Few signs of the season get my festive bells ringing more so than the first appearance of holiday ales on the shelves. It’s literally my version of hearing-the-first-Christmas-carol-on-the-radio kind of happy. I’ve reviewed a few quirky tea blends lately and figured why not wax poetic about some adult beverages that truly put a winter’s flush to my cheeks. Of the three below, two are new to me, and one a favorite discovery of a few Christmases ago that I drink each year to kickoff the season.
Pennslyvania Tuxedo– Dogfish Head Brewery “A spruce-infused pale ale, Pennsylvania Tuxedo pays homage to the flannel-suited hunters and gatherers who dwell deep in the backcountry of north-central PA.” ABV: 8.5Holy spruce tips Rudolph, botanical drinks are a growing movement this year and although my husband picked this one out, I applaud his eye for recognizing a trend. The Woolrich logo and flannel clad fellows on the label denote a collaboration between the Pennslyvania outdoor clothing company famous for flannel shirts and woolen socks and independent Dogfish Head brewery. Approving of the addition of spruce tips; excellent in wax, it follows that it must be in beer too, right?
Ooh, this lumberjack’s s a pretty pour, a shiny copper penny with cloudy haze, minimal foam retention and stringy lacing up the sides. Sniffing the brew bears a blast of citrus rinds and green floral perfumey notes.
A bold first taste with lush, full mouth feel. Described as grassy but I’d say twiggy. Fresh hops, sharp citrus and leafy flavors dominate with facets of bright spruce boughs balancing the sharpness. I think it can be improved by a greater concentration of resinous spruce, however, as the taste was mostly hidden. Less true woodsman, more of a Ralph Lauren plaid–wearing weekend trail-goer. Light and refreshing, it’s deceptively easy drinking, but at 8.5% ABV, knocking a few of these back will knock you back, too.
Snowdrift Vanilla Porter-Leinenkugel’s* Not really a craft brewery any more as it was purchased by MillerCoors craft division. “Winter seasonal inspired by dark, snowy nights in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin. Available November through February, brewed with seven malts and aged on real vanilla, delivering a creamy body and smooth finish.”
Appears a deep brown-black with lasting foamy head. Aromas of roasted chocolate malts and vanilla bean provide a richly scented experience. A memorable first sip of SVP a few winters ago opened my palate to the world of dark porters; a rush of bitter malts and toffee tones with a creamy molasses finish. This is an acquired taste, boozy but not too heavy at 6% ABV, unlike coffee stouts or spiced ales (which I like too) SVP imparts a uniquely warm and inviting winter brew.
Jolly Traveler Winter Shandy-Traveler Beer Co. “A cheerful winter…wheat beer made with real orange, pomegranate, and holiday spices.”
A shandy is a rare appearance for a Winter beer, usually found in summer mixed with lemonade (ew) and the like, and a limited release for Traveler brewery. Featuring good clarity for a shandy, it pours a ruby-hued amber with medium foam head and retention.
Juicy orange aroma with a bright spicy background. Bubbly carbonation yields a lively, refreshing mouth feel. A mixed bouquet of traditional and exotic spices lay softly on the palate, dried nutmeg, cinnamon bark and ginger come to mind. Curious and pleasurable, but perhaps too reminiscent of a seltzer to me. The orange and fruity pomegranate juices impart an astringent aftertaste, like a strong Christmas punch. Certainly festive and an easy session beer at 4.4% ABV but I’d stop at one and switch to something smoother.
Thanks for joining me on this spirited aside from fragrance reviews. After the last week of worrying about fraudulent credit charges (though fortunately handled right away) waiting for new cards in order to continue holiday shopping, and getting over the Speech season hump with an epic two-day tournament this weekend, I needed to imbibe a few cares away. No fear though, from here on till Christmas, it will mostly be holiday wax and decor posts. Do you partake of any adult brews during the festive season? Which raise your spirits?