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/// BLIND BEER TASTING
 
DECEMBER 2008/JANUARY 2009
 
Blind Beer Tasting
Holiday or Winter Seasonal Beers
Jay R. Brooks, tasting panel director, CBN
Tom Dalldorf, editor/publisher, CBN
Mike Long, tasting panel coordinator/head steward
Paul Marshall, beer judge
Pete Slosberg, former brewer/chocolatier
HOLIDAY or WINTER SEASONAL BEERS

This is the Celebrator’s eighth annual tasting of holiday beers, and it’s still the one we all look forward to the most. Holiday beers are, by design, no one style, but offer an opportunity for individual breweries to let their talents and imagination run wild. At the holidays, when people stop their busy lives and share some precious time with family and friends, the beer they choose should be equally as special as the time they’re sharing. So a holiday beer should be made to impress, to wow its audience, to stand out. Those are the only criteria that should be met by one of these beers.

Will it impress? Different breweries, thankfully, do this in many, many different ways. Some use unusual spices or fruits, some use special malts or hops, some use other uncommon ingredients like spruce or rye, and some make a style that itself is unusual. So there’s nothing to tie these beers together apart from their celebration of the season. That makes them a delight as well as a challenge to judge. Ultimately, perhaps more than with any other tasting, these beers are simply a matter of preference, and our judging is the result of what we like. So try them and discover for yourself the many flavors of this holiday season.

All samples were tasted blind and are listed below in alphabetical order by score.

Anchor 2008 Our Special Ale

Spicy, herbal nose with sweet, almost chocolaty, and spicy aromas. Deep black color and a rich, thick tan head. Wonderfully full, rich flavors with terrific balance and a complex mix of spicy notes.
   
Auld Acquaintance Hoppy Holiday Ale

Complex spicy nose with hints of nutmeg and citrus. Cloudy amber color and a tan head. Creamy, warming flavors with a mélange of restrained spiciness and great balance.
   
Celebration Ale

Beautifully hoppy nose, deep amber color and a thick, rich tan head. A big hop bomb, but with excellent balance and hints of tangerine and orange. The finish is clean and long.
   
Hibernation Ale

Malty nose with hints of chocolate, bread, coffee and just a touch of dark fruit. Dark amber color and a thick tan head. Creamy and rich, with a hint of both chocolate and vanilla, with roasted malt and well-rounded flavors. Complex, with a beautiful combination of tastes and a dry finish.
   
Hoppy Holidaze

Warming, spicy nose with hints of ginger and cinnamon. Clear, bright golden color and a thick tan head. Creamy, spicy and delicious, with a nice mix of flavors very well integrated. Hints of fruity, honeyed, herbal spices abound, and the finish is pleasantly long and lingering.
   
Samuel Adams Chocolate Bock

Sweet, very chocolaty nose with hints of cocoa powder and vanilla. Black color and a very thick tan head. Rich chocolate flavors and roasted malt, with sweet and bitter notes throughout, ending in a rich, albeit dry, chocolate and caramel finish.
   
Snow Bound Ale

Big sweet, spicy nose with hints of ginger and other spices. Dark brown color. Hugely spiced flavors. Chewy, with pine notes as well as cinnamon. A honeyed sweetness and a long, lingering spicy finish.
   
2 Below Ale

Herbal, hoppy nose, clear amber color and a tan head. Creamy and warming, with a great mix of spices and hoppy character. Just the right amount of assertiveness. Good balance and a long, clean finish.
   
Brrr

Big, spicy hop aromas. Bright amber color and a tan head. Big, hoppy flavors, though nicely balanced with rich malt character and a long, lingering hoppy finish.
   
He’Brew Jewbelation Twelve

Big, complex nose of chocolate, dark fruit, anise, chilies and roasted malt aromas. Deep black color and a thick tan head. Creamy, with a big hop blast up front that settles into a complex mix of flavors with herbal and spicy notes, some warming strength and a long, lingering finish.
   
John Barleycorn Barley Wine–Style Ale

Light nose of herbal hops and malty, fruity aromas. Red-mahogany color and a thick tan head. Creamy and chewy, with big hop bittering and a rich malt backbone that finishes long and lingers.
   
Jubelale

Light herbal nose with subtle spicy aromas. Deep mahogany color with a thick tan head. Creamy, with sweet malt flavors and chocolate notes balanced by dry, tart fruit character and a lingering bitter finish.
   
Odd Notion

Complex nose with a mélange of aromas, including orange cream, fruit, bread and spruce. Bright golden color and a thick ivory head. Creamy and tart, with a nice balance. Clean and refreshing, with a hint of cloves, honey and citrus on the palate.
   
Sleeping Lady Scotch Ale

Spicy, chocolaty nose with a hint of smoky aromas. Dark brown color. Creamy, with wood-aged flavors like vanilla notes along with sweet, rich malt and a lingering finish.
   
White Christmas Spiced Winter Lager

Light, spicy nose with citrus and spicy aromas. Bright, clear blond color and a white head. Creamy and effervescent, with rich, tart flavors and an excellent balance of spice and hops.
   
Winter Ale

Slightly spicy nose with a hint of spruce. Clear amber color. Fruity, hoppy flavors and a candied sweetness. Clean and refreshing, if a little light-bodied, with a sweet finish.
   
Winter Ale

Light, spicy nose with coffee aromas. Deep black color and a dark tan head. Creamy and smooth, with rich, roasty coffee flavors, good minerality and a nice balance.
   
Bah Humbug

Light, warming nose with malty aromas. Cloudy amber color. Creamy, with candied sweetness and a big hop blast that leaves a lingering bitterness.
   
Barbar Winter Bok

Strong spirity nose with herbal and spicy notes. Black color and a very thick tan head. Creamy and spicy, with nutty, colalike flavors and tart bittering. Rich, fruity, honeyed notes and a lingering finish.
   
Holiday Ale

Malty nose with hints of spices and honey. Amber color. A big malt bomb with good bittering, light spicy flavors and a warming finish.
   
Never Summer Ale

Dry, herbal nose with a touch of nutmeg. Dark amber color. Light, sweet, tart flavors with good bittering and hints of pepper and coriander. Could be more assertive.
   
Old Jubilation Ale

Light nutty nose of dark spices. Deep mahogany color and a generous tan head. Thick and chewy with big tart, spicy flavors and a dry, bitter finish.
   
Powder Hound Winter Ale

Light, spicy nose with hints of vanilla. Clear amber color. Creamy, rich malt with tart, spicy hop character that’s a touch on the hard side. Hints of vanilla throughout and a long, bitter finish.
   
Santa’s Private Reserve

Warming, hoppy nose with herbal notes. Bright, clear golden color and a thick ivory head. Mostly hoppy flavors and a touch of spiciness, with the malt asserting itself in the finish.
   
Snow Cap Ale

Subtle, spicy nose with dark fruit. Dark brown color. Harsh, bitter hop character with a touch of hazelnut in the malt and a long, bitter finish.
   
Very Bad Elf Winter’s Ale

Light warming nose with rich, hoppy aromas. Bright, clear gold color. Full-flavored and strong, with a malty richness, decent balance and a fruity, creamy lingering finish.
   
Wassail

Interesting nose of dried flowers, tobacco and chilies. Dark amber color. Creamy and spicy, with a little heat to boot, and a tart bittering that remains throughout a long, lingering finish.
   
Santa’s Butt

Musty, vegetal nose with sour notes and a hint of toffee. Dark brown color and a tan head. Sour, bitter flavors and a touch of vegetal character with some butterscotch. A lingering finish.
   
Winter Solstice

Bready, malty nose with strong vanilla aromas. Bright, clear amber color. Creamy vanilla flavors that dominate throughout.
   
Otter’s Dubbel

Sour, acetic nose. Black color and a thick tan head. Sour, cooked vegetal flavors and off-notes throughout. Our sample may have been infected.
 

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