Wednesday, November 29, 2006

HOLIDAY BEER DRINK-OFF

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)

6 comments:

Cracker said...

I hope your Sam Adams mixpack doesn't have the Cranberry Lambic in it. That's a tough one.

Love the 2 Below and the Anchor myself. That's the only 2 I've found so far this season other than my favorite of all the holiday brews... Sierra Nevada Celebration. Yum.

Happy holidays!

tedo said...

I too love the 2 below...Have to agree with the comments about the Sam Adams Winter pack, they can be a little hit and miss, although their standard Winter Lager isn't bad. I do of course have to shill for the local Texas winter Beers, in the Saint Arnold's Christmas ale, and a new one in Rahr and Son's Winter Warmer both of which are pretty good.

Socialretard said...

I'd like to put in a good word for Avery's Old Jubilation and Great Divide's Hibernation Ale. I bet Craig has those at City Beer.

Kyle said...

I had the anchor steam and had a similar reaction to yours. My neighbor said it tasted like they put marijuana in it. We both liked it reasonably well, though. I think I like Sam Adam's regular issue winter ale better.

Sean said...

Hm, I found Anchor's effort disappointing this year. It's not that it's out of balance in any one way or another specifically, but somehow the final product seemed lackluster to me. It lacked brightness -- too much like mulled wine.

Anonymous said...

I'm generally fond of New Belgium's stuff, but I found 2 below to be just OK - maybe I had it too warm? Too cold? On the other hand, their Saison is one of the best beers I've had lately - wish I'd bough cases of the stuff!

-Chris Selvig