This week, we're considering a few winter classics. Samuel Smith's Brewery was established in Tadcaster, England in 1758 and is Yorkshire's oldest brewery. California's Anchor is a pioneer in the craft brewing category. Its history dates back to the Gold Rush of 1849, but the modern era began in 1965 when Fritz Maytag acquired a majority interest. Sierra Nevada is a relative newbie, with the first Celebration Ale arriving in 1981.
Anchor Brewing Our Special Ale 2012
The 38th edition of this Christmas ale is a dark ebony in the glass with a latte-colored head that collapses rather quickly. This brew has lots of spice on the nose with nutmeg and clove backed by piney hops and brown sugar. Big and bold on the palate, this beer's fruitcake flavors are a mix of maple sugar, toffee, nut, plum, orange and clove. This pick is a little boozy on the finish and while not my style, it's an American classic.
Samuel Smith's Winter Welcome Ale 2012
This brew has a new-penny, copper-hued color topped by a two-finger, snow- white head that leaves a prominent lacing. The sweet aromas are reminiscent of sticky buns fresh from the oven with just a touch of floral hops. There's a light, roasted element in this beer with a fruity background to the caramel malt flavors. This is a nice break from the hop-driven seasonals dominating the Northwest market.
Sierra Nevada Celebration Fresh Hop Ale 2012
A very persistent, three-finger creme brulee-colored froth covers this vibrant amber brew. The aromas are a light but lovely mix of candied fruit and malt, with a healthy dose of citrus-laced, resiny hops. This beer's emphasis is on the fresh hops, but it's in no way overwhelming. Delicious, enticingly smooth malt and soft citrus flavors chime in, making for an exceptional winter brew.