Nov 14, 2011

Tis the Season.....

Well, we are rapidly approaching that time of year again! Christmas is almost upon us, and with it comes the rapid secession of holiday parties, midnight shopping sprees, and the inevitable lengthy children’s wish lists! I’ve read studies that say drinking increases around the holidays, they say because of the stress, and the fact that some people do get depressed around the holidays. Well, that may be one of the reasons; but I say drinking increases because, well, let’s face it, Christmas beer is the greatest season for beer and beer lovers! Seems obvious to me!

Over the next few weeks, I plan to write a fair amount on the topic of Holiday Beer. It is, like I said, the best season for beers, at least in mine and many other beer minded people I knows opinion. I think one of the reasons is because “Christmas Beer” range in styles, from Porters, Fruit Beers, Barelywines, Winter Warmers and a few others. Most have a few things in common however, such as dark, rich flavors, normally high(er) ABV, and a mild to strong spice note that normally consists of nutmeg, cinnamon, all spice and some others. Making this family of beers perfect for those cold (or for us in Arizona, mildly brisk) winter evenings gathered with friends and family.

Again, I plan to write about some of my favorite Christmas Brews in the very near future, and I thought I would start with a few of the ones I look forward to every year, those being the Samuel Adams Winter Classic’s Variety Pack. This 12 pack consists of 6 different beers (2 of each). They rotate some of the offerings every year, and I have to say, I think this year’s lineup is the best there has been in the last 4 or 5 years at least. As with any Sam Adams variety pack, Boston Lager makes up 2 of the beers, that is standard. However, two other beers in the pack every year are their Holiday Porter, and one of my all time favorite Christmas Beers, Old Fezziwig, their Winter Warmer. This year’s mix of beers also contains their Winter Lager, Chocolate Bock, and Black and Brew, a rich Chocolate Stout.

Since most everyone has had the Boston and Winter Lagers, I won’t write about them here (if you want my opinion on these beers, or any questions, feel free to drop me a line, I’ll be happy to share with you), I did want to take some time to mention the other beers in this pack however, so here goes.

The Chocolate Bock, a beer I’ve heard many mixed reviews on, (seems people either love it or hate it), was one I haven’t had before. I wasn’t expecting much, given the reviews I read, and the fact that Bock’s are among my least favorite beer styles. This however, surprised me, it drinks more like a chocolate stout, just not as bitter, with a slight bock funk to it, for lack of a better word. A very drinkable, quite chocolaty enjoyable beer that I enjoyed greatly it while sitting outside by our fire.

The Black and Brew was another one that I had never had before, and was very much looking forward to it. While not an “exciting” beer, it certainly is a very good one. The flavor isn’t strong, but it is very noticeable. A rich, roasted espresso flavor comes clearly through in both the nose, and the first taste, and has a creamy, rich flavor that finishes with an almost fruity cheery taste. All in all, and very enjoyable beer, and a nice stout for someone that isn’t accustom to drinking stronger, heavy beers. A good “gateway” stout!

What a GREAT Label!
The Holiday Porter is a great beer! While not a holiday beer in the traditional sense, it is a classic sort of British Style Porter, even though it is listed as an American Porter. This has a strong hop note for a Porter in the aroma, and the flavor has some great chocolate notes. Other flavors you may find are malts, nutty flavors, even some caramel. A very fine, drinkable, silky Porter! Not to mention, it has one of the greatest labels of any Holiday beer as well!

Now, for my favorite of this pack, and probably my favorite beer that Samuel Adams makes. Old Fezziwig, their Winter Warmer. This beer is solid! A fine example of a drinkable, enjoyable, but not an over the top winter beer. The flavors are pronounced, but not over powering. The look is a nice, dark brown beer, with nice fluffy head. The beer smells of winter spices, and pine (doesn’t get much more Christmas like than that!) malt and even some alcohol, which I didn’t expect from a beer that is only 5.9% ABV. The taste is actually quite complex, hints of pine and citrus, with more cinnamon spice and malty caramel that follow. This is a very smooth, drinkable, yet very flavorful beer, that will go nicely at any holiday party, or other Christmas gathering.

This 12 pack is a great, affordable (I found it on sale for just $9.99!) way to get a taste of the beers this season has to offer, and all the beers are very drinkable, and easy for even the beginner beer drinker to drink and enjoy. So have some friends over, put on your favorite Christmas music, and really take your time, and drink and savor these beers. With the range of flavors in this pack, you are bound to find a few that you enjoy, and in some cases, you may even love.

Keep an eye out for more Christmas Beer ideas in the days and weeks to come, and in the mean time….

Bottoms Up my friends!

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