Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Beer

Merry Christmas from Kudy the dog

Merry Christmas! Before flying home to Florida for the holidays, I decided to sample two more winter offerings available in the Northwest.

The Beer: Alaskan Winter Ale
The Brewery: Alaska Brewing Company of Juneau, Alaska
The Style: Winter Warmer/Old Ale
ABV: 6.4%
Brewer's Description: Style: English Olde Ale. Traditionally malty with the warming sensation of alcohol, Olde Ales are brewed in the fall as winter warmers.

Flavor Profile: Brewed in the style of an English Olde Ale, this ale balances the sweet heady aroma of spruce tips with the clean crisp finish of noble hops. Its malty richness is complemented by the warming sensation of alcohol.

History: From the seafaring adventurers of the 1700s to the homebrewers of today, adding spruce tips to beer has a rich history in Southeast Alaska. The tender new growth of Sitka spruce tips lends a delicious, yet subtly sweet floral aroma to tea, jelly and now Alaskan Winter Ale.

Ingredients: Water, malt, hops and yeast with no adjuncts, no preservatives and no pasteurization. Our glacier-fed water originates in the 1,500-square-mile Juneau Ice Field. A complex blend of six malts including Pale, Wheat, Munich and caramelized malts. Prized Czechoslovakian Saaz hops and Sitka spruce tips.

Color: Poured into pint glass, deep yellow, slightly cloudy. Healthy white head.
Aroma: Very sweet malty aroma
Taste/mouthfeel: medium carbonation, medium creamy mouthfeel. Very sweet "buttered-biscuit" malt flavors that give way to some mild fruity esters.
Finish: very subtle piney bitterness in the finish with some faint peppery spicy notes.

Notes: Purchased at Rosauers Supermarket in Spokane, WA. A slightly different take than the other winter beers I've reviewed, this beer is the lightest in color and the tastes is much more on the sweet malty notes. There is some bitterness in the finish but the focus seems to be primarily on the malt. I did not detect any specific spruce tip notes, I didn't realize the beer was made with spruce tips until reading the label. The brewery probably used lower hopping rates so the hops wouldn't compete with the flavors imparted by the spruce.

The Beer: Dicks Double Diamond Winter Ale
The Brewery: Dick's Brewig Company of Centralia, Washington
The Style: Winter Warmer/America Strong Ale
ABV: 8.5%
Brewer's Description: Northwest style winter seasonal bold enough to get you through the weather. We fill the mash tun to the top with lots of Northwest premium 2-row malted barley, plenty of rich Munich malt, a full bag of sweet caramel malt, lots of crisp malted white wheat, and a touch of highly roasted black barley. This kind of big beer requires several healthy additions of hops with real character for backbone and finish. We don’t call it Double Diamond for nothing.

Color: poured into pint glass. Dark, transparent brown, small, thin white head.
Aroma: Wow, spicy! Cinnamon, nutmeg, anise, caramel.
Taste/mouthfeel: medium-heavy body, medium-high carbonation. some mild spiciness (much milder than the aroma would suggest) followed by dark fruity esters. (dates? raisins?)
Finish: the finish is huge and very warming on the throat. Course, scratchy hop bitterness (Chinook hops perhaps?) followed by some winter spices (cinnamon?). Noticeable lingering hop resin bitterness on the tongue.

Notes: Purchased at Huckleberry's Supermarket in Spokane, WA. This is definitely a BIG beer meant for sipping. I don't think there are any spices in this ale, but the malt complexity and warming alcohol notes definitely add some spiciness. This beer is big on the malt and tremendous on the hops. This is the kind of beer to be savored slowly on a cold day. "Nursing" is perfectly acceptable for a beer of this magnitude.

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