Happy Holidays, and of course we must celebrate with beer from all over! Let’s start in Belgium, at Brouwerij Van Steenberge (and if you can pronounce that, my compliments!)
This starts with a medium high aroma of white bread and brown bread with dates and figs along with moderately low earthy hops. It pours a very cloudy amber with a fairly high foamy light tan head. The flavor gives strong caramel, brown bread and spice cake, medium spicy hops, and notes of stewed fruit, like prunes. It finishes on the sweet side with low bitterness for balance. The aftertaste mixes sweet malt with spicy hops and light bitterness. The mouthfeel includes lightly syrupy, medium full body, no astringency and medium carbonation. This makes a satisfying snifter where the dry hopping has given more flavor than aroma. The bottle date shows that this is 4 months old, so perhaps the hop aroma has faded. More aroma would raise this from very good to excellent. 10.5% ABV and doesn’t seem quite that strong; the warmth gives an impression more like 8%.
Let’s swing through Canada for a couple from Collective Arts in Ontario . . .
Collective Arts Saint of Circumstance Citrus Blonde
Yeasty notes greet the nose over medium high cracker and bread malt with moderately low citrus hops, orange peel and pith, with juicy tangerine and lemon peel coming in. It develops a sweet-tart note. The pour is cloudy golden straw with a medium white head, fine grained and persistent. The flavor starts like orange juice with sweetness fully tempered by pith, lemon and moderate bitterness. There is a firm malt backbone of bread and cracker with just a hint of caramel, finishing nice and dry, with aftertaste featuring orange peel and bitter hops. The body is medium, starting to trend low but brought back up by the maltiness. It is not creamy but not astringent either, crisp and without heat. This is a summery beer welcome in all seasons, very drinkable and refreshing, and sessionable at 4.7% ABV
Rhyme & Reason
The aroma is moderate hoppy citrus with balancing malty sweet biscuit and a light spiciness. Ontario supplies a New England IPA here, cloudy orange gold with a persistent foamy snow white head. The palate finds smooth shortbread and orange flavors, almost like a cake. It finishes just on the sweet side, then medium high bitterness builds in. It is medium bodied, smooth and creamy with slight astringency as the bitterness builds. Nice beer! 6.1% ABV
. . . and across the border to Michigan . . .
The rich aroma is malty-sweet “white cake” with bread and biscuit. Bourbon rolls through imparting more sweetness and adding warmth. Medium high fruity esters come next: stone fruit and candied apricot. The hops are low and earthy.
The glass shows clear light amber with a caramel tinge, effervescent with a medium high barely off white head, very persistent. The flavor gives caramel cream and bourbon, richly layered malts, just enough bitterness to take the edge off the sweetness, and no apparent hop flavor. There is plenty of fruitiness of red berries and cherries and stone fruit. It finishes sweet with lingering bourbon and malt. It definitely tastes like they didn’t quite empty the bourbon barrel before adding beer! This is not a complaint! It is full bodied, slightly syrupy with just above medium carbonation. There is no astringency but very significant alcohol heat. Founders has given us a powerful after dinner drink, richly boozy and malty with complex fruitiness mostly masked by bourbon and malt. The hops take a distant back seat. Outstanding if you like bourbon and sweetness, and I do. 14.2% ABV
. . . on to a stop in Colorado . . .
Avery Ellie’s Brown Ale
The nose has moderate levels of dark rye bread malt, dark dried fruit and low earthy malt with hints of pine and flowers. The beer is clear dark amber with cherry highlights and a medium low light tan head. The flavor is of medium high dark roasty malt with plum and fig, medium bitterness and low earthy hops with pine notes. It starts dry and finishes drier with lingering roastiness and bread crust. The mouthfeel has medium body and significant astringency, almost a harsh edge, and medium carbonation. I associate Avery with beers that can almost climb out of the glass, this one is a restrained 5.5% ABV.
. . . and back for a quick visit to Pennsylvania . . .
Here’s a quick trip back to Oktoberfest aromas, richly malty and dry, like bread flour with caramel powder. There is a moderate note of fermented dark fruit plus low earth & spice hops with the spiciness growing. It pours a clear copper color, quite dark for a Festbier, with a medium bubbly head the color of buttermilk pancake batter. On the palate you get rich bread crust malt with spice cake notes, then comes caramelized dark fruit, hinting at sweetness but finishing dry. Hop flavor is medium low and earthy, and the bitterness is also medium low. There are pleasant lingering bread crust notes. It has just above medium body, lightly creamy but with very light astringency and medium high carbonation.
Very nice, satisfying beer, a bit dark and heavy for a Festbier. It’s more of a Märzen, and a nice one. 5.6% ABV
. . . up to New York . . .
Ommegang Lovely, Dark And Deep
Starts with a roasty mocha aroma with dark fruit and light raspberry. There is a low earth & spice hop aroma. It’s almost opaque, but clear brown when held to a light, with a medium coffee cream head over moderate effervescence. The flavor is grainy-fruity biscuit and cake malt, red fruit, raspberry & cherry, with touches of chocolate and a creamy texture This is not sweet but otherwise like German chocolate cake in a glass. It has medium body like a traditional stout, lightly creamy without astringency. It’s a very nice oatmeal stout with a lightness that calls for multiple pints! 5.3% ABV
. . . and wrapping up in Boston.
Night Shift Coffee Darkling
The glass shows opaque darkest brown with a generous head the color of milk chocolate. The head has moderate persistence. The deep aroma gives mocha cake with low bourbon and spicy rye notes and a hint of red fruit in the background. There is no apparent hop aroma. The flavor is also mocha cake over full bready malt with moderate roasty notes, then a bright beam of cherry cuts across. Chocolate grows stronger on the aftertaste playing with medium bitterness. The finish is on the sweet side, a chocolate milk note suggesting lactose. Bitterness is medium, giving depth and balance. The whiskeys are there but restrained, and the barrels add a vanilla oaky note. The body is full, creamy like a milkshake with medium low carbonation and no astringency. The alcohol note starts deceptively low but heat slowly builds. This is a rich full-bodied stout with coffee beans supporting chocolate malts. The cherry esters are remarkably vivid. It’s a snifter-by-the-fire ale, and definitely a beer to share with a loved one! Great stuff, and a great finish for our little trip.
Happy Holidays! And speaking of loved ones, here’s a little something to hang instead of mistletoe.