Friday, December 5, 2014

More Adventures in Winter Beer

I've been a lot of places since Thanksgiving. At at most of those places I have consumed delicious seasonal beers. Let's get right to it.

On the day after Thanksgiving we found ourselves at Bar of Soap enjoying a can of one of their new winter beers. This is Unita Brewing's Yard Sale winter lager. While I enjoyed this beer I found it rather un-wintery. I mean, it is a richer, more malty lager than many of the light lagers we're use to, but it didn't have a lot of personality. That being said it was tasty and I would drink more than one in a sitting. The primary flavors would be best described as toasty, vanilla, and caramel.

I have found most of Unita's beers to be hit or miss. I like many of them quite a bit but the rest seem very middle-of-the-road. It is rare that I absolutely hate it.

On Saturday we decorated our house for [insert winter holiday here]. I love this time of year. I love the decorations, the celebrations, the food, and most especially the beer. So to get into the spirit of putting up our tree and dusting off those old holiday nick-knacks, we purchased Kasteel's Belgian Winter beer. Its brewed with real Belgian chocolate, you guys!  Seriously, what could be better. And it was exactly what I wanted out of this beer. The rich, dark beer has roasty and chocolate aromas which translated directly to the flavor. It is 11% alcohol, so don't take this one lightly. Drink with caution. It was absolutely perfect for a fun night at home setting up and decorating the tree.

Then earlier this week we went on a little adventure. Three places, three different seasonal beers. Our first stop was Hi Wire Brewing in downtown Asheville. This is such a great little out of the way brewery. They have several fantastic year-found beers as well as great seasonal offerings. Right now the Strongman Coffee Stout is on tap. I'll be the first to admit that coffee isn't one of my favorite things but beer like this might convince me otherwise. It isn't pretending or just playing around. This is serious coffee flavor. It is a creamy beer to begin with which blends well with the dark, rich, coffee flavor. While this isn't a holiday beer it certainly is a great seasonal. Because it is dark and comforting it fits in the winter warmer category. And, as it turns out, it is only 5.2% ABV which actually makes it a pretty responsible choice.

Then we wandered next door to Ben's Tune Up, a local Asian fusion restaurant. There we ate raman and miso and yummy fish tacos. But we also enjoyed Southern Tier's holiday beer, 2XMas. The bar area, where we ate, is dark which is great for atmosphere but bad for photographs so this is the best we could do. Their other "2X" beers are generally very hoppy so that is what I expected when I took my first sip. I was mistaken. 2XMas has plenty of hops but the hops they use are piney so the beer takes like Christmas trees instead. Plus lot of ginger. Like, a ton of ginger. Turns out there are other spices in there too, but mostly I tasted the ginger If you don't like ginger this may not be the beer for you. I enjoyed it quite a bit. Turns out Southern Tier makes a number of holiday beers including one called Krampus which I must now find.

Finally we ended our beer exploration at Catawba Brewing located in the Biltmore Village area of town. Catawba's seasonal beer offering comes in the form of King Winterbolt, It is an English style brown (or porter?) ale with some Englishy hops. I drank quite of bit of it last year as well. Kind of like Uinta's Yard Sale, I found King Winterbolt to be underwhelming but drinkable. It is a really really good beer, but it doesn't really have any flavor profiles that scream "holiday" or "winter" to me. I suppose when I declare my favorite beer of the season is a specialty brew with ginger and raisins you probably can't expect me to go ga-ga over something super basic. It is a really good beer but I think I would love to see some infusions to give it some kick for the holidays. It would taste great with cinnamon, chocolate, dates, or other flavors of the season. I'll be watching to see if they release any specialty versions of King Winterbolt over the next month or two.

What beers did you discover this week? What have been your favorites that you keep going back to?

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