It's beginning to taste a lot like Christmas.

Posted Mon Dec 07, 2009, 17:43 PM by Tracy | |

Holiday ales is dangerous territory. These winter warmers tend to be heavier on the malt and much higher in alcohol. Caution is advised. Beers for sipping and enjoying slowly, not chugging.

That said, here’s the beers I and my cohorts sampled over two days.


Hair of the Dog
Portland OR
Jim 2009
Strong Blend
9% alcohol
Sweet but not cloying, with a rich velvety mouth-feel. The flavors play in the middle of the palate. A hint of hops in a lingering aftertaste. With a high alcohol content, best savored in small doses. Karen says, “It tastes like Christmas.”

Golden Valley Brewery
McMinnville OR
Tannen Bomb
Winter Warmer
6.1% alcohol
35 IBUs
Aging in oak barrels give it a hint of Oregon’s famous Pinot Noir. Smooth and gentle, not too sweet or too heavy. A nice accompaniment to a good meal.

Bear Republic Brewing Co
Cloverdale CA
The Grizz Barrel-Aged with Blackberries
Aromatic and tart, something different for winter. The taste of blackberries dominates all other flavors. Try it instead of port after dinner.

Vertigo Brewing
Hillsboro OR
Arctic Blast
Vanilla Porter
5.7% alcohol
25 IBUs
Like cookies with your beer? This porter combines two great flavors in one. Like crumbling vanilla wafers into Porter. Additional coffee and chocolate flavors make this a nice dessert beer.

Bear Republic Brewing Co
Cloverdale CA
Imperial Stout
Baba Yaga
11.4% alcohol
110 IBUs
Will put hair on your chest. Thick mouth-feel, creamy with espresso overtones. You can taste the high alcohol content, so watch out. The aftertaste takes a gentle hold on the sides of the tongue, keeping a firm grip.

Portland OR
Sled Crasher
Winter Warmer
6.8% alcohol
42 IBUs
Hoppier than most winter brews, but with a decent dose of malt for warmth. A refreshing, palate cleansing alternative to many over-malted winter beers. Overall a good balance, especially for the hop-obsessed Northwest palate.

Widmer Brothers Brewing
Portland OR
Cherry Oak Doppel Bock
Doppel Bock
9% alcohol
35 IBUs
Fruity with specific hints of cherrywood in the aftertaste. Well-balanced, flavorful, all-around good dubbel. A reliable winter beer.

Laht Neppur Brewing
Waitsburg WA
Winkle Warmer
Spiced Holiday Ale
8% alcohol
46 IBUs
The spice must flow. But perhaps not so much. This winter ale is rather heavy on the cloves. A bit of hops give it balance, but it’s still a specialty beer. You have to really like the taste of cloves and other spices usually found in pumpkin pie.

Not sure which brewer
Stout, maybe
Some beer that E found and he can’t remember where. Thick and sweet, with heavy chocolate and espresso overtones. Black as night, sweet as sin. To be savored slowly, in front of a roaring fire on a blustery night. A classic stout, whoever makes it.


Upright Brewing
Portland OR
Holy Herb
Farmhouse Winter Ale
6.9% alcohol
18 IBUs
A strong initial hit of mint fades out to a generally medicinal aftertaste. No wonder, given this ale is brewed with hyssop. I’ve never heard of it either. An acquired taste that is a refreshing alternative to the typically heavy sweet ales of winter.

Fort George Brewery
Astoria OR
North III Tripel
Belgian Style Tripel
8.8% alcohol
50 IBUs
Very foamy, thick, black, and bitter. Lays heavily on the breadth of the tongue.

New Belgium Brewing Co
Fort Collins CO
Trip II
Belgian style
Spicy and sweet with flavors of cardomon and orange. Lingers at the upper back of the palate. Slight bitterness clings to the sides of the tongue.

Ninkasi Brewing Co
Eugene OR
Imperial Stout
10% alcohol
70 IBUs
Black and foamy as espresso, hints of flowery herbs. Thick and sweet with an aftertaste that drops off quickly to a long gradual finish. With a high alcohol content, best savored slowly.

Oskar Blues Grill & Brew
Longmont CO
Mama’s Little Yella Pils
5.3% alcohol
35 IBUs
When you need a break from heavy winter brews, this fizzy little pilsner is just the ticket. Very refreshing but with sufficient gravitas for the season.

Deschutes Brewery
Bend OR
Lost Barrels of Mirror Mirror
Barley Wine
10.7% alcohol
51 IBUs
Breathe in the heady aroma of grain, then a sip of sweetness. Tastes of oak and bourbon.

Redhook Ale Brewery
Woodinville WA
Imperial IPA
8.1% alcohol
57 IBUs
Big headed and hoppy, flowery, but a bit sweet. A suitable IPA for winter.

Stone Brewing Co
Escondido CA
Bourbon Barrel Arrogant Bastard Ale
American Strong Ale
7.2% alcohol
Strong, yes, with a mystery flavor. Slightly bitter with almost medicinal overtones. Plenty foamy. A slight hint of spice or minerals.

Cascade Brewing
Portland OR
Drie Zwarte Pieten “Sang Noir”
Sour Red Ale
10.2% alcohol
5 IBUs
Tart, tangy, with a high alcohol content; drinks as much as a wine as a beer. Fruity with a bare hint of sweetness.

Anchor Brewing Co
San Francisco CA
Old Foghorn
9% alcohol
Maltiness gives it a rounded mouth-feel. The sweetness of the malt subsides in the most gradual manner, leaving a barely perceptible bitterness on the palate. For the most part, the flavor circulates at the back of the palate.

  1. Thanks for the notes, wish I could have joined you Sunday for some additional tastings.

    Karen Gillis    Wed Dec 9, 09:45 PM    #


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