I decided that this winter I’d do my darndest to taste as many of the 2006 holiday beers as I could within reason, considering that I’ll typically drink no more than 4-5 beers in any given week. My cause is helped along by the fact that San Francisco’s CITY BEER STORE encourages you to make your own assorted 6-packs from their vast selection, and actually pays you back 10% for doing so (!). That’s pretty refreshing, when my experience with bringing a single lonely 12-oz. bottle to the counter in most stores often leads to a lecture, chastisement & a long trudge back to the beer section. So anyway, I’ve been stocking up and slowly making my way through the goods. Here are a few from the past couple weeks:
1. NEW BELGIUM 2 BELOW WINTER ALE – This, unsurprisingly, is another fine beer from the New Belgium folks. A very malty, toffee-like taste and some strong, bitter hops make for a robust but very drinkable ale. It also has a great vanilla smell to it. These guys make beers to be sold in fairly large volumes but have not forgotten their small-brewing roots, and it shows. 7.5/10.
2. ANCHOR “OUR SPECIAL” CHRISTMAS 2006 ALE – Every year ANCHOR formulates a different recipe for their Christmas Ale, and just about every year it’s really, really good, the year it tasted like raw tree sap notwithstanding. Exceptionally dark and rich-tasting, with nutmeg and other holiday-themed spices all over the place. I found something a little bit out of balance, not sure if I can put my finger on it, but there was so much to be thankful for yet again I’ll still give this a 7/10.
3. SAMUEL ADAMS OLD FEZZIWIG ALE – Then there’s this one. I bought it as part of a holiday 12-pack box from Boston Beer Co./Samuel Adams, containing two each of six different types of holiday brews. This one was pretty rank – too strongly carmeled or something, and out of whack between the spices, the strong malts and the distinct lack of hops. Bitter, but not in a great way. Poured out the last bit – never a good sign. I hope there’s a winner in the other five. 4.5/10.
Just for the record, because I knew you were going to ask, here are our scientific rankings & ratings on the 2006 Holiday beers thus far. We’re only at November 29th, folks – we got at least 5 more weeks to go to enhance this list on a big way, and there’s a lot more waiting in my fridge & garage......
1. DESCHUTES JUBELALE (9/10)
2. MARIN BREWING HOPPY HOLIDAZE (8.5/10)
3. NEW BELGIUM 2 BELOW WINTER (7.5/10)
4. ANCHOR “OUR SPECIAL” CHRISTMAS 2006 (7/10)
5. ALASKAN BREWING 2006 WINTER ALE (6.5/10)
6. SAMUEL ADAMS OLD FEZZIWIG ALE (4.5/10)