I went to Hal & Al’s last night for their Winter and Christmas Beer Tasting. It was just what the doctor called for since the lady & I have been a bit grumpy getting prepared for Christmas. Our friends Chris & Lacey got there ahead of us. You got a punch card for the 12 beers of Christmas. At the end of the tasting, you got a special pint. Let’s delve into these four ounces of beer.
Bell’s Brewery – Winter White Ale – Last year, I tried Bell’s Christmas Ale in my second Sippy Time Beer post. I also had the Winter White Ale in the fourth post. Unlike Christmas ales, Winter ales tend not to have cinnamon, nutmeg or clove. Christmas ales also don’t tend to be whites either. I’ll get more into that topic later. This beer doesn’t use any of those spices but the mixture of yeast, barley & malt do make it taste like it has a hint of clove in it. That line is a correction from the original review. This beer has a hefeweizen like quality without the wheat flavor. Availability here. Solid start.
Smuttynose Brewing Company – Winter Ale – This beer was interesting because it was an amber ale, which isn’t used much for these style of beers. It did seem to have the normal spices in it which had a different tone to them since it was playing off the malt instead of hops. I enjoyed this beer out of New Hampshire. Availability here. Two for two.
Buckeye Lake Brewing – Christmas Ale – This beer is obviously a local one that most read won’t get to try. This beer was more of a red ale with the usual spices but there was an interesting note on the beer list. This beer had graham crackers in it. I didn’t taste it unfortunately and it didn’t seem to make the beer any thicker. They also said it finished with a sweetness and it did. A little too much in my opinion.
Southern Tier Brewing Company – Old Man Winter Ale – My third review covered Southern Tier’s other winter offering, 2xmas. This beer was more traditional than that one. The barley and hops stand out. You were supposed to sip this because of it’s high alcohol content, 7.0% which isn’t that high. I took this one down with a quickness. Availability here. Seriously, try it.
Full Pint Brewing – Festivus – This beer comes out of Pittsburgh, PA. The verbiage of this beer gets the Seinfeld treatment so you don’t get much of a description and their site doesn’t even list. I think it was another amber ale though because of the heavy malt with a little more hops than normal. It was very tasty also. The distribution area is pretty limited but if you’re in this area, try it.
The Brew Kettle – Winter Warmer – This beer is another local offering that many people won’t be able to wrangle. From the northern city of Strongsville, OH this beer brings the usual Christmas spices of cinnamon, ginger (not as common) and honey. They also toss in some orange (not tasted much) and lemon (very much tasted). It actually helped to cut through the sweetness of the honey with the acidic taste of the lemon. I still don’t think it cut the sweetness enough. I sense a general trend of holidays beers that I don’t like.
Oskar Blues Brewery – Yule Chub – This beer was a strange one because of it’s dark color. It looked like a porter or stout. Neither the description nor their website say exactly what style of beer it is. The website doesn’t even acknowledge that this beverage exists. That is probably why we were supposed to thank someone at the bar for procuring this limited edition keg. The description used orange peels and spruce tips in it and I tasted the pine flavor but not the orange. I am not a fan of of drinking spruce but the darker beer held up to it much better than a lighter style of beer. Availability here although you probably won’t be able to snag this beer in particular.
Rivertown Brewing Company – Winter Ale – I was looking forward to this beer because their Roebling Porter was outstanding. I have had their Hop Barron but haven’t reviewed it yet. But I thought they had a pair of quality products. I didn’t like this one as much. It had caramel, toffee and cinnamon which they claim is only in hints but it was prominent. It was more heavy handed than they say. It certainly packs a substantial punch at 8.2% alcohol. Availability here.
Shiner – Holiday Cheer – Not all Winter and Christmas beers need to be made in the northern climates of the US. This brewery out of Texas is making them too. Because it has peaches and pecans in it, this beer is like no other holiday beer. I don’t think pecans factor into the taste conversation but the peaches certainly do. It is also heavy on the malt which usually makes me like a beer. This one though has a funky confluence with the peach taste that makes me not like this one much. Availability here.
Summit Brewing Company – Winter Ale – This one was the final sample sized portion. It was a darker beer for a Winter Ale but not as dark as the Yule Chub from Oskar Blues. This beer may have gotten its’ darkness from the use of coffee which is fairly prominent. It was heavier on the malt side than the hop side.
Actual Brewing Company – Winter IPA – This beer is brewed right here in Columbus so more than likely, you are not going to taste it. The beer was cask condition in a Firkin which is a wooden barrel that contains about 9 gallons of beer. This Winter IPA was served from said device that sits at an angle so that gravity brings it out of the cask. I wanted to get a picture of the blanket that was over the barrel that was supposed to help keep it cold, I think. I’m unsure if it was supposed to be served on the warmer side but it was which didn’t help me when tasting it. The beer was very nutty and had a heavy dose of coffee while the caramel, cocoa and hop spice don’t come through as much. I didn’t enjoy this one so maybe it’s not so bad that the distribution area isn’t greater.
Go out and grab yourself a Christmas or Winter beverage and enjoy the season of spiced #SippyTimeBeer! – Kevin