Session 13 of Boa’s Beer Sampling Series was held on December 5, 2009. The session was dubbed Decemberfest, for a celebration of winter beers.
Winter seasonals represent a centuries-old tradition of concocting strong, full-flavored brews to offset the gloom and cold weather of winter. Dense and strong, rich and opaque, winter brews embody the blustery season. Booming with flavor, they seize the mouth and slap around the taste buds. Winter seasonals are typified by the classic “winter warmer” but they do not fit into one style, and 11 different styles were featured in this beer tasting.
[Beer descriptions provided by breweries/brewers].
THE BEER MENU
1. Magic Hat Howl, South Burlington, Vermont (4.6%)
Born of dark and cold and snow in the marrow of the northeast’s longest night, HOWL comes in on wailing winds with winter-weary eyes burning holes in sunless shadows. In its darkened depths our inner voids are warmed. A Black Lager from Magic Hat Brewing Company.
2. Winter White, Bells Brewery, Kalamazoo, Michigan (5%)
A Wheat Ale brewed with American Wheat and a proprietary blend of Hefe and classic Belgian-style yeasts. A refreshing winter alternative created from the subtle fusion of two classic flavors.
3. Rabine’s Altbier, Ellicot City, Maryland (4.5%)
Inspired by his local brewpub, Ellicott City Brewing, where he enjoys the Dunkel and Alt beers, home brewer David Rabine went looking for a recipe for a drinkable German style beer. He combined the best parts of two recipes to create this clean-tasting ale, perfect for sociable drinking. According to David, “Any beer that has Irish Moss in the finishing stages of the boil tends to be an easy drinker and this one doesn’t disappoint. I have no idea why that is…the moss smells like fish food.” Aged about two months.
4. Winter Solstice, Anderson Valley Brewing Company, Boonville, California (6.9%)
From the first sip of Winter Solstice Seasonal Ale, your senses will be aroused with the vision of a glowing fire, warming the hearth and home, as gently drifting snow flakes silently blanket the trees outside. Each lingering sip will gently warm your soul with thoughts of family and friends, gathering around the table for a feast. Luscious, creamy, smooth, and warming, this medium bodied ale is brewed with Caramel and crystal malts to give it just a hint of sweetness, then paired with our private blend of holiday spice. A hearty and spicy brew with a deep amber hue and a smooth finish.
5. RAW’s Molasses Wheat, Washington, D.C. (6.1%)
While not a classic winter style, you’re sure to warm up to this brew. Bottle aged, this beer has a mild hoppiness with the smoothness of a wheat beer and the slight sweetness of molasses at the finish.
6. Flying Dog K-9 Cruiser, Frederick, Maryland (6.4%)
K-9 Cruiser is an English Strong Ale — a dark, sweet and malty winter warmer that will captivate any adventurous craft brew drinker. A true Flying Dog original, K-9 Cruiser is the perfect brew to warm you up in those cold winter months.
7. RAW’s Cherry Pale Ale, Washington, D.C. (7.0%)
This new batch of a popular RAW offering was brewed using a modified version of the original recipe. This ruby-colored version has a stronger hop bitterness, flavor, and aroma with more evident notes of cherry.
8. Old Man Winter, Southern Tier Brewing Company, Lakewood, NY (7.2%)
With the onset of winter, the brewer’s mind turns to providing warmth. For our winter seasonal, we offer a rich and complex amalgam of hops and barley that will put the feeling back in your toes and lift your spirits above the snow. The American Strong Ale throws a deep and inviting hue with a thickness that clings to the glass and the warmth of an open flame. Because of its high alcohol content, Old Man is a heady brew that encourages sipping and pondering its essential richness. Drink it fresh now, or cellar a few bottles to see how this old man becomes wiser with age.
9. Yule Tide, Clipper City Brewing Company, Baltimore, Maryland (10%)
The Mutiny Fleet is the newest addition to the Heavy Seas crew of beers. Big flavor in big bottles, these beers are produced in very small batches. Yule Tide is a strong Belgian Tripel with a slightly sweet and complex malty flavor. Its spicy flavor comes from our unique blend of Trappist yeast and Belgian candy sugar making it both aromatic and flavorful. Celebrate the holidays pyrate style!
10. Rabine’s Vanilla Stout, Ellicot City, Maryland (5.5%)
Home brewer David Rabine was looking for a smooth-drinking Winter Stout when he stumbled upon this recipe. According to David, “I used only used half the vanilla bean called for in the recipe (two instead of four whole beans). I was attempting to keep the sweetness down. The vanilla flavor is there but it’s subtle so you can have more than one in a sitting.” Ingredients come from Columbia’s Maryland Home Brew store; aged a little over two months since second racking. Dark and smooth with a background hint of vanilla.
11. Rogue Chocolate Stout, Newport, Oregon (6.3%)
This American Stout is ebony in color with a rich creamy head. The mellow flavor of oats, chocolate malts and real chocolate are balanced perfectly with the right amount of hops for a bitter-sweet finish.
12. Grateful Ed’s My Wife’s No Longer Stout, Arlington, VA (10%)
This home brew from Grateful Ed’s Brewhouse was brewed to celebrate the birth of his child, and has been aging for four years. Imperial Stouts are the king of stouts and boast high alcohol content and plenty of malt character. Look for low to moderate levels of carbonation with huge roasted, chocolate, and burnt malt flavors. Suggestions of dark fruit may be evident. Hop character can vary from none to balanced to aggressive.
Attending: Rich, Susan, Elizabeth, Andrew, David, Christine, Lincoln, Arianna, Javier, Maryellen, Christian, Ed, Elaine and family, Terry and Cindy, Beth, Emily and Benjamin, Kristen, Karl and Ceila.
Thanks to the home brewers! I hope everyone enjoyed it!