Sampling the Winter Brews

Today I heard a radio ad for the new Sam Adams spring seasonal, Alpine Spring, which is described as a citrusy, unfiltered lager that is the perfect transition from winter’s heavier brews to the lighter beers of summer. It sounds great…but it’s January 12. Sure, we’ve had a mild winter, but spring brew on January 12?

Since the brewers wait for no season, I figured I should catch up on the many winter brews that I’ve been sampling. Assuming winter brews are on still on the shelves, I’ve got three categories for the winter releases: Go Buy Some Today (and I Mean Today), Worth a Try, and Leave it on the Shelf.

Go Buy Some Today (and I Mean Today)

  • Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale (CA), an excellent IPA and my favorite winter seasonal.  I hardly ever buy beer by the case, opting instead to mix a case of different six packs for some variety.  But I just picked up a whole case of this brew, on sale at Magruder’s. It’s drinkable enough for a session beer, but at 6.8% ABV, be careful.
  • The Mad Elf, Tröegs Brewing Company (PA), a strong winter release from one of my favorite Pennsylvania breweries.  This is a unique beer — a ruby red ale brewed with honey and cherries that clocks in at 11% ABV. The price tag is worth it!
  • Christmas Ale, Anchor Brewing Company (CA), every year since 1975 the brewers at Anchor have brewed a unique Christmas Ale.  The recipe of this longtime American holiday ale is different every year…and always excellent.
  • Yellow Snow IPA, Rogue Ales (OR), this IPA is fast becoming one of my favorite winter seasonals. It is a bitter brew with a big hop flavor (6.2% ABV, 70 IBU).
  • Santa’s Private Reserve, Rogue Ales (OR), another excellent winter release from Rogue, this double-hopped Red Ale is a holiday classic (6.0%).
  • Winter White, Bells Brewery (MI), a delicious blend of American wheat and Belgian wheat beers.  This winter release is a welcome alternative to the dark and heavy winter seasonals.
  • Lagunitas Sucks Holiday Ale (CA), a hoppy American Strong Ale (7.9% ABV). If you were looking for Lagunitas Brown Shugga’ this winter, it’s not available. Lagunitas admits they screwed up their brewing schedule and couldn’t find space for Brown Shugga’.  So they released the self-proclaimed Lagunitas Sucks Holiday Ale, which doesn’t suck at all. Read more on the RateBeer.com web site. Hilarious!

Worth a Try

  • Shlafly Christmas Ale (MO), inspired by spiced holiday beverages such as wassail and mulled wines, this 8.o% ale is spiced with orange peel, juniper berries, ginger root, cardamom and cloves.
  • Shlaflay Winter ESB (MO), a balanced easy-drinker (5.8%)
  • Breckenridge Christmas Ale (CO), dubbed “bottled joy to the world” by the brewery (7.0%).
  • Stoudts Revel Red (PA), a hoppy Red Ale (6.2%).
  • Full Sail Wassail (OR), a strong and dark winter warmer (7.0%).
  • Port City Tidings (VA), a Strong Belgian Blond Ale brewed with Maryland wildflower honey and Virginia wheat (7.8%).
  • Shipyard Prelude (ME), this winter warmer is a complex English Strong Ale (6.7%).
  • Flying Dog K-9 Cruiser (MD), an English Strong Ale (6.4%).
  • Grand Cru Winter Reserve, Flying Fish Brewing Company (NJ), a Belgian-style strong golden ale (7.2%).
  • Winter Scotch, St. George Brewing Company (VA), “a malty, full-bodied ale…with a lingering peat smoke effect” (6.0%)
  • Winter Ale, Blue Point Brewing Company (NY), this winter warmer is a hearty and robust Amber Ale (7.0%).
  • Hibernator, Long Trail Brewing Company (VT), a drinkable unfiltered Scottish Ale (6.0%).
  • Brr Seasonal Ale, Widmer Brothers Brewing (OR), a beer with “bold hop flavor, candy sweet finish” (7.2%)

Leave it on the Shelf

  • Hell, they’re all at least worth a try!

Beth and I sampled these brews over the long Christmas weekend. I picked up most of these beers as singles at Total Wine in Mclean.  I love beer stores that sell singles! And I love the winter beer season!

Updated February 15, 2012

3 responses to “Sampling the Winter Brews

  1. Pingback: Chelsea Checker Cab Blonde Ale « Christian's Beer Blog·

  2. Pingback: Beer Review - Chelsea Checker Cab Blonde Ale | Beer Reviews From Chris·

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