Thursday, December 9, 2010

A Wintering We Will Go

For me, winter beer is all about Nutcracker, Frambozen and increasingly Shiner Holiday Cheer (for the warmer days in winter). But, I've forced myself off the reservation to try out some other winter beers just to see if I could find something else to add to the pantheon of winter beer.

Breckenridge Christmas Ale
Christmas Ale is a solid beer and priced right at $8.99/sixer. It's pretty cheap when you consider that it has a 7.4% ABV. The problem with it is it's completely forgettable. I never eagerly anticipated drinking one though I did enjoy the dark fruit and spice taste of it. Christmas Ale just didn't do its thing for me and I don't think I'll be going back to it this season.

New Belgium 2 Below
Oh New Belgium, I do believe I've outgrown you. I enjoyed 2 Below as recently as 2 years ago and I kind of looked forward to drinking my sixer of it. 2 Below is chock full of bready flavors with a pretty strong hop flavor on top. There's nothing wrong with 2 Below and I found myself anticipating it but it continually left me disappointed which sums up my thoughts on New Belgium now (with the very notable exception of Frambozen).

Anderson Valley Winter Solstice
For some reason, I've never had an Anderson Valley beer. I decided to rectify that by trying out Winter Solstice. I'm better for the experience. I looked forward to drinking every one of them and rather enjoyed each of them. It's got a real light mouthfeel for a winter warmer style beer. It's rather sweet and has a good spice and fruit flavor. I'm not adding Winter Solstice to the pantheon or anything but I'll probably have another sixer. The only downside to Winter Solstice is the $10.50 price tag on a sixer.

Sam Adams Winter Lager
Sam Adams main seasonals are some of my favorite Sam Adams beers. I very rarely buy one of their year round offerings but I truly enjoy Summer Ale, Octoberfest and Noble Pils. Winter Lager is no different. It's quite hoppy but has a nice crisp taste. It's better for a warmer winter day than the other 3 and was my favorite of this bunch (Winter Solstice was very close). I could easily drink Winter Lager all evening and it joins Goose Island Mild Winter and Lagunitas Brown Shugga' at a level just below the pantheon of winter beers.


  1. I agree with your Samuel Adams comments -- I never drink their regular lineup (lone exception - I tend to pound the Boston Lager when I'm at airports) but I generally think their seasonals are outstanding. Noble Pils is great, as is the Winter Lager.

    I also think Goose Island's Mild Winter is outstanding. It's a nice follow up to their excellent fall seasonal, the Harvest Ale (which I end up buying about 5 cases of every year).

    Outside of that, I'd have to say that winter seasonals are my least favorite. They tend to be much sweeter and maltier than the others (which makes sense) and that's just not my style (I tend to lean more towards the hop end of the scale).

  2. Bob, You're completely right about Goose Island Mild Winter. I love it too and completely forgot to mention it. I would put it in the same category as Winter Lager, just below the pantheon of winter beers.

    I'm going to jump up and down and implore everyone to try Noble Pils when it comes out in the spring. It's really good and one of the best spring seasonals.

  3. You need to add Great Divide Hibernation to your list. Huge Old Ale malt bomb. Just picked up a six today.

  4. Barleywhiner, I just haven't gotten to Hibernation yet. I know I had it last year, just don't recall my thoughts about it.

  5. Holy Cow, the Hibernation Ale is FANTASTIC. Top of my list, sir. I urge you to re-visit and spread the good word. No mention of the Schlafly Christmas??

  6. I bought the Sam Adams "Winter Classics" 12-pack, and am savoring the seasonals included (along with Boston Lager): Old Fezziwig Ale, Holiday Porter, Winter Lager, and Chocolate Bock. I'm a little puzzled that White Ale is included as a winter seasonal.