A 180° turn from the flowery and fizzy concoctions of summer, winter ales are perfect for sitting by the fire, sipping in quiet contemplation. Definitely not driving, since the alcohol content of most winter ales is higher than what we’re used to.
We went to the Winter Ale Festival at Pioneer Courthouse Square on only the last day. It’s a mixed bag: a mellower scene, less crowded to be sure, but some of the beers we would have like to taste are tapped out.
Between us, E and I sampled some 15 brews.
Firestone Walker Brewing Co
Pasa Robles CA
Good flavor, not as rich or thick as some stouts I’ve had. Almost chocolatey with a touch of bourbon.
Cascade Brewing Co
Drie Zwarte Pieten Sang Noir
Flanders Style Sour Red
Is it wine or is it beer? E says it’s sour enough to take the tartar off his teeth. A collaboration with the beer steward of the Winter Ale Festival. Distinctive reddish color, flavor evocative of pie cherries.
Widmer Brewing Co
Nice malty, nondescript winter beer.
Hair of the Dog
Another collaboration with the Festival. Malty and thick with an initial flavor I can’t quite place and a lingering aftertaste. Is it cardomon?
Black Pepper Stout
Wow is that peppery. Try it with your favorite spicy foods. This stout won’t back down. Perfect with filet mignon with peppercorn sauce.
Malty and flavorful, with a touch of hops. An interesting flavor arc. Seriously, I experience the flavor of this ale as an arc.
After all thls malty ale, it’s a relief to get a palate cleanser like this IPA. Flowery aroma, good balance, a pleasant, lingering aftertaste.
The aroma of fresh oats dominates, very sweet, a bit thin.
Grand Cru (Belgian-style barleywine)
Very sveet, rich, just a tad of hops to mellow the malt. Rather like drinking mead. Take in small doses.
Off the Rail Brewing
Forest Grove OR
Blizzard of Ozz
Good head, good fizz, spicy, pungent and refreshing. A bit malty and sweet.
Full Sail Brewing
Forest Grove OR
A nice winter beer. Pleasantly malty with a dry finish, a balanced all-around winter ale.
Big in every way. Malty, sweet, hoppy, strong.
Nicely hoppy, crlsp and sharp, flowery and flavorful. A nice counterpoint to the heavily malted ales of winter. E detects a hint of uric acid.
Avec Les Bons Voeux
Like drinking a Lemonhead candy. Tart, not too sweet.
Golden Valley Brewing
A solid winter ale – sweet with malt.