It seems like the holidays are becoming more commercialized and pushed further forward. Fall wasn't more than a few hours old when the first holiday brews started rolling into town. That was much too early for me, but with the mercury dropping below freezing the last few days, it's time to give in, I guess. Here is the first installment on a few of my favorite cold weather beers.
I'm usually impressed by this Sandpoint brewery's seasonal offerings, and this one is no exception. It's the darkest of the trio both in color and in style. The enticing toasted malt aromas make you think of a campfire that's winding down. That toasty malt dominates the palate with a lovely warmth that plays against the balancing hop bite. Layers of caramel and cream with hints of orange and cherry make this a complex, almost contemplative bottle.
Samuel Smith's Winter Welcome Ale, 2009/2010
A consistent favorite, but if memory serves, this year's edition is a little different from the past few offerings. It opens with earthy aromas of fresh-mown hay backed by citrusy hops. The sweet malt seems to have been toned down from Winter Welcomes past, making for a more refreshing, impeccably balanced brew. Superbly smooth and creamy with just the right hop bite--absolutely delicious.
Another favorite, and the one winter brew I'd drink year round. Sierra Nevada eschews the typical big-bodied, rich malt style, as well as the tricked-up, over-spiced route. Instead, it is a celebration of the hop, with an overt, but not overly aggressive hop bite throughout that's nicely balanced by malty undertones. This one ages surprisingly well, so buy an extra six-pack to enjoy a year or two from now.