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Friday, December 07, 2007

BEER REVIEW: Holiday Brews

posted by snekse
I love beer in the winter. A nice hearty beer with nutty malts goes perfect with a hot bowl of stew as you pack in to relax and let the snow outside do what it will. So this month's Beer Session, Winter Seasonal Releases, was a chance to find some new brews to hang in my refrigerator stocking.

I was really hoping to make it to Beertopia's Holiday Beer Tasting event, but inclement weather put the kabosh on that. Instead, I had to settle on what I already had in my fridge and a quick trip to the store to add something new to the mix. In all, we'll be reviewing 6 beers. For all of the beers I missed at Beertopia, be sure to check out Brent Udron's article, Holiday Beer, Holiday Cheer! : A guide to the season's 'winter warmers'.



Samuel Adams Cranberry Lambic
Boston Beer Company (Sam Adams)
Style: Lambic - Fruit
ABV: 5.90 %

Appearance: Peach-Apricot-Orange in color. Very pretty actually. A decent head that dissipated in a standard American craft brew amount of time.

Smell: Cranberry, honey, something toasty, almost a toasted oak.

Taste: Ginger ale mixed with sour, tart and bitter cranberries and a backing of wheat.

Mouthfeel: A light-medium body. At least the perception of being higher than average in carbonation.

Drinkability: Borderline doesn't taste like a beer. Think a Mike's hard Cranberry or something. Actually it tastes a little like that Budweiser energy drink that came out a year or two ago.

appearance: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 2 | mouthfeel: 2.5 | drinkability: 2
Overall: 2.5



Samuel Adams Black Lager
Boston Beer Company (Sam Adams)
Style: Schwarzbier
ABV: 4.90 %

Appearance: A nice dark brown appearance that borders on being black. Looks like a deep rich porter. The head is a nice pale caramel color. Decent lacing.

Smell: Nose of the typical dark malt blends. Coffee, chocolate, etc... There is a little hop or yeast that sets it apart from a porter.

Taste: Pretty much as one would expect, though the coffee profile seemed to grab for more attention than the other dark roasts. There is a nice spice from the hops to keep this from being overly sweet.

Mouthfeel: Body on the lighter side of medium or heavier side of light. Finishes pretty dry.

Drinkability: Not bad. I can't see myself drinking a lot of these at once, but I wouldn't turn one down.

appearance: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | mouthfeel: 3 | drinkability: 3.5
Overall: 3.75



Samuel Adams Holiday Porter
Boston Beer Company (Sam Adams)
Style: American Porter
ABV: 5.90 %

Appearance: A really deep dark brown. Think coffee liqueur. There is some slight reddish-brown almost cherry wood color around the edges. A really nice thick khaki colored head.

Smell: Smells almost like a typical porter, though a little more chocolatey. Almost too much. You have to do a little digging to find the hops in the aroma.

Taste: Not a malt bomb, but lots of chocolate, roasted nuts on this. Sweeter and smoother than the Black Lager, but not overly sweet. Finishes slightly hoppy.

Mouthfeel: Medium-to-full bodied. A fairly smooth drink ability with just enough carbonation to not leave a syrupy coating on your tongue.

Drinkability: Though not my favorite porter, it's very respectable and even a bit unique I think for an American porter.

appearance: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | mouthfeel: 3.5 | drinkability: 3.5
Overall: 3.7



Samuel Adams Old Fezziwig Ale
Boston Beer Company (Sam Adams)
Style: Winter Warmer
ABV: 5.60 %

Appearance: Like a copper nut brown ale. A thin tan head. Nothing much to really look at.

Smell: Christmas spices. The label says cinnamon, ginger and orange, though I'd never pick any of those out without reading the label first. Even the malt isn't very strong on the nose. Just smells like -- Christmas?

Taste: One of my favorites out of the winter sampler pack. A unique flavor simply because there aren't a lot of truly spiced beers mass marketed. Can definitely taste the orange and cinnamon, though the ginger is a bit harder to detect. The caramel malt is lightly roasted, so it has some additional vanilla character. Not cloying or over spiced.

Mouthfeel: Really not much to say. Good and matches expectations.

Drinkability: I could drink two, but probably not more. I would probably pick some up each year if I didn't have to buy a whole 6-pack or an entire winter sampler to get it.

appearance: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | mouthfeel: 4 | drinkability: 4
Overall: 3.9



Samuel Adams Winter Lager
Boston Beer Company (Sam Adams)
Style: Bock
ABV: 5.80 %

Appearance: I'm not really sure what to call the color. Kind of a mix of Copper/Rust/Peach. A surprising head for something that bills itself as a lager.

Smell: Smells like a winter lager, whatever that means. Hops, burnt sugar, orange, maybe banana, with some winter spices.

Taste: Toasted malts, some grain and hop bitterness. Very well balanced as none of these dominate and they each take fore several times with each taste.

Mouthfeel: Rich-ich for a light bodied beer. Finishes clean and crisp.

Drinkability: A good beer. Nothing special, but very drinkable.

appearance: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | mouthfeel: 3.5 | drinkability: 3.5
Overall: 3.8



Winter's Bourbon Cask Ale
Anheuser-Busch, Inc.
Style: Winter Warmer
ABV: 6.00 %

Appearance: Pretty to look at. Amber and apricot with jewel tones. The head is weak.

Smell: Not as intense as I would expect from a cask conditioned ale. Was looking for more wood, char and bourbon notes. Even the vanilla scents were very strong until I allowed it to get up to almost room temperature.

Taste: I was just hoping for more from this beer. I wanted to give Anheuser the benefit of the doubt, but they just didn't pull through. You can tell it's a bud product. It has that rice beer taste that only a Bud product has. Not that it's a bad thing, just that it's there. Some basic winter spices, vanilla most prevalent on the finish. Missing that punch of a good winter beer.

Mouthfeel: Far too light to be a good "winter warmer".

Drinkability: Drinkable, but I wouldn't buy it again.

appearance: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | mouthfeel: 2.5 | drinkability: 3
Overall: 3.15




So there you have it. A selection of holiday brews to put in someone's stocking this winter. Hope you enjoyed. Oh, and don't forget to come back December 10th as we raffle off some Nebraska Wagyu Beef!

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RELATED LINKS:
The Session #10: The Roundup
Other Beer Reviews on GFC

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