Thursday, December 31, 2009

12 Beers of Christmas, Day 10: Dominion Baltic Porter

Brewery: Old Dominion Brewing Co., Dover, DE
Style: Baltic Porter
ABV: 6.8%
Date Poured: December 2009

I had a version of this beer about six years ago and although it was good, I haven't had it since. This is mostly because I could not easily get Dominion offerings where I lived but when I saw this at my local bottle shop, I had to grab one.

Pours black as night with a thin brown head that quickly evaporates to nothing at all. Smells of roasty malt, mixed with dark fruit and a just hint of smoke.

No surprises in the mouth as it reflects the nose almost perfectly. Roasty and dark fruit (raisiny) with a fairly chewy body but creamy as well. The roasted malt and fruit mix nicely and the creamy texture makes it go down smooth. The alcohol sneaks up on you a bit since there's nary a hint of booziness. Creamy, mocha-like finish and a lingering roastiness in the aftertaste.

It's as straightforward as a Baltic Porter can be, balanced the fruitiness and the roastiness well and is smooth as velvet. What's not to like? Six years is a long time to wait between samples...but I think they have improved the recipe since then

Old Dominion Brewing

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

12 Beers of Christmas, Day 9: Stone/Nogne Ø/Jolly Pumpkin Holiday Ale

Brewery: Stone Brewing, Jolly Pumpkin, Nøgne Ø
Style: Winter Warmer
ABV: 9.0%
Date Poured: December 2009

Here's a unique brew. What do you get when Stone, Nøgne Ø and Jolly Pumpkin get together to brew a holiday ale? You get a 9.0% ABV behemoth brewed with 25% rye malt, white sage, juniper berries, caraway seed and chestnuts. Chestnuts! According to the Stone website, this ale was brewed just once for the 2008 holiday season so I guess I'm lucky to have found some.

It's murky brown in the glass and a thinnish but creamy tan head.Smells very Stone-y if you know what I mean. The malt smells very much like Arrogant Bastard. Big bitter hops with some citrusy hops underneath. Hint of alcohol.

Definitely some alcohol in the mouth, spicy, fruity with a pronounced juniper berry quality adding bitterness, Big bruising malt profile. I mean, this must be hopped but I am having a hard time telling if it's the juniper or some other form of bittering being used.. Again, spicy in the finish, must be the sage. I suppose there's a nutty quality to this ale form the chestnuts but I'd be hard pressed to detect it if I didn't know it was in there. Biug sticky mouthfeel. It a liquid meal.

Very unique ale, very tasty and very well suited for winter. I doubt I can find any more...but I'll keep my eyes open.

Stone Brewing

Nøgne Ø

Jolly Pumpkin

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

12 Beers of Christmas, Day 8: Bell's Winter White Ale

Brewery: Bell's Brewery
Style: Belgian Witbier
ABV: 5.0%
Date Poured: December 2009

A nasty little illness put my beer drinking on hiatus over the holidays. But the beer's been bought and I'm no quitter! That beer's not going to drink itself so I'm finishing the series heading into the New Year!

Next up is Bell's Winter White. Bell's is new to the Georgia market in 2009 and while I wouldn't think of a witbier as a winter seasonal, it is brewed with orange peel and coriander so in a weird way it works.

Luminous golden color with a snow-white froth. Smell is predictable spicy with clove and coriander present, a touch of bitter citrus and sweet, grainy wheat malt.

Again, spicy in the mouth. Coriander, clove and some other peppery spices. Sweetish finish, nice wheat character. Some muted fruitiness, green apples and pear.

A better white ale than most American versions I have tried. Spicy and lively, easy to drink and, although not a true winter beer, a really tasty ale.

Bell Brewery

Sunday, December 20, 2009

12 Beers of Christmas, Day 7: Frosted Frog Christmas Ale

Brewery: Hoppin' Frog Brewery, Akron, OH
Style: Winter Warmer
ABV: 8.6%
Date Poured: December 2009

Hoppin' Frog Brewery is a small brewery in Akron, Ohio that is most famous for their B.O.R.I.S. The Crusher Oatmeal Imperial Stout. That beer is amazing. This is the second beer I've had from this brewery and, again, this was once I was really looking forward too. The bottle for Frosted Frog says this ale is brewed with cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg.

It pours clear but dark mahogany and the head is almost non-existent. Now the first, they weren't kidding about the spices. Strong cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger in the nose. A bit of fruity malt in there too.

The spice dominates the flavor as well. Cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg throughout. It's like drinking a gingerbread cookie, bready, spicy and a tinge of alcohol. A sweet fruity malt backbone but, again, the spices dominate. Not overpowering though, the ale remains pleasant to drink. Sweet spice in the finish.

Unusual and tasty spiced ale. It's a "Wow!" beer for sure.

Hoppin' Frog Brewery

Saturday, December 19, 2009

12 Beers of Christmas, Day 6: Anderson Valley Winter Solstice Seasonal Ale

Brewery: Anderson Valley Brewing Company, Boonville, CA
Style: Winter Warmer
ABV: 6.9%
Date Poured: December 2009

I've heard a lot about Anderson Valley over the years and was looking forward to trying their seasonal offering. Again, I found a bottle in Maryland and brought it home for a sample.

The color is hazy reddish orange with a wisp thin khaki head. Smells of caramel, sweet spice and lightly fruity in the nose. Apricot, orange rind and juicy grapefruit from the hops.

The first thing you notice in the mouth is that the body is kind of chewy. Lots of caramel. Nice mouthfeel with a nice fruity finish. Some light spice, maybe nutmeg and cinnamon. Some light citrusy hops in the finish, some orange rind and apricot. amber ale. Nice finish and sweetish aftertaste.

Imagine an amber ale with a bit more "oomph". That's a basic overview of this ale and it seems a wee bit lacking for a winter warmer at first blush. But it's well crafted, the mouthfeel is nice and if you just let your tastebuds take over, it really is a fine ale to sip while sitting by the fire.

Anderson Valley Brewing Company

Friday, December 18, 2009

12 Beers of Christmas, Day 5: Alvinne Gaspar

Brewery: Picobrouwerij Alvinne, Belgium
Style: Belgian IPA
ABV: 8%

Date Poured: December 2009

I'm not 100% sure that this is meant to be a Christmas beer but I'm taking the Three Wise Men on the label as a sign that it is. The label claims that it is one of the hoppiest beers in Belgium, hopped with Hallertau, Goldings and Saaz.

The body is a lightly hazy copper in color and upon even a gentle pour grows an enormous, billowing white head that leaves a thick sheet of lace on the glass. Yeasty fruitiness in the nose, with apples, muscat grapes and ripe pear interspersed with a peppery spice.

The first taste reveals three competing major flavors: bitter, boozy and fruity. These major themes blend for various combinations throughout the glass of beer. Bright fruit (apples, pears, etc), herbal and citrusy hops, sweet rich malt and some understated alcohol flavors with a bit of warming in the mouth. Medium bodied with a finish that's more bitter than sweet.

Is this the hoppiest beer in Belgium. No way. I like Belgian IPAs and Urthel Hop It and Houblon Chouffe are hoppier in the same style and, off the top of my head, Westvleteren 6 is a hoppier golden ale. But Gaspar is still a pretty tasty beer.

Picobrouwerij Alvinne

Thursday, December 17, 2009

12 Beers of Christmas, Day 4: Troegs Mad Elf Ale

Brewery: Troegs Brewing Company, Harrisburg, PA
Style:Strong Belgian Ale (?)
ABV: 11%
Date Poured: December 2009

This is one of the craziest Christmas beers you'll ever come across. It's ruby red, brewed with cherries and Pennsylvania honey, uses a "spicy" Belgian yeast and hopped with the "noblest" of hops, hallertau and saaz. It's an odd concoction that somehow works. I haven't had this beer is years but when I came across it during a recent trip to Maryland, I picked up a bomber.

It's a crystal clear ruby red in the glass with a thinnish ivory colored head. Fruity aromas, honey and ripe cherry. Also smells boozy and oaky.

As you might expect, lots more cherry in the mouth. Very, very sweet. The honey is quite present. Just a touch of tartness fromt he cherries. Sweet spice in the finish, herbal hops in the aftertaste, detectable but faint. Big beer and sticky mouthfeel but the alcohol and the hops clean just enough away in the finish to keep it from being cloying.

It's truly original and, more importantly, really tasty. I wish that I could get it more often.

Troegs Brewing Company

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

12 Beers of Christmas, Day 3: Scaldis Noel

Brewery: Brasserie Dubuisson, Belgium
Style: Strong Belgian Ale
ABV: 12%
Date Poured: December 2009

This one is called Bush Noel in its country of origin and Scaldis elsewhere due to copyright laws.

It pours a murky reddish chestnut topped by a creamy, inch thick, khaki colored head. The head fades to a wisp but persists in that state. In the nose, it's boozy with dark fruit, sweet spice and yeasty.

There's a lot more dark fruit (raisins, fig, black currant) and sweet spice in the mouth. Now, there is certainly some booziness in the flavor and warming in the mouth (as well as warming as it heads down the gullet) but it's not harsh at all. It's lovely. Lots of flavors lurking about..vanilla, toffee, all that dark fruit especially raisin, sweet spice and just a hint of oak.

Smoother than you would expect, certainly smoother than regular Scaldis but make no mistake, this is a big beer. Big flavors, big sweet mouthfeel and the warming alcohol....leaves my ears hot by the end of the glass but an incredibly pleasant drinking experience. This might have to be one of my new Christmas traditions and, of course, I need to get some to cellar.

Brasserie Dubuisson

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

12 Beers of Christmas, Day 2: New Belgium 2 Below

Brewery: New Belgium Brewing Company, Fort Collins, CO
Style: Winter Warmer
ABV: 6.6%
Date Poured: December 2009

New Belgium is new to the Georgia market this year so I felt it was appropriate to include thier winter seasonal as one of the 12. I have been a big fan of New Belgium for a few years now, always making sure to pick some up when I head west (especially the magnificent La Folie).

Orangey copper with a rocky ivory head that leaves thick sheeting lace down the side of the glass. A very odd hop profile in the aroma with a very sweet citrusy hop smell reminiscent of limes...but I don't think that's right. I think it's a combination of very bright citrus and piney hops that is creating a unique a heavenly hop aroma. Some biscuity malt evident in the nose as well.

In the mouth, there's a distinct honey-like quality to the malt with the bright hoppiness delivering a juicy bitterness that pierces the malt and balances the sweetness in the finish. It's crisper in the mouth than you would expect. Bready and biscuity malt but, again, the hops balance that sweetness in the finish and aftertaste.

Is it a winter warmer is the classic sense? No. Is it good.?Yes. Is it a good beer for winter to my tastes? Borderline but definitely unique and worth a try.

New Belgium Brewing Company

Monday, December 14, 2009

12 Beers of Christmas: Southern Tier Old Man Winter

Brewery: Southern Tier Brewing Company, Lakewood, NY
Style: Old Ale
ABV: 7.2%
Date Poured: December 2009

I always like to start this series (even in its abbreviated form) with something I know is going to be good. I don't want to start it with something that will leave make the rest of the beers a let down but I want something that I know will be a solid offering. Enter Southern Tier. Southern Tier will occasionally wow you but even their standard fare (the IPA, the porter) are tasty and enjoyable. Combine this with the fact that I love a good Old Ale and Old Man Winter was the logical choice to kick off the 12 Beer of Christmas.

This one is lovely in the glass. (There's the picture...I mean, just look at that!) The body is a crystal clear chestnut with a thinnish tan head. Fine lacing left on the glass. A surprisingly hoppy aroma, floral hops with a caramel underneath.

A rich, lovely blend of caramel and hops in the mouth. Good body, nutty malt, floral and citrusy hops. Lightly sticky and sweet but creamy and sneaky smooth, no hint of alcohol in the flavor. Lovely balance, great drinkability but plenty of flavor and body to qualify as a great winter beer.

A good start. Go get some.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

25 Beers of Christmas? Not So Much...

For the last two years, I have done the 25 Beers of Christmas. While I enjoy the feature immensely, 25 straight days posting about Christmas/winter beers leaves me with a blogging hangover (and occasionally, an actual hangover) heading into the new year and my posts tend to drop steeply on January 1st.

So, in an attempt to sustain my beer blogging a bit more heading into 2010, I am shortening this feature to the 12 Beers of Christmas and will begin posting them on December 13th. I am looking forward to it!

After all, it's the most wonderful time for a beer...