It’s that time of year, when the leaves are about done changing color, the heat of summer and fall has subsided and my favorite brewery of all time releases their star seasonal: Deschutes Jubelale Festive Winter Ale (6.7% abv).
This wonder in a bottle poured very dark amber in color, with a thick cap of sudsy tan head. Aromas were fruity sweet, with caramel, raisins, plums and a hint of spice. The taste was mild and malty at first. Then the fruitiness kicked in, a bit tart, but the warmth from the alcohol and the malts took over quickly to calm it down. The middle is just as mild, with medium-light body and light carbonation, which carried through to a malty finish, punctuated by some warm spice and dark fruit flavors. Simply put, this is a great beer from my favorite brewery and all I need to get in the mood for the winter holidays. I love this beer.
I recently found myself back in yet another nondescript industrial office park that seem ubiquitous in this area and ended up at a great little place named Arcana Brewing Company. This is a very small, slightly hard-to-find place in Carlsbad, about and hour north of San Diego. Driving through the parking lot, I came to a place called On-The-Tracks Brewery, but that must wait for another time to visit. Arcana was quite hallway-like and had no windows. In fact, the front door was in an entryway that was blocked off from the rest of the place by walls and another door. It made it very dark inside compared to most breweries I have visited. On the walls were bookshelves of games and little trinkets, display cases of artifact-looking things, and shelves with more objects in the steampunk style. Behind the tasting bar to the right was a huge display on the wall with shelf upon shelf of handcrafted, custom glazed mugs for visitors who join their Mug Club. Pretty slick.
Moseying up to the tasting bar, I was shocked at how many holiday beers they had on tap so late in Spring. Never one to pass on an opportunity to celebrate the holidays early, I got the Dark Christmas Ale. It poured very dark (duh) and cloudy, though it was hard to tell from the low light level in the brewery. It had a thin cap of tan head that stuck around for an appreciable time. Spicy and caramelly aromas met with a light fruity note on the smell. The taste was sweet up front with very little carbonation and medium body. The middle of the drink was a little disappointing, with an almost tasteless mildness, finishing dry with equally little taste, except for a token amount of malt.
I had hoped for more from this beer:
I moved on to something I thought would have decidedly more taste: the Barrel Aged Voyager English. Though I do not have a picture, it poured clear and deep red, with very little sticky white head on top. Sugary sweet aromas defined this one, with some cinnamon and light caramel notes. The taste was mild, with little carbonation and medium-light mouthfeel. Sweet up front with some melon-like fruitiness, the middle was a little mild. It finished a little overly-sweet with some melon afterward.
This one was equally ‘just ok’:
Christmas truly is the most wonderful time of the year: trees, lights, decorations…and Ninkasi’s seasonal beauty Sleigh’r Dark Doüble Alt Ale. It is in the German altbier style, which means it is brewed at a cooler temperature than other ales and uses top-fermenting yeast. This yeast imparts a fruitiness not normally seen in ales. Altbier is also matured at a cooler temperature than is usual for an ale, making it clean and crisp. This beer helps truly ring in the season for me. Come. Take the journey with me.
It poured a rich dark copper color with small, fizzy head that did not stick around very long. It reminded me very much of the way a lager pours. Not much in the way of aromas came from the glass at first, but then lots of caramel and fruity notes pushed through. It tasted light, with pleasant caramel and light sweetness. A bit of bitterness came toward the middle and persisted to the finish with some caramel notes to balance it out.
I really enjoyed this beer. At 7.2% abv, it makes a really good sipper for the holidays.
I would rate this beer:
As I continue on my journey of new beer knowledge and experiences, I found this little tidbit, courtesy of nationaldaycalendar.com:
Beer is one of the world’s oldest prepared beverages, possibly dating back to 9500 BC when cereal was first farmed. It was found recorded in the written history of ancient Iraq and ancient Egypt.
As the world’s most widely consumed alcoholic beverage, beer has it’s special day in it’s honor on National Beer Day which is celebrated annually on April 7th. Celebrate National Beer Day as you choose with a pint of pale ale, mild ale, lager, stout, or maybe a wheat beer.
Following water and tea, beer is the third most popular drink overall.
NATIONAL BEER DAY HISTORY
On April 7, 1933, President Franklin Roosevelt took the first step toward ending Prohibition and signed a law that allowed people to brew and sell beer, in the United States, as long as it remained below 4.0% alcohol by volume (ABV). Beer drinkers celebrated and were happy to be able to purchase beer again for the first time in thirteen years.
Our research found that this day was created as National Beer Day, an “unofficial” holiday by Eli Shayotovich, a Colorado Springs Craft Beer Examiner and his friend Mike Connolly. They chose April 7 because of the Cullen-Harrison Act being signed into law and becoming effective on this day. In 2009, A National Beer Day Facebook page was created by Shayotovich and Connolly from which they invited friends to join. From that page, word has spread and April 7 is known by many sources as National Beer Day.
So, how did you celebrate?