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The Winter Warmer Holiday 12-Pack

Michael Marsh
Posted: December 30, 2003

(continued from page 3)

This ale worked well with both the C.A.O. Criollo and the El Rey del Mundo. The C.A.O. and the ale contained similar flavor notes and were equal to each another. With the El Rey del Mundo, we found the beer actually mellowed the full-bodied cigar.

Santa's Private Reserve
(Rogue Ales, Newport, Oregon)
Anyone familiar with Rogue Ale Brewery is sure to have tasted the St. Rogue Red Ale. It is a high-octane brew loaded with hops. A variation of Rogue Red is Santa's Private Reserve. The main difference is that Santa's Private Reserve is brewed with double the amount of hops as its brother.

Needless to say, this ale is brimming with hops and hoppy flavors. It has a dark, caramel color with a cheesy, slightly citrus aroma. There are layers of roasted malt flavors, with notes of cocoa and coffee. And, as might be expected, the finish is extremely hoppy and bittersweet.

Santa's Private Reserve was a superb pairing with the El Rey del Mundo. It produced strong leather flavors and also brought a lot of meatiness out of the cigar. The ale didn't perform as well with the C.A.O. The intense hoppy flavors didn't quite hold up to the taste of the cigar.

Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale
(Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., Chico, California)
Being a huge fan of Sierra Nevada's regular I.P.A., I had great expectations for this holiday brew, especially after tasting it and enjoying it on draught in Boston a few weeks back. I was somewhat disappointed with its performance in this tasting.

This ale has many of the same characteristics as Sierra's flagship ale. It is heavy with notable charred wood and roasted flavors, and extremely hoppy and bitter. However, unlike Sierra's flagship ale, which has more depth and balance, this ale is one-dimensional, likely from the over-the-top use of hops.

Celebration Ale fared better next to the two cigars. The C.A.O. gave the beer a wider taste spectrum and took away some of the charred hoppiness. The same thing occurred with the El Rey del Mundo and the beer became a lot less bitter.

Traquair House Ale
(Traquair House, Peebleshire, Scotland)
Traquair's strong ale dates back to 1566 and the time of Mary Queen of Scots, but the brewery had lapsed operation in the 200 years prior to 1965. It was in that year that Peter Maxwell Stuart, the 20th Laird of Traquair, discovered the eighteeth-century recipe for Traquair's barley wine-style Scotch ale and, lucky for us, he quickly set to restoring the brand.

This was by far one of the best performances in the tasting, both alone and with the cigars. At 7.2% ABV, the ale is strong, but the high-alcohol content does not take away from its flavor. It has a toasty nose and a roasted malt body. We also found heavy notes of cocoa and coffee, and the overall balance is excellent.

As mentioned before, Traquair House Ale worked well with both cigars. Although it didn't totally enhance the C.A.O., the cigar mellowed the ale by taking off its intense malty edge. With the El Rey del Mundo, the pairing was great. The full-bodied qualities of the cigar and ale produced additional flavor while both were able to maintain their balance.

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