Friday, November 21, 2014

November 21, 2014: This Week in Winter Beer

This week in winter beer was strong right out of the gate.

The season kicked off for me at the Highland Brewing Cold Mountain Release party. Cold Mountain is the seasonal offering from Highland Brewing right here in Asheville. The recipe starts with the same base but each year they change up the flavoring agents. And this year they've hit it out of the ball park. The release party spanned three days last week - Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. Matt and I hit the Friday event and enjoyed a regular pint of Cold Mountain and two of their flavor infusions: coconut and chocolate. From what we understand the brewery ran out of Cold Mountain on tap by mid-day Saturday. Some locals consider the hype to be overkill. Once the beer hits store shelves people go a little crazy to get their hands on it. But this year especially the hype is well-deserved. (I have a couple 22oz bottles in my fridge and I was able to get some on tap at King James Public House the instant they tapped their keg). If you have never tried Cold Mountain before I think this is the year.

Later this week I found myself at a local bar where two winter seasonals were on tap. Since "Winter Seasonal" isn't a specific style many breweries are just making any old beer and slapping a wintery name on them to sell more this time of year. That is how I feel about New Belgium's Accumulation White IPA. The kicker is that New Belgium has made a number of really good winter seasonals in the past that are no longer in production. Accumulation was available last year at least and maybe the year before so I was hoping they would have a new offering this year. Unfortunately that wasn't the case. I found it lacking in much flavor that would differentiate it from anything else. I knew I wasn't going to like it but in an effort to make this blog as content rich as possible I thought I should give it another try. It was slightly watery and lacked body. However, if you like IPAs you may enjoy this one.

That same night I also drank this year's batch of Sierra Nevada's Celebration. Now here is a winter IPA I can get behind. It was rich, well balance, and a gorgeous holiday red color. Sierra Nevada, who recently opened a facility near Asheville, is known for their IPAs so it makes a lot of sense that they would concentrate on this flavor profile for their holiday beer. Several of the people I was with ordered more than one pint of this beer which I believe speaks to its drinkability. If you do like IPAs I would advise drinking this rather than Accumulation.

But then, the most amazing thing happen. Just yesterday I found myself at the local spot called Asheville Brewing. It is a relatively small scale brewery that seems very focused on maintaining their local status. They put out really good beers but most of them can only be found on tap at the brewery itself (they have three locations in town). They can a few of their flagship beers but the specialty brews are draft only. We were at the movie theater in the back of the restaurant, known as the Brew n' View, for another event all together. Some friends (ZaPow Gallery) had been featured in a PBS series called Start Up and they were screening the episode. What I wasn't expecting to find when I got there was my current favorite winter seasonal. Seriously, I just wanted to drink all kinds of it. The best part - it's called Ninjabread Porter. It is based on their popular Ninja Porter, which has won several awards around the country, but there was added ginger, raisins and some other stuff the bartender-guy said that I don't remember. Seriously, they had me at Ninjabread! I definitely plan on getting more of this while it lasts. So seriously, leave me some! 

I believe that Ninjabread is the perfect antidote for the people who believe that Cold Mountain is over-hyped.

That's my winter beer list for this week. I'm going to try to update every Friday - though with the holiday next week it may not happen as planned. However, I am specifically going on a beer hunt this weekend to find some great seasonals to pair with Thanksgiving dinner. If you have any suggestions please feel free to make them in the comments - including where to find them.

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