This week we have three great new brews perfect for our cool weather and the holiday season. Olympia, Wash.'s Fish Brewing, the folks who bring you Fish Tale Organic Ales, have a pair of large-format bottles that just hit the valley. They specialize in authentic British-style ales and German-style lagers, and their 2008 Old Woody and 2008 Detonator are worthy of your attention. Both spend time in oak, which seems to affect their texture more than their flavor. Also in that 22-ounce size is the latest winter offering from a local Boise enterprise. Sockeye Brewing has scored a real hit with this year's Winterfest. Here's the complete lowdown:
Fish Brewery 2008 Detonator Doppebock Reel Lager
In the glass, this one is the color of a good, strong cup of coffee with flecks of ruby and a nice mocha froth on top. Dark, toasty oak, roasted malt and whiffs of smoke on the nose are backed by fruity caramel and spice. Bitter sweet chocolate coats the tongue along with a medley of smooth fruit flavors (ripe cherry, plum and currant). All that plays against the perfect hop bite in this well-integrated brew with admirable length. A bit of nuttiness comes through on the finish along with hints of herb and spice. It's good now but will definitely reward aging.
Fish Brewery 2008 Old Woody English Style Old Ale
This one pours a hazy amber with a thin but persistent head. The aromas remind me of a barley wine with raisin, caramel, a touch of licorice, cherry chocolate and light oak—in other words, it's a rather complex brew. It's more straightforward in the mouth, on the sweet side, but with enough smooth hops to carry it off. Add roasted malt, toffee and creamy peach to the flavor mix and throw in a bit of citrus on the finish to balance things out. All in all, this is a great winter quaff.
Sockeye Brewing Winterfest
This Winterfest is a nice nut-brown-colored ale with a creamy head that clings from first taste to last sip. It offers up bright and lovely aromas with smooth malt that's laced with spicy apple and herb and is balanced by resiny hops. It shows exceptional balance in the mouth as well. It's not too heavy, not too light and has plenty of fruit-driven malt flavors and tongue-tingling, delicious hops throughout. Bits of smoke and chocolate come through on the finish. I could easily drink way too many of these; no sacrifice in buying local with this one.