The Twelve Beers of Christmas- IX


For Christmas beer number 9 we find ourselves seaside in Eureka, California which is home to the Lost Coast Brewery.  At this time each year the brewing staff conspire to make Winterbraun  This winter offering is a cloudy dark tea color, topped by a low, light head.  Seasonally correct scent with lot of chocolate (mostly milk), and a little citrus.  The flavor is heavily malt based, lots of cocoa, chocolate and caramel, with some nice hints of orange and a cardamom or cinnamon spice note.  Big and full-bodied, with a smooth, (not surprisingly)chocolate, spicy finish.  Who would’ve thought?  A winter warmer from sunny California.

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The Twelve Beers of Christmas- VIII

Holiday Cheer From Belgium

Back to Belgium for our number eight Christmas beer  (as it turns out they brew a lot of good beer there).  Brasserie Silenrieux is again a relatively new brewery (1995) who brew organic beers and beers made with non-traditional grains, such as spelt or buckwheat.  Conveniently enough, they also brew a Christmas beer, Noel de Silenrieux, and that’s what we’re here to talk about.

In the glass the beer is dark, cola-colored,  and supports a very tall, rocky head.  The scent is sweet and fruity, reminding me of the sour cherry wine my dad used to make.  The taste has cooked cherry, tangy berry and vague nutty notes.  The fruitiness is countered by subtle hops, which gives a  nice flavor balance.  There is a bit of warmth in the mouthfeel, which is not surprising since this Belgian sweetheart clocks in at a solid 9% abv.  The finish is all about cherry, fruit preserves and some tart hints.  A great seasonal ale for fans of Belgian kriek beers, I think.

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The Twelve Beers of Christmas- VII

Tree Brewing Spiced Ale

For Christmas beer number seven, we make our way to the fair city of Kelowna, British Columbia.  The brewers at Tree Brewing release their Spiced Reserve Ale each year in limited quantities (a Christmas “Tree” if you will).

The ale is an inviting dark chestnut-brown with a tight tan head.  The aroma shows lots of malt and ginger, with root beer and vanilla notes floating around.  On the palate there is a strong spice and hop presence countered by a caramel, vanilla sweetness. A creamy, warming mouthfeel leads to a long, beautifully balanced finish.  The beer says good-bye with a caramel/ toffee flavor that is matched perfectly by a sharp hop edge.  It may be a Reserve Ale, but I certainly have no reservations about it.

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The Twelve Beers of Christmas- VI

Great Ale, Great Bottle

The familiar painted white bottle of Gulden Draak takes on a different look for a short time every year.  In December the Belgian brewery, Brouwerij Van Steenberge, puts out it’s vintage ale.  Like it’s year round counterpart the beer is a dark ale, although it comes in at a relatively sedate 7.5% abv (fully 3% lighter than the everyday model).  This does not diminish the flavor one iota.

The beer is a murky dark brown with a persistent, foamy, tan head.  The scent is sweet chocolate, fruit and vague hints of spice.  Wonderful complex flavors: orange peel, chocolate, coffee, brown sugar and more spices.  It gives a warming sensation in the mouth, and finishes sweet: molasses and orange zest last longest.  Tastes like Belgian Christmas.
This is a great seasonal sip, and I love the iconic bottle- even though I can still not figure out what the creature is on the front label.
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The Twelve Beers of Christmas- V

Whistler Winter Warmer!

Now you may heard that the Whistler ski area is a half decent winter sport recreation area.  So it should only follow suit that their namesake brewery, the Whistler Brewing Company, make a winter beer- Winter Dunkel.  Apres-ski, you’re going to want to have a solid, tasty beer to take the edge off.

Winter Dunkel is a bit of a hybrid, really.  A dark wheat beer with chocolate malts and splash of organic chocolate, as well as some orange zest and coriander.  The result?  It pours out a beautiful dark chestnut brown with a persistent, tight light tan head.  The smell immediately reminds me of hot chocolate powder, which has me thinking festive season.  Flavors of hot chocolate, coffee and orange brandy put me (happily) in mind of a Terry’s  Chocolate Orange.  The finish is a bit spicy with some dark chocolate, orange rind and orange liqueur.

This beer is made for a snowy winter evening.  Fireplace, comfy chair, Winter Dunkel- I think you know where I’m going with this.

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The Twelve Beers of Christmas- IV

Back across the pond to merry olde England for the next of our twelve beers of Christmas.  Wychwood Brewery has been producing ales in  Oxfordshire since 1983.  They are probably best known for their Hobgoblin ruby ale, but they also make a fine Christmas seasonal.  Say hello to Bah Humbug.

The beer has a dark woody brown hue and a low, tight tan head.  The scent is chock full of dusty spices (chiefly cinnamon) and a hint of apricot skin.  The flavor shows a lot of toasty malt, some peppery spices and a sprinkling of herbal hop notes.  The finish holds more hop notes and some fruity, dried apricot flavors.  This beer strikes a delicate balance with it’s ability to showcase the fruit and seasonal spice flavors without sacrificing  the outstanding ale qualities.  It might even bring you closer to appreciating the true spirit of Christmas.  Ebenezer himself would approve.

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The Twelve Beers of Christmas- III

Christmas cheer from Squamish

We’re a little closer to home for the next of the Twelve Beers of Christmas.  The community of Squamish, B.C. is home to Howe Sound Brewing which annually produces Father John’s Winter Ale.  The “Father John” in this case is John Mitchell, Howe Sound’s original brewer, who has had an enormous influence on craft brewing in the Pacific Northwest.

His namesake beer pours out a hazy chestnut-brown with a tight tan head.  The scent has an inviting spiciness full of ginger and cloves and bit of vanilla.  Flavor-wise there is a strong malt commitment, tempered by more seasonal spices and a smooth caramel/vanilla sweetness.  The texture is creamy and carries a warmth from either the spice or the 7% alcohol.  The finish is made for savoring.  Long and sweet, with a honeyed ginger note that goes on for ever.  Puts me in the mood to raise a glass to “Father John” Mitchell.

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