The coldest days of the winter are coming to the lower Hudson Valley, so it’s time to explore some beers that can stand up to the cold . . . though the coming single digits are more conducive to a hot toddy!
Perfect for brutal weather and the insanity that compels hundreds on New Year’s Day to jump into the frigid North Atlantic, specifically New Yorkers at Coney Island, the source of this beer. Described as “Belgian-style ale with ginger, orange peel and fennel seed,” this pours a cloudy apricot color with a brief medium off white head. It leads with a complex spicy nose of stone fruit over light malt. The flavor swaps the sequence and starts with the fruit followed by the spice. The whole thing is crisp and refreshing, less yeasty than many Belgian styles but keeping the estery nature. The finish is subdued stone fruit and malt, but flickers of spice continue. 6.9% ABV
Sounds perfect for the unfortunate cruise ship passengers who just discovered why the winter North Atlantic is feared. “Category 5 Ale” starts cloudy brown with little head, but the head still laces the glass. The straightforward malty nose tends toward dark bread and a hint of toffee. Flavor is on the dark malt side of straight ale, earthy with a bit of pruny fruit. There’s something a little harsh in flavor and finish. Good but not excellent. 7.5% ABV
Dark brown in the glass with a light ivory head. The aroma is like brown bread, dark malt with a hint of molasses. On the palate comes rich malt with a surprisingly light body and roast grain coming in. That roastiness builds into the finish and hops dry things out, and finally some spiciness emerges. 5.6% ABV
Pours slightly cloudy amber with a medium yellowish head. The aroma is gentle with bread and cake malts and hop spiciness. The very malty flavor comes with a fairly light body and light effervescence, leading to moderate bitterness in the finish. This is a good straightforward ale, not fancy, and its holiday “spice” comes from hops and barley. A Christmas ale for real ale fans. 5.5% ABV
The bottle says “Belgian Xmas Ale Boubom Barrel Aged. Bottled July 2014.” This is cloudy amber, quite effervescent with a moderate tannish head. The nose is super malty toward the dark side with subtle fruitiness and a distinct bourbon note. It’s a malty mouthful with bourbon notes and no apparent spicing. The finish is smooth, steady malt with a developing tinge of caramel. 10.0% ABV
A pretty glass of chestnut-tinged amber with a very brief off white head. The aroma is spicy-fizzy, if that makes sense, with cinnamon and ginger. There is plenty of malt and just a hint of barnyard below the spice. On the palate comes a light ginger ale body with increasing spice flowing into the finish, with a light honey sweetness that grows from sip to sip. I like it more each sip. At the very end some hops dry it out. Quite drinkable–refreshing–though not outstanding. 8.5% ABV 30 IBU
Now bundle up and keep warm.