Friday, January 11, 2008

Beers of the Holidays (Catch-up blog #2)

Over Christmas, I managed to drink a few really yummy beers, and at least one not-so-yummy one. You'll find my beer reviewing to be slightly less knowledgeable than Mike's, and I generally stick to terms like "yummy" and "icky." In no particular order, here are my reviews of my holiday beer consumption:

Christian Moerlein Christkindl Winter Warmer

A very yummy beer, and not as alcoholy as some winter brews I've had that were branded as "warmers." A wonderful aroma, and a great sweet malty sort of beginning flavor. The label claims a chocolate flavor in there somewhere, and I think I was able to taste it near the very end. It was very good, I hope to have some again.

Seadog Bluepaw Blueberry Wheat

While not exactly a "Christmas" sort of beer, I ran across this while beer shopping and decided to give it a try. Low in alcohol and strong in blueberry flavor, I think I liked it overall. A couple years ago I discovered my love for blueberry beer (it's practically a health-food what with all the antioxidants in the berries and the beer, right?) when one of the Boston brothers turned me on to Bar Harbor Blueberry. It was a bit weird having the blueberry in a "wheat" ale, as the wheat and the blueberry almost seemed to be competing for my attention... but if there must be a fight on my palate, I guess a beer-fight is the fight to have. Not my favorite blueberry beer, but I'll drink it again in the summer.

Steamworks Spruce Goose

Amazingly horrible yet wonderfully original and addictive. I must have more. My little brother was kind enough to send this to me for Christmas. I visited Steamworks with my brother and Dave when I was in Durango last fall, and immediately became a fan of their beers. This one is weird. According to the bottle, spruce beer originated with the Scottish and with the Vikings. Being part Scott and having the manners of a viking, I figured this must be a beer for me. Apparently the Scotts would brew beer with spruce saplings in order to drink it before battle, because they believed it brought out their animal instincts, made them better warriors, and contributed to greater and more efficient raping and pillaging. While I didn't engage in any raping or pillaging after drinking this wonderfully odd beer, I did have some rather vigorous... er, never mind.

Back to the beer. My favorite moment was right when I popped the bottle open. The aroma of spruce and pine needles transported me immediately to a pine forest somewhere in the mountains. I haven't smelled a beer with such an enticing and strange aroma since my first try at a German Smoked Beer seven or eight years ago. I could have almost just sat and sniffed it all night, but I said to myself, "glue is for sniffing, beer is for drinking." The beer was one of the most beautiful red-brown-orange colors I have ever seen in a beer, and as unique as the smell.

The taste was amazing... and I was reminded immediately of something we used to do when backpacking in the sierra. For anyone who's ever chewed on pine needles... that is what this beer tasted like. There was a certain sort of pine we would grab the needles from and chew on them and they would actually give you a very brief (three or four seconds) but strong and unique buzz. This beer had the same effect. I immediately felt like raping and pillaging. A very strong spicy taste, and I wasn't able to identify what I thought I was tasting except perhaps a cinnamon-type hops.

I must have more of this beer...

Abita Christmas Ale

Without a doubt, this was hands-down the turd of my holiday beer-drinking experience. No aroma, a reddish color, and very little flavor. This was the most boring Christmas beer I've ever had. I've never been a huge Abita fan, and this mediocre offering didn't raise their stock any in my mind. I'm curious if anyone else had it and thought it was as bad as I did.

Label-less Beer from The Drew Brewery

Perhaps my favorite of the holiday season. While I forgot to make any notes when I drank it, so I can't give any real specifics, I do remember that this is what an Ale is supposed to taste like. Not too sweet, not too hoppy but just hoppy enough with a sort of herbal finish. The Drew brewed this one right. (And I didn't share it with a soul.) It was the perfect companion to a bowl of home-made Chicken Tortilla Soup I made: