Thanksgiving is still a week away, but the shelves are already filled with cold-weather, seasonal offerings. We're seeing some new faces along with the usual suspects, at least new to me. So here's the second installment in the winter brew saga, featuring one old favorite and a couple I've never tried before.
I'm not usually a fan of the tricked-up winter brew style, but the Alaskan, with its light addition of spruce tips, has always been an exception. This year's version is a bit lighter in body and sweeter in taste than I remember previous incarnations being. Light biscuit and malt aromas mark this golden-hued brew. On the palate, it offers lots of candied orange and caramel with just a hint of hops and spruce. It's definitely a worthy effort that should have a following.
This Chicago entry is offered in the 22-ounce format, proving good things can come in large packages. They change the style every year, but the 2009 is a definite winner. The malt flavors are rich but not over done, and they are perfectly balanced by the right hit of bitter hops. There's a nice, lightly sweet fruitiness throughout, with a pleasant hit of toast on the finish. Better buy a few--you'll finish the bottle and will still be wanting more.
This is from the Utah brewery that brought us Polygamy Porter, but it's the first time I've had the Winterfest. This beer pours an opaque ebony with a nice creamy head. Its aromas are of soft malt and grain-laced hops, and it's nicely balanced in the mouth with a lovely richness marked by smooth, resiny hops and toasted malt. It's lightly carbonated, which makes it go down easily, and there's just the right hint of sweetness on the finish. An impressive effort in an eminently drinkable ale.