Most of the winter seasonals have sold out by now and that's not a bad thing. All that sweet malt and spice had started to wear me down, and I found myself longing for a good clean, lager. But it's still February and the cold weather hasn't loosened its grip yet, so that icy chilled lager doesn't quite work. Fortunately, there are a few new releases that do workbrews without the overwhelmingly rich malt, but with enough substance to satisfy a winter thirst.
From Oregon's oldest craft brewery, Bridgeport, comes a very different offering, which they describe as big, beautiful and blonde. Their Süpris is a distinctly American interpretation of the Belgian style. The aromas reveal that touch of clove one expects from Belgian yeast, but it is very subdued lurking behind the soft hay and floral citrus. The hop flavors are smooth and mellow, the product of a complex blend of Slovenian, German and Czech hops. The malt flavors are soft and not too sweet. Bottle conditioning and double fermentation have allowed the hops and malt to meld together while still delivering their full flavor. With its light carbonation, Süpris is a rich brew but not an overwhelming one.
Another lightly carbonated offering, this one from the Widmer Brothers, the W '06 Red Ale opens with assertive aromas of dry hops, alfalfa and clover. A moderately strong and slightly darker ale, this one offers considerably more citrusy hop flavor without becoming offensively bitter. The malt is slightly sweeter with layers of caramel and chocolate, becoming more subdued on the subtle, very clean finish. Again, a refreshing but rich brew perfect for winter weather.
The folks at California's Deschutes Brewery have created an IPA for their Bond Street Series that offers brews in a 22-ounce bottle, which had only been available at the pub until now. Their Hop Henge India Pale Ale holds nothing back with its monster profile of very aggressive hops that assert themselves from bitter start to bold finish. Where the other two brews offer some warming richness against the cold, the Hop Henge could breathe life into a snowman. Not for the faint of heart, but if you like hopsand I mean really like hopsthis is an impressive effort.