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Early Winter Seasonals

A trio of worthy winter brews

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Another Halloween is behind us and Thanksgiving is just around the corner. But for some, the surest sign of the holiday season is the arrival of the first winter seasonals. There has been a definite shift in style for this category over the past several years. Winter warmers once perfectly described the sweet, malt-laden brews that were most prevalent. But lately, hops have taken on a more prominent role. Sierra Nevada's Celebration Ale has always done an amazing job of balancing hops and malt. It is a perennial favorite. But while you wait for its release, here's a trio of other worthy winter brews:

Deschutes Jubelale Festive Winter Ale

This brew pours a ruby-tinged mahogany with an admirable two-finger, mocha-colored head. It has lots of toffee-laced malt on the nose, colored by cookie dough, spice, date and roasted grain. This beer is very smooth up front with rich and spicy malt flavors, but the hops kick in on the finish, which turns surprisingly bitter with flavors of unsweetened chocolate and gritty espresso. A bit abrasive at first, this beer grows on you.

Ninkasi Sleigh'r Dark Double Alt Ale

A dark ebony in the glass, this beer is topped with a thick, persistent burnt-sugar colored froth. You get a nice mix of aromas, including rich chocolate, creamy latte, subtle spice, sweet fig and a kiss of fruity hops. This brew is nicely balanced in the mouth where lightly toasted, caramel-tinged sweet malt plays against bitter dark chocolate, subtle hops and spice.

Pyramid Snow Cap Winter Warmer Ale

The light-tan head that covers this dark ruby-brown pour isn't thick, but it has staying power. The aromas are light and lovely with sweet malt backed by nutmeg, chocolate, smoky herb and a touch of resiny hops. The hop profile on the palate is much bigger than the nose would suggest, but it works beautifully with the nutty, chocolate malt flavors.

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