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Beer Review #175 Breckenridge Christmas Ale

I know that it is after Christmas, but it is never too late to review a Christmas Ale (hey it’s still winter). I actually picked up this beers, along with the next two beers to review, after Christmas. The nicest part about getting a beer specifically labeled for a period of time is that after that time period has passed, they usually get discounted. Christmas Ale, as it is labeled, is brewed by the Breckenridge Brewery of Denver, Colorado. They are a pretty big player in the crowded Colorado beer market and I have generally found that I enjoy their beers.

Christmas Ale pours a nice burnt amber color and a nice thin white head compliments the color of the beer well. The nose isn’t intense in any way, but has some slight toffee and caramel. There are some dried fruity esters from the yeast present along with a slight biscuit flavor. The mix of odors was really nice and expected.

On my first taste a lot of what was in the nose came through on the flavor end. The toffee flavor outshines any caramel but they both provide a good solid sweetness and base for the beer. Some slight plum and biscuity goodness come in to add a bit of complexity. The hops, which were not present in the nose, come through nicely and help to dry out the beer. One thing that I liked was that the carbonation of this beer helped clear out most of the flavors at the end, leaving a crisp feel to the ale.

I liked this one a good deal. As a winter beer it was exactly what I was looking for. It had a wonderful balance and a good malt profile that clinches the win for this beer. The fruity esters also add a nice touch without becoming overpowering. I’ll make sure to get this one before Christmas next year. (more…)

Beer Review #171 Prelude Special Ale

My then girlfriend (now wife) and I visited the Shipyard Brewing Company in Portland, Maine a few years ago during a road trip through the northeast. I remember being surprised at how small the building seemed to be for the amount of beer they produce. I generally like their beers but there are a few that have been disappointing me recently (namely their pumpkin beer).

Prelude Special Ale is Shipyard’s winter beer and one of their better beers. The beer pours a nice caramel color with a slightly off-white head. The nose is full of caramel and toffee. There is some slight biscuit sweetness in there as well, but no hops of any kind.

On the first taste the caramel makes an appearance right away. It isn’t an overwhelming caramel flavor, but provides a solid malt base. A nice biscuit flavor then mixes in along with some slight toffee. Hops make their appearance on the backside of this beer and they linger on your tongue for awhile. They are not overly bitter but they do add a nice punch of flavor. This beer also drys out very nicely.

I really liked this beer. This beer is classified as a Winter Warmer but that particular category is pretty open in terms of flavor and alcohol. Prelude Special Ale seems to fit more into the English style of Winter Warm according to my taste buds. I found it very drinkable and it really fits nicely with the winter season. I would be happy to try this beer again. (more…)

Beer Review #170 Corsendonk Christmas Ale

I have only reviewed one winter beer so far this year which isn’t surprising since I have a giant backlog of beers in my fridge. I finally got around to drinking a bunch of them recently and I had the chance to restock my collection last weekend. I was on the hunt for winter seasonal beers as some seasonal beers just seem to fly off the shelves. Today’s winter beer comes all the way from Turnhout, Belgium and is brewed by Brouwerij Corsendonk.

This beer is classified as a Belgian strong dark ale, but the bottle says only dark ale. The bottle also says 8.1% ABV so I guess that is where the strong part of this beer comes in. Corsendonk Christmas Ale pours a nice brown color with a fluffy off-white head. I actually had to stop pouring this beer to leave some in the bottle because the head was so thick from the high carbonation.

The nose was pretty spicy and herbal. There were some slight malt notes, but the spices did a good job of covering up the malt. I also got some slight pine notes in there, something I am not accustomed to smelling in any style of Belgian beer that I have tried. On my first taste I was surprised by the sweetness in the front end of this beer. The spices quickly come in and follow through the rest of the beer. I didn’t get any heat on this one, which I was partly expecting to have. I also noticed a bit of fig flavor buried inside of the malt.

Due to the high carbonation, this beer comes off as being very light in the mouthfeel. This one is pretty easy drinking but I found myself a bit underwhelmed. This felt like a muted Belgian beer for me. I don’t know if they brew this in the colder months or at colder temperatures than their other beers since the spices and esters are not super strong in the flavor. Generally colder temperatures will produce a “cleaner” beer with less ester production. In any case, I don’t think this one will be on my list next year. It was an enjoyable beer, but I wanted something a bit more punchy. (more…)

Beer Review #162 Snow Day Winter Ale

Almost a year ago I reviewed New Belgium Brewing Company’s 2 Below Ale. I remember liking it but I didn’t think it fit the winter beer idea very well. I was excited to hear that they had a new winter ale this year that was on the “darker and richer” side of the flavor spectrum.The story of this beer comes from a snowstorm a few years ago that shut down Fort Colins, Colorado for several days. And really, who doesn’t love a snowday? I think I appreciate them more now as an adult than I did when I was a kid.

On my first pour of the glass I got a beer that looked exactly like what I had imagined. It was a deep dark brown with a slightly off-white head. I  have no idea if it was clear or not because of the darkness. The nose was pretty hoppy, considering I was expecting on the richer end. I really didn’t get a lot of malt but rather lots of grapefruit hops.

The taste was a mix of rich malt and cutting hops. I found the malt to have a good amount of caramel that also featured some tones of chocolate. Most of the sweetness was then cut by the hops. The hops gave a crisp and spicy feel to the beer that I rather enjoyed.

This beer was a nice balance of malt and hops. I would of liked for it to be a bit more malt forward, but what can you do. This is more in line what I was thinking for a winter beer than their previous winter seasonal. I know there were some who were big fans of 2 Below, but New Belgium offers a number of beers that are pretty close to 2 Below, so it isn’t really necessary. This beer isn’t on the “go out and buy now” list for me, but I would pick it up again if I was out and saw it. (more…)

Beer Review #99 Midwinter Warmer

Happy first day of spring. While spring has finally come, I have one last winter beer to share with you. This beer comes all the way from Fort Collins, Colorado by way of Equinox Brewing Company. Equinox started as a homebrew store and has grown into a full fledged brewery. My buddy Pete sent me this beer a month or so ago to sample. This is a special ale because of how it is made,

A bold, rich aroma and layers of complex flavors entice the senses. Deep, smooth malt character rounds out a warming finish. Aged for 3 1/2 months in a bourbon cask, a cabarnet cask and stainless steel before blending. The flavors and overall complexity increases as the beer warms

Midwinter Warmer is a barleywine style ale that rocks in at 10% ABV. It pours a nice brown color, with a thin, off-white head. No light makes it though this beer as it is quite cloudy. The nose is very sweet with caramel notes a plenty. There is some dried fruit in there along with some of that 10% ABV.

The first taste gives a strong hop back-end that was hidden in the nose. The sweetness is strong and the caramel mixes very nicely with the dried fruity esters produced by the yeast. The heat is there throughout the drink, but it isn’t harsh, rather warming. This is a thick beer, bold in every way. This was bottled in a a bottle that was around 16 oz or so. I didn’t write down the exact size of the bottle when I was reviewing this beer. I wish it came ins 12 oz bottles just because it is so thick and high in alcohol. My only real complaint is that the bottled version of this beer was a bit under carbonated but I have heard that kegged version are more up to par as far as CO2 goes. Finally a winter beer that deserves the name. (more…)