Winter Ale" and, true to its name, is available only during and late fall and winter months.

Despite its seasonal name, it actually tastes a lot like a dunkel, a beer I more closely associate with the fall and Oktoberfest (pretty much the only time I drink the stuff). There is a certain sharpness to Full Moon, not a pale ale bite; this one probably comes from the alcohol. There is also a slight taste - I kid you not - of anchovies.

This isn't to say that Full Moon is then bad, it's just that I was expecting a different flavor for a winter drink. Season beers work best when their flavors conjure up images and senses that one would associate with the certain occasion. Pete's Wicked Strawberry Blonde does this. Samuel Adams Summer Ale used to. Full Moon, however, brings to mind very little of the winter interval. Unless, of course, you count the bottle, which has a nice, snow capped log cabin, shaded - of course - in the company's light blue.

It seems that most microbrew aficionados take particular pride in badmouthing the larger, American brewers, and for sure, I've dolled out my fair share of criticism, both in person and print. However, there's got to be something positive to say when these giant corporations use their resources and reach to distribute smaller, tastier and more interesting beers that normally would never have a national audience. Even when the specialty brew gets the large tank, mass appeal treatment, I can still certainly appreciate the provided variety.

My Rating: 6.2

Other Ratings: