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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Tuesday Tasting: 14 Beers for the Season

Tuesday Tasting is a regular feature of Lyke2Drink that explores some of the best beers, wines and spirits on the market. This week we sample some seasonal treats from the beer world.

Whoever invented the idea of special beers for the holidays and winter season is owed a huge debt by generations of beer drinkers. The idea of a special treat for beer drinkers that is simultaneously a gift for the holidays, a great match for celebratory feasts and a way to ward off the cold weather is truly a Christmas miracle.

Just a few years ago these seasonals were relatively rare, but now most craft brewers offer either a holiday beer or a winter warmer -- some do both. Even though they are more common, they are no less special. I try to sample as many as possible each year. Some are old favorites, while a few first-timers join the fold each year.

Here are 14 I've already managed to try this year:

Samuel Adams Winter Lager: Amber lager with a moderate tan head. The brew contains cinnamon and other spices, but these flavors are fairly muted. Still the beer has a nice healthy body and attractive malt character. A good beer to go with food.

Affligem Noel Christmas Ale: This beer is 9 percent alcohol by volume brew pours a warm brown color with a tan head. Nice caramel nose that opens to a rich flavor bed of fruits, and a slight touch of dark chocolate, brown sugar and even sweet breads in the finish.

Bateman's Rosey Nosey Christmas Ale: Amber color with a thin head. Slightly fruity nose with a classic British ale flavor profile.

Blue Moon 2009 Grand Cru: The good folks at MillerCoors made this one for the semi-rare "blue moon" making its appearance in the night sky right at the end of 2009. Cloudy yellow with a very nice creamy white head that stays put throughout. Slight citrus note with a flavor that finishes refreshingly dry.

Full Moon Winter Ale: Part of Blue Moon's seasonal line up, this 5.6 percent alcohol by volume brew was actually on draft at Bank of America Stadium, a welcome relief from watching the Carolina Panthers. Chestnut brown color and firm tan head. Mild malt aroma and a medium bodied brew. The brew is not as malty as the first sip might lead you to believe, with hops balancing out the overall flavor.

Highland Cold Mountain: This North Carolina winter warmer was tasted on draft and was brighter than I recall past vintages. This beer has a nice amber color and spiced flavor profile. It actually has an almost birch beer like finish that is there and gone.

Left Hand Fade to Black Foreign Stout: This 8.5 percent alcohol by volume beer is a dark black with slight ruby hues around the edges. Nice roasted notes with hints of licorice, coffee and smoke. Very nice.

Leinenkugel's Fireside Nut Brown: Copper colored brew with an off white head. This 4.9 percent alcohol by volume beer has a fairly light body and smooth character. Roasted malt influences mute out the hops.

New Belgium 2 Below Ale: Two Degrees Below is a nice golden-colored ale with a lacing white head. At 6.6 percent alcohol by volume it is a great fireside brew. The beer has a good level of hops, but it's overall mouthfeel is smooth and refreshing. Nice balancing roasted malt in the background.

Olde Mecklenberg Jule Bock: This small brewer in Charlotte bottled a limited run of this German-style bock for the Christmas season. A amber brown color it has a slightly malty nose and smooth, slightly sweet flavor profile.

Pike Auld Acquaintance Hoppy Holiday Ale: This 5 percent alcohol by volume ale is a light amber color. The beer has a nice malty nose and opens with a slightly spicy flavor with citrus notes. The beer is a little thinner than I remember it from the past, but it is refreshing.

Shiner Holiday Cheer: Brewed with peaches and Texas pecans this is a dunkelweizen that has been krausened. A 5.4 percent alcohol by volume brew, the peaches come through very nicely and give this brew a festive feel.

Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale: One of my all-time favorite brews from the folks in Chico. At 6.8 percent alcohol by volume the beer is relatively tame by today's big beer standards, but it is plenty powerful to meet the chill in the air. Great aromatic hops that linger throughout the flavor.

Winterhook Winter Ale: The folks at Redhook have created a glowing mahogany hued ale with a tan head that comes in at 5.9 alcohol by volume. Nice roasted malt character with a slightly nutty finish.

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