Drinking in a Winter Wonderland: A season-ale sampling
Portland has recently been through a cold snap, and I figured it was time to delve into a winter ale tasting. I raided the beer aisle at my neighborhood Safeway store in hopes of finding more nationally accessible seasonals. While I wasn’t completely successful, I imagine that most of the ales we sampled are widely available. Still, with only one exception, these are basically West Coast beers.
As you may be able to tell from the photo, the styles are fairly diverse. My fellow tasters, Hans and Rob, and I were fairly surprised – and disappointed – by New Belgium’s decision to offer a White IPA , Accumulation, as its winter seasonal. I found it (unsurprisingly) bitter, and Hans’ notes included a couple of solitary question marks which is basically his shorthand for WTF. This shouldn’t be taken as a commentary on the quality of the beer. Although it wasn’t what we were looking for in a taste of winter, we decided it would be quite enjoyable at another time of year.
Unanimously, our preferred brew was Deschutes’ Jubelale. A longtime favorite of mine, I penned an enthusiastic review of it earlier this season. What surprised me was how close Rob’s and my second choice came: Bridgeport’s Ebeneezer is full-bodied, roasty and smooth. (Rob noted mild sweetness in the slightly peppery taste.)
Once we established the “bookends” of our seven beers, we diverged fairly significantly in our rankings. Hans placed Samuel Adams Winter Lager, a surprisingly delicious and well-balanced beer, as his number two. Sierra Nevada’s Celebration, Widmer’s Brrr, and Full Sail’s Wassail took various places in the middle of the pack.
The one thing we all agreed upon (in addition to our love of Jubelale) was that all of these beers are good. Grab a bow and put any one of them under the tree; we doubt the beer enthusiast in your life will be disappointed.