The Winter Warmer Holiday 12-Pack
Posted: December 30, 2003
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(Anchor Brewing Co., San Francisco)
Barley wine, or strong ale as it is sometimes called, has risen in popularity over the last several years. More and more beer lovers have become familiar with this form of brew, and subsequently, more and more breweries are releasing interpretations of the style.
First bottled in 1975, Old Foghorn was the first of its kind in the United States and has set the standard for barley wine in this country. Recommended as a post prandial, it is high in alcohol (8.8% ABV) with a sweet caramel and maple nose. Warm, fruit flavors are abundant, with notes of spice, alcohol and hops.
This beer matched very well with the C.A.O. Criollo, enhancing it with honey sweetness. It also worked nicely with the El Rey del Mundo, with the cigar becoming increasingly leathery.
(Pike Brewing Co., Seattle)
When most people think of stout, the name that immediately comes to mind is Guinness, also known as the Genius or Black Gold. However, while Guinness sets the standard for Irish stout, along with lesser brands like Murphy's and Beamish, its popularity is by no means confined to the Emerald Isle; a majority of breweries this side of the broad Atlantic have released a stout at one time or another.
Pike 5X is itself a dry stout brewed in the Irish style and may draw some comparisons to a classic draught like Guinness. It is rich and heavy, black in color, and has many of the characteristics so familiar to stout. In Pike 5X, we found lots of roasted flavors and loads of cocoa and coffee notes. The finish was dominated by espresso, along with a slight bitterness common to the style.
This stout matched best with the El Rey del Mundo. The cigar gave the stout a spike of sweetness, while the roasted coffee flavors brought out distinct leather and espresso flavors in the cigar.
Samuel Adams Chocolate Bock
(Boston Brewing Co., Boston)
While bock beer is historically considered a springtime tradition, this dark brew from Samuel Adams has a winter feeling to it. Brewed with a blend of Scharffen Berger chocolate and cocoa beans, along with caramel and chocolate malts, it's easy to guess what the taste is.
This beer is all chocolate, with a slight bitterness that lingers on the palate. With the C.A.O. Criollo, this beer worked very well, primarily because the cigar softened the intense chocolate flavor that dominates the brew. With the El Rey del Mundo, the pairing was questionable and one of our tasters was quick to ask, "Why mix a cigar like the Choix Supreme with a chocolate beer?"
(Samuel Smith's, Tadcaster, England)
It is no secret that breweries around the globe traditionally offer stronger beer with a heavier character during the holidays. Samuel Smith's brewery is no different.
Winter Welcome Ale, though not as strong as some others, weighs in at 6% ABV. It has a floral aroma and a light amber color, and we found it to be heavy and rich in character with lots of malt. We also noted a sweet quality and a walnut flavor that stood out.
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