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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.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Brewing Up a Christmas Miracle

The good folks at Rock Bottom Brewery & Restaurants around the country have a great holiday tradition of partnering with local charities and feeding people down on their luck a good hot meal on Christmas day.

Last year they hosted 10 of the "Miracle" events their locations and ended up feeding 6,200 people, including the homeless, people out of work and those with no other place to go.

With the economy being what it is, the need this Christmas was even greater and Rock Bottom with the help of volunteers helped out in communities across the country. Check out the news reports of events in Minneapolis and Boulder. No one was turned away and everyone had a chance to celebrate the holiday.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Boulder SourFest Planned for February 27th

In the July issue of All About Beer Magazine my inaugural "Next Beer" column asked the question "is sour the new bitter?" The premise of the column is to look at trends popping up across the brewing world that might soon end up in a glass in your hand.

It's clear that some hop heads are looking for the next sensory experience. Sour beers have been a staple of classic Belgian brewers ands a wave of American breweries now have barrels quietly aging in the corners of brewhouses.

The trend has caught the attention of the folks at Avery Brewing, and they have announced plans to host the Boulder SourFest on Feb. 27 from Noon to 5 p.m. in the Avery barrel-aging room in Boulder, Colo.

The goal is to have at least 35 different sour brews from breweries across the United States pouring ale at the event. Sour ales get their flavor profile from Lactobacillus, Brettanomyces or Pediococcus yeast. Avery is promising that many of the brewers responsible for these beers will be on hand.

Tickets for the event, priced at $35, will go on sale on Dec. 22nd on the Avery Brewing website.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

English Whisky About to Hit the Market

It's been more than a century since the last distillery in England sold a whisky. On Wednesday that streak will end.

St. George's Distillery by the River Thet in eastern England has been aging whisky for three years and will release the first bottles this week. Three years is the required aging time to officially become a whisky and the spirit eclipsed that mark in ex-Jim Beam Bourbon barrels in late November.

The people behind this whisky have been growing malt for Scottish distillers and decided in 2005 to establish a distillery. They coaxed a former Laphroaig distiller -- Iain Henderson -- out of retirement. It was a big deal in 2007 when Prince Charles showed up to officially open the distillery.

The English Whisky Co. will market peated and plain whiskies. Initial shipments are being sent to Japan, Singapore, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium and Canada. The company hopes to open the United States marketing during 2010.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Pork and Liquor

The $787 billion economic stimulus that President Barack Obama and the Democrat controlled Congress put in place was criticized earlier this week by Republican Sens. John McCain and Tom Coburn for having at least 100 wasteful projects.

Even though the Congressional Budget Office estimates the stimulus helped to create 1.6 million jobs, the two lawmakers said that at least $7 billion of the $217 billion already spent was either wasted and mismanaged.

Among the projects McCain and Coburn singled out as a poor use of taxpayer funds was a $390,000 State University of New York at Buffalo study of young adults who drink malt liquor and smoke marijuana, and a $219,000 study by the National Institutes of Health looking into whether female college students are more likely to have sex after drinking.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Tuesday Tasting: Three Whiskeys Worth Sipping

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 great whiskeys that are perfect for holiday giving.

No matter what your spirit preference is, the holidays are an exciting time. Special gift packs, rare bottlings and vintage offerings abound. This is especially true for fans of Scotch and Bourbon. The Lyke2Drink offices have had some very nice samples arrive in recent weeks. These are bottles that you might want for yourself, but they make truly exceptional gifts for friends and business associates.

Lagavulin 1993 Distillers Edition: I've long been a fan of this Islay distillery. The smoky peat found in the "standard" Lagavulin 16 year old is just as intense in this 86 proof special bottling. This Scotch is double-matured in Pedro Ximenez Sherry wood casks, which gives the single malt a touch of fruitiness to go along with the sea spray and vanilla notes. This one has a very long finish. It retails for $110 a bottle.

Evan Williams Single Barrel 2000 Vintage Bourbon: This whiskey is a vanilla bomb. At 86.6 proof this one has been aging in Bardstown since March 2000. A very smooth, almost creamy Bourbon with honey, a touch of caramel and vanilla from the nose to finish. Balanced with just the right amount of spice. At under $30 a bottle this is a great whiksey value from Heaven Hill Distilleries.

Old Forester Birthday Bourbon Vintage 2009: This Bourbon was distilled in 1997 and has a corresponding 97 proof. Nutty, spicy and sweet. There is a European truffle quality that comes through with dark chocolate, cherry and a hint of citrus, then a woody finish. A great $40 gift.

Pints for Prostates Video from the Denver Rare Beer Tasting

Pints For Prostates | Denver Rare Beer Tasting 2009 from Redtail Media on Vimeo.

The talented folks at Redtail Media in Long Beach, Calif., donated their time and skills to shoot a video during the Denver Rare Beer Tasting to help support the Pints for Prostates campaign.

Check out some of the many craft beer legends that donated exotic beers to the event and took the time to urge men to get regular prostate health screenings and PSA blood tests.