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Winter Brews, Round One

'Tis the season for thick, dark beers

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The official start of winter is almost four weeks out, but it seems Mother Nature has decided to do things differently. With temperatures 10 to 20 degrees below normal, it's definitely time to pop the top on some winter seasonals. This opening trio is on the drier side of the style spectrum, with subdued sweet malt balanced by a good dollop of bitter hops. It's a style that goes well with food.

Deschutes Jubelale, $1.39-$1.79

This beer pours a bright chestnut and has a decent tan head that collapses quickly. The nose is filled with dried apricot, raisin and cherry, along with spice, bittersweet chocolate, toffee and citrus zest. The lightly sweet roasted malt flavors blend nicely with the dark plum, blueberry and cherry fruit, all backed by touches of biscuit and a healthy hit of hops.

Odell Brewing Isolation Ale, $1.69-$2.19

In the glass, this beer is a dark amber topped by a two-finger, porous head that's big and bubbly. A complex mix of aromas pour from the glass, including caramel, tropical fruit (papaya, mango, banana), yeasty bread dough and soft spice. Caramel comes through on the palate, as well, along with citrus fruit flavors, toast and lightly bitter hops.

Sierra Nevada Celebration Fresh Hop IPA, $1.39-$1.79

This hazy orange-colored brew--topped by a thick, fluffy, persistent froth--is always a standout, and this year is no exception. The beer opens with enticing tangerine aromas colored by caramel, citrus zest, grapefruit and resiny hops. Those lively hops drive the fruit-filled palate from start to finish, with just a light touch of sweet malt. This brew is deliciously refreshing.