This is an excellent beer in the traditional of the English Pale Ale, brought to you by the folks at Samuel Smith’s. English Pale Ale’s tend to be reddish in color, with hop undertones and citrus aromas with a little bitterness. They became known as Bitter beers in England int he 1800′s due to the hops, and also thought also to be a way to differentiate them form other hopped beers, such as a Porter. Bitters range in ABV from 4% to 5%.
Sam Smith’s Old Brewery Pale Ale is what is known as a strong bitter. It has a deep, cloudy copper color to it and pours nicely into a pint glass with a medium head. The moderate carbonation is perfect, allowing the head dissipate only a little and leaving a nice lacing on the glass.
It has a subtle alcohol aroma, and smells of caramel malts. What struck me was the bread or biscuit like accents that creep out as you put it to your nose. Slight toffe undertones as well.
It tastes much like it smells. Strong malt flavorings balance out the hops with a sweetness to it that almost reminds me of orange. The biscuit notes make this a little heavier than some and make it a refreshing change from other European Pale Ales.
Overall, this was a great beer. I get lost sometimes in the wonderfully hopped IPA’s brewed in the U.S. that it is nice to have a brew this well balanced. Sam Smith’s Old Brewery Pale Ale is what is known as a strong bitter and weighs in at about 5% ABV. The slightly heavier feel to this one make it a great pairing with steak, roast chicken and spicier cuisine such as Manadarine Chinese or Indian. If you are having one in the late evening, this would go well with a rich desert like a nice slice of new Your Style Cheesecake.
Jolly Pumpkin/Nogne-0/Stone Special Holiday Ale: This brew is indeed a special one. A collaborative effort by Jolly Pumpkin, Nøgne-Ø and Stone Breweries. The result: Stone’s first ever Holiday brew. The tale begins in Tokyo when Stone’s Greg Koch ran intoKjetil Jikiun, the owner and head brewer of Nogne-O(Norwegian craft brewery). They decided to team up with Jolly Pumpkin to create a unique winter warmer. Ingrediants were used from each of there timezones: Southern California White Sage, Italian Juniper Berries and (mostly) Michigan Chestnuts. Rye malt was added as well.
The beer pours a dark broen/amber. It has a minimal head that quickly disapates unfortunately, although the lacing is nice on the glass. Upon tasting, the sage and juniper berries quickly come forward. Although this is one hoppy beer with an alcohol flavor, the spices balance it out. Notes of chocolate are also abound. All in all a very nice winter brew, although at 9.0% ABV, you can have to many of these. A nice pairing with your Christmas or New Years ham, any dessert or just on its own!
Shiner Holiday Cheer: Shiner brews this one in the Dunkelweizen style. Putting their own holiday/winter spin on it. The thing to know is that this style is very similar to a Hefe. It pours a light golden color with a thick head. Lacing is ok on the glass. Instead of using winter spices to compliment this weizen, Shiner overpowers the flavor with peaches. It’s very hard to get past this being a peach plavored Shiner, thus not very enjoyable. Most winter themed beers have a higher alcohol content to compliment the sppices, thus warming you up! For what this brew is trying to be, it fails.
New Belgium’s 2 Below: From the brewery that brought you Fat Tire, comes 2 Below, an Extra Special/Strong Bitter brew. Typical for this style of brew, it boasts more hops than usual, more of an alcohol taste and weighs in at 6.6% ABV.
It pours a medium golden yellow with a small head that sticks a round for a few minutes, however the lacing is average. Unlike other winter brews, there are no real spices or citrus flavorings (mild in this area). New Belgian makes up for this with the more aggressive hops, malt and the caramel undertones. A solid winter brew from New Belgium. Pairs well with meats and cheeses.
Stone’s Cali-Belgique IPA: Now this was a treat. This one is brewed in the Belgian IPA style and breaks away a little from Stone’s IPA whhich is brewed in the American IPA style. Now I love Stone’s IPA already and when the Ruination IPA came out I was more than pleased. When the Cali-Belgique was released I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. My sister lives near the Stone brewery and brought some to me on Thanksgiving.
It pours a golden amber color, similar to the Stone IPA and has a moderate lacing and head that is nice and sticks around for a while. It smells of hops, although not as strong as the Stone IPA, and probably due to the Belgian yeast influence. The result is definitely a Stone beer, but a very nice twist, one that prompts Stone to bill this as a California IPA.
Sawyer’s Triple: This very special triple from Stone was created by Stone brewer Bill Sherwood and named for his son. Sawyer Benjamin Sherwood was diagnosed with Adrenoleukodystrophy, also known as ALD a rare neuro-degenerative disease. 100% of the proceeds go to benefit Adrenoleukodystrophty. Stone keeps nothing. At the time of the original release in 2003, Sawyer was fighting for his life, unfortunately he is no longer with us. However the fight continues to cure this disease. If ever there was a reason to drink beer, this was it. For more info, check out Stone’s Sawyer’s Triple blob.
This one is brewed is the Triple style and is a strong ale indeed, as strong as it’s namesake. It weighs in at 7.6% alc/vol . It pours nice with minimal head, but a long lasting one, however the lacing leaves quickly and has a typical golden yellow coloring, it’s aromas hint of strong hops, and a nice alcohol on the back end. It tastes sweet and has a Hefe-Weizen feel to it, but don’t be fooled, it packs a punch
Want to stay in the holiday spirit? Here are some choices for you:
Sierra Nevada Celebration 2008: This is a typical Seasonal American Pale Ale that Sierra Nevada puts out. It has a nice sustainable lacing and a nice two finger head…and that’s where it ends. Although it is very hoppy (which is good), it lacks any real flavor. There is the usual winter spice feel, nutmeg, caramel and the like, but it does not wow. After half a pint ( A British, not American, pint..) I’d had enough..
Independence Freestyle Wheat: O.k. my spirits are lifted. After the Celebration Ale I was feeling disheartened. I decided to switch from the holiday theme and went with a brew from Austin, Texas. Enter Independence’s Freestyle Wheat. I usually expect nothing from Texas beers, however this one surprised me. Not typical for a Texas beer, let alone a Texas Wheat. This American Pale Wheat Ale pours the usual light golden color, good lacing and minimal head. The citrus aroma is nice with a nice hop accent. Props!
Peroni: For the Italian in you (and that’s me) Christmas is very much about my Italian roots. We have calamari, ravioli, Shrimp coctail, Pizzelle cookies and Spimone Ice Cream..So, I decided to have a Peroni beer to be in the spirit. It pours golden in color, medium head, citris undertones and average lacing. A typical European pale lager. It has been a while since I’ve had this one, and as Euro Pale Lagers go, it’s fine. Hoppy in aroma and taste it suits the occasion fine. Not an every day brew however.
Paulaner Hefe-Weizen: As A Hefe goes, this one is nice. I wasn’t feeling like anything strong today and this hit the spot!
It has a typical white coloring with a minimal head and good lacing. It is cloudy in color and has citrus undertones. It fit my easy going mood today and left me feeling just as relaxed!
Boulevard’s Nutcracker: Still felt like something easy, yet I was in the Christmas mood as well. The answer? A winter brew. Enter Boulevard’s Nutcracker.
Decent lacing, with a small but sustainable head. Somewhat typical for a winter brew with it’s dark brown color and hints of spices such nutmeg and orange. A nice brew for the winter, but would have liked a little more of an alcohol presence on the back end. Still it fit the cold weather today!
This tasty brew pours a dark amber color and is very cloudy. A minmal head that last only a few minutes and the lacing is nice. Avery bills this as a quadruple Belgian style ale and it lives up to that.
It have a definate subtle cherry taste to it with a nice alcohol flavor on the back end.
Similar in taste to its Tripel relative, however beware! This one is nice enough that the 10% ABV will sneek up on you!
Brooklyn Lager: This was a nice every day lager. Good lacing and a nice small, but sustainable head and pours a dark amber/brown color. For a lager, it has a nice balance of hops and malt, although the malt wins the battle on this one. A very mild citrus aroma that makes this a beer I might have again.
Boulevard Brewing Co. Pale Ale: Pours amber color as well, with a nice mild hop flavoring to it. The lacing is nice; however the head is minimal and does not last long. It has a nice caramel/butterscotch flavoring. Another solid offering from Boulevard
Sam Adams Cherry Wheat: I must admit, I was surprised by this one. It has many characteristics of a wheat beer. Nice medium amber color, slight cloudy. What gets you is the distinct cherry flavor to it, and no, it does take away from the malt flavoring. The head is minimal, however the lacing is very nice.A nice beer if you want a change of pace!
Stone’s Ruination IPA takes the IPA to another level. This bad boy is double dry hopped and weighs in at 7.7%. A perfect example of an American Double IPA.
A deep golden brown in color, it pours smooth with a nice thick head that lasts for several minutes and leaves a nice lacing on the glass. It has a very bitter taste and should considering what Stone does to those hops! A very bitter beer with a heavy hop aroma.
Stone says this is a liquid poem to the glory of the hop, well..they’re right. Stone got it right with this one.
Victory Prima Pils: This was a nice one. A German Pilsner with a typical light yellow coloring. Small head that doesn’t last long, but a nice hop flavor balanced with malt and a citrus aroma to it.
I usually don’t go for a Pilsner, but this was very nice. As Pilsners go, this is one of the better ones out there.
Rogue Dead Guy: Known as a mailbock, a traditional bock lighter in color. This one has a light head, with a mild hop and malt flavor.
Anchor Christmas 2008: Anchor’s 2008 offering to a traditional winter beer. It’s dark in color and pours a mediums head. Christmas spices are abound, with hints of nutmeg and cinnamon. A good brew at the holidays.
Oskar Blues Gordon: Now this was interesting. It’s a double IPA brewed by the Oskar Blues Grill and Brewery. Slighty stronger than an average IPA, but not overpowering. This one is hazy andbrown in color. A decent hop taste, but not that bitter. For what this beer is trying to be, that’s just fine.