The last few weeks have been the worst of winter. The predictable inversion holds in the frigid air, deflecting the morning sun until its warming rays are reduced to something like a candle flame at 100 yards. The cheering effect of the holiday season is long past, unless you count that greeting card company invention that strangely celebrates an infamous Chicago mob hit. Yeah, I've got the Boise winter blues. What I need is something to amp things up a bit. What I need is a beer with some bite to it. Fortunately, relief is at hand.
Lagunitas The Hairy Eyeball Ale
Leave it to the crazy crew in Petaluma to come up with just the thing to shake off the winter doldrums. It's a wacky name for an homage to an English strong ale, mahogany red in color with a dark tan head. The aromas are strong and assertive with toffee, coffee, currant and blueberry along with a nice touch of piney hops. There's a creme brulee richness to the nutty malt flavors balanced by a lightly toasted bitterness from the hops. The label reads, "Life is Uncertain. Don't Sip." At 9 percent alcohol, that may not be the best advice.
This golden-hued beauty from the EKU in Kulmbach, Germany, is so bright in color it seems to glow. Rich aromas greet you with sweet malt, orange and spice. The flavor profile is equally rich with creamy orange, lovely caramel, smooth malt and just the barest hint of hops. This hardy brew gives no hint of its high octane base (11 percent alcohol), but you'll feel the warmth after the first few sips.
Bridgeport Beertown Brown
What this one lacks in alcohol (just 5.2 percent), it more than makes up for in flavor. From Oregon's oldest craft brewery comes this British-style brown ale with its supple mocha malt flavors backed by a nicely nutty wheat bread quality. The subtle hops clean things up and and add a little dryness on the finish. Goes great with Asian cuisine and makes for a great cold-weather warmer.