Saturday, November 8, 2008

Fall/Winter Brews

When the days get shorter and the temperature drops, the best way to warm up is with a frosty pint of dark, rich beer. Despite a lousy year for farming hops, many of the nation's most celebrated breweries are still churning out seasonal favorites just for winter. Here's a sampling that would even make Homer Simpson proud.

My new favorite fall beer is Late Harvest Autumn Ale from the Redhook Ale Brewery.
This beer’s appearance is a dark copper ale that’s slightly hazy. It pours with an eggshell white head that’s kind of thick and chunky. The aroma mainly consists of slightly toasted malts but the taste has a hint of toffee or butterscotch that’s semi sweet, with a little hop near the end to balance the thing up. I also get a touch of pleasing smoke at the back of the throat. Good smooth palate. Overall, I have to say this is a rather nice, satisfying amber for time of the season.

One of my new favorite brews of which I fell in love with last winter, both on tap and in bottles, comes from our northern neighbors at the Laughing Dog Brewing Co. in Ponderay, Idaho called Cold Nose Winter Ale. The Cold Nose pours a deep, rich mahogany that doesn't let much light through with great head retention that is khaki/tan in color. Aromas are of molasses, prunes, spices and sweet malt, with some smokiness and very light hops. The taste is not what I expected, sweet with some serious coffee flavors, a slight bitterness from the hops and a hint of molasses makes this ale very tasty, smooth and extremely likable.

Got the holiday blues?
Well then, I have the remedy…my “new” favorite winter beer on tap and in bottles called “Brrr” from the Widmer Brothers Brewing Co. With its clear, antique copper color and nice creamy head, this winter ale’s aroma is mostly hops with a hint of sweet malts, which further accents the juicy hop bouquet. The scent of earthy pine and citrus dominate and do a good job of hiding the 7.2% alcohol kick, which is present in the nose behind the hops and sweet malts. The flavor of smooth, mild caramels, pale malts and hints of roasted barley do their best to balance out the heavy dose of bittering hops. Believe me, after enjoying a couple of these “Brrr”s, you’ll be hanging up the mistletoe. 

Two beers that are hard to find but a must try for the holidays are…

K-9 Winter Ale from the Flying Dog Brewery. With the smells of Christmas, mainly Christmas cooking, this ale has a strong scent of chocolate cookies. I don't smell any orange peel when I put my nose to the glass, but I get a tiny undertone on my tongue. I also get a fair amount of nutmeg and allspice which would explain the relationship to cookies. Some caramel malts come through on the beginning, but chocolate malts and spices come out on the finish. Allspice and nutmeg combine with some chocolate malts, these are balanced by a citrusy hoppiness that is very present. This beer has two mouthfeels, it is slightly creamy with a “bite” of carbonation.

If you prefer something a little more “fruity” this holiday season, then you have to try Frambozen Rasberry Brown Ale from the New Belgium Brewing Company in Colorado (who brought us the famous “Fat Tire”). This ale begins with the aroma of fresh, red raspberries, followed by the ripe scent of a fruity, brown ale with depth and delicate malt notes. It is deep ruby in color, with flavors just as rich. It has a very juicy raspberry taste along with a hint of chocolate…kind of like a raspberry truffle. I have never had such an authentic flavor in a raspberry beer. Sweet malts are subsidiary, but contain a perfect amount of sugar. Easily, my favorite fruit beer this winter.

If you would rather enjoy even more of these ales in the comfort of your home or hotel room, Daanens Deli in Hayden has a plethora of these seasonal beers from the good ol’ USA to the European brews in bottles that you can purchase and have your own celebration whenever you want. The last time I was at Daanen’s, I counted over 30 different types of beers that would be perfect to try during these colder months of the year.


Paul said...

Thanks for putting up the review on Brrr - we are giving it a taste soon after the nice folks at Widmer Bothers sent a few bottles to us. After what you said, I can't wait!

Paul Leone
Video Brewmaster

The BrewRoo said...

I hope you enjoy Brrr as much as I did! Now, how do you get those beers sent to you??

Paul said...

They contacted me after finding my website - it's the best way to get the word out since most great American Craft beers can't be found in Savannah GA!

Paul Leone
Video Brewmaster