Posts Tagged With: Great Lakes

Winter Beers, Round 1

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!

Coney Island The PlungeConey Island The Plunge

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

1Heavy Seas Winter StormHeavy Seas Winter Storm

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

1Weyerbacher Winter AleWeyerbacher Winter Ale

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

1Bells XmasBell’s Christmas Ale

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

1Tsjeesus ReservaTsjeesus Reserva 2013

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

1Great Lakes XmasGreat Lakes Brewing Christmas Ale

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.

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Happy Hoppy Holidays!

This is a time to share with family and friends (after the frantic shopping, of course). Once the shreds of wrapping paper settle to the floor, what better way to celebrate than to savor some treasures of Christmas, pint by pint? Here is some of the wealth of choice, a round dozen brews. Enjoy the season!

Sam Smith Winter WelcomeSamuel Smith’s Winter Welcome

Here’s a pint of winter warmer, straight amber with a smooth off white head. Looks like an ale! The aroma is of malt malt malt with fruity notes and just a touch of spicy hops or spice and hops. I need to let this warm a tad, it should be cellar temperature rather than refrigerator temperature. Almost an ideal ale, to my taste, perfect for savoring in a pub. 6.0% ABV

Bruery 8 Maids-a-Milking

This is an Imperial milk stout, nearly opaque brown with a moderate tan head. The nose is hard to describe with almost a bacon note with liqueur and dark malt. The flavor is like maple smoked bacon with nice notes of both maple & smoke. It’s very smooth but not exactly to my taste. Give me some sharp cheddar and things will balance right out. 11.5% ABV [Switching from this to a maple porter (not reviewed here) produced a shot of chocolate that I didn’t get in either beer, fading into a light smokiness.]

Sierra Nevada CelebrationSierra Nevada Celebration

They say “First brewed in 1981, Celebration Ale is one of the earliest examples of an American-style IPA and one of the few hop-forward holiday beers.” It pours yellowish amber with a moderate yellowish head. The nose leads with hops before malt, nice resin and citrus blend over a bed of biscuity malt. There is a nice body and light effervescence on the palate followed immediately by hop bitterness, plenty of hops throughout the boil. The finish is mild emphasizing the hops. The number of hop-forward holiday beers is rising, but this is a leader. 6.8% ABV, 65 IBU

Deschutes JubelaleDeschutes Jubelale

“A festive winter ale,” dark brown and ruby with the light behind it and a generous foamy light tan head. The nose is malty, both bread and caramel with roastiness and a hint of chocolate. It’s a rich mouthful of malt with chocolate, coffee and a liquor note. The flavor is actually not so much coffee as Louisiana coffee with chicory. There’s vanilla as well. The finish is smooth, some dark plummy fruit emerges and the flavors come together in balance. I could drink quite a few of these. In fact, I had a six-pack (not all at once!) unlike my usual singletons. 6.7 ABV 67 IBU

Bells Christmas AleBell’s Christmas Ale

Pours slightly cloudy amber with a medium yellowish head. The aroma is gentle, bread & cake malts with hop spiciness. It has a very malty flavor, fairly light body and light effervescence. There is moderate bitterness in the finish. This is a good straightforward ale, not fancy, and its holiday “spice” comes from hops and barley. This would pass the test of the Reinheitsgebot. A Christmas ale for real ale fans. 5.5% ABV

The Shed Mountain AleThe Shed Mountain Ale

Not specifically a holiday beer, it’s a solid brown ale with a brief off white head. As malty as an English ale should be, it delivers full bodied caramel & toffee with lightly roasty undertones. This is accented by moderate English-style hops, the notes say Mt. Hood & Northern Brewer. It has a nice caramel finish dried by the hops. 7.4% ABV

Victory Winter CheersVictory Winter Cheers

“A celebratory wheat ale” this pours cloudy straw with a generous foamy white head. The nose is yeasty and estery with banana and stone fruit plus a distinct but subtle spiciness. On the palate comes sparkly refreshment with a touch of cloved orange. The finish is long and lightly spicy with almost a hint of cinnamon, dry, but retaining that estery quality all the way. 6.7% ABV

21st Amendment Fireside Chat21st Amendment Fireside Chat

This “Winter Spiced Ale” is dark brown with a moderate off tan head and an aroma of spiced fruit bread. The mouthfeel is soft and the flavor is earthy, almost meaty, with roasted grain and dark malts. The finish gets very dry as substantial hops come in, a nice finishing bite. On further sips, slight sweetness develops in the flavor and spice increases on the finish. This is a 50-degree ale, not a 40-degree brew. 7.9% ABV 45 IBU

Founders Project PAMFounders Project PAM

This is a black IPA with maple syrup & bourbon, inky brown with a brief off tan head. It delivers a rich bourbon nose over deep malt. It continues with maple-malt flavors blending with bourbon and persisting into the finish getting sweeter on the end. I was curious about the name, and I simply have to quote what they say about it:

Venture into the shadows of our brewers’ minds and discover their mad genius. From this unknown emerges Project PAM. In development for years under a shroud of secrecy, this Black IPA is brewed with a cornucopia of hops then aged in maple syrup bourbon barrels to add complex oaky bourbon notes and the sweetness of maple syrup to keep the bitterness in check. Like its creator, the origins of its name will forever remain a mystery.

ommLovely Dark DeepOmmegang Lovely, Dark and Deep

They call this one an “oatmeal stout winter ale.” It pours opaque brownish black with a persistent moderate tan head. The aroma is so roasty it almost crosses to tobacco, then rich malt comes in with a hint of smoke. The flavor starts with smoke, almost ashy, with malt building in. This makes me think of rauchbier and that impression persists into the finish. Never sweet, it dries out more on the end. 5.3% ABV

Great Lakes Christmas AleGreat Lakes Brewing Christmas Ale

Pretty chestnut in the glass, tinged amber with a very brief off white head. The nose is spicy-fizzy, if that makes sense, with cinnamon & ginger. On the palate there’s plenty of malt and just a hint of barnyard below the spice. It has a light ginger ale body with increasing spice as it flows into the finish, with and light honey sweetness that grows from sip to sip. I like it more from sip to sip. At the very end some hops dry it out. Quite drinkable–refreshing–though not outstanding. From the body and freshness you might think this is sessionable, but it won’t be a very long session. 8.5% ABV 30 IBU

Troegs The Mad Elf AleTröegs The Mad Elf Ale

“Ale brewed with honey and cherries,” this pours a clear chestnut with almost no head, just a light pinkish ring. The aroma is of cherry soda with a hint of biscuit malt.This left an expectation of cherry soda and the flavor is not far from that, just adding a base of malt and a smooth layer of honey. The finish holds both cherry and honey but adds a spicy hop note. It’s pleasant sipping and a good follow up to the Great Lakes. 11% ABV and not a hint of that strength. This stuff could be dangerous!

I doubt I’ll get in another blog post before Christmas, but hopefully these will tide you over. Happy holidays and a happy, healthy New Year!

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good pint!

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