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All through the month of December, up to Christmas Eve, we will be doing a quick review of a seasonal beer for our own enjoyment. You might like them, too. Or maybe we can provide a quick guide to the winter or holiday beers that you haven’t tried yet.

You can see all of the Decembeer 2018 list here.

All Mixed Up Together Deschutes Jubelale

Winter beers follow a general trend. They focus on dark flavors: coffee, chocolate, dried fruit, spices like cinnamon and cloves. They are usually warming and filling with higher alcohol and residual sugars, and less refreshing and crisp. These flavors are often manifested in imperial stouts, big IPAs or double IPAs, Belgian strong ales, or variations of British-style winter warmers. Sometimes examples are barrel-aged or spiced to add to the ‘specialness’ of the offer. And really, who’s complaining?

Put a few of these classic winter beer flavors together, we get very amazing results. Try them all at the same time and we get Deschutes Jubelale. I don’t know what the folks from Bend are after, but the result is a beer that smell Belgian and ends horribly wrong.

Jubelale pours a deep, dark mahogany with wispy white foam. Tantalizing whiffs of plums and cherries rise from the glass. It smells like a great Belgian quad. It tastes like something else. Sure, the dark fruit – plums and cherries – are there, but those flavors are quickly beaten down by a burnt coffee roastiness the ends in a bitter confusion of styles and flavors.

I wasn’t sure what to make of Jubelale. It’s not my favorite. It left me very confused. I like roast flavors. I like dark fruit flavors. I’m not sure that I want them together in one glass. Neither a coffee quad nor Jubelale is my mug of beer.

The post Decembeer 10: All Mixed Up Together appeared first on KC Beer Scouts.

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All through the month of December, up to Christmas Eve, we will be doing a quick review of a seasonal beer for our own enjoyment. You might like them, too. Or maybe we can provide a quick guide to the winter or holiday beers that you haven’t tried yet.

You can see all of the Decembeer 2018 list here.

Unwinding Winter Beer Brooklyn Winter Lager

This weekend was my company holiday party—one of the few times a year when I drink wine because the beer selection that comes with the hotel open bar alcohol package is less than stellar. (But hey, not going to complain when the company provides free booze and food.) After the party, jimmywags and I headed to a brewery for one more drink before heading home to the kiddos, since getting out of the house for a date night is a very rare event now that we have three kiddos.  At the brewery, I enjoyed an 11% imperial stout (18 Rabbit at Torn Label, if you must know), but that’s not the beer I’m here to talk about.  This is just background that will eventually lead to the beer I’m going to review.

Now, I just had our third child this summer and am still nursing, so my alcohol consumption has been pretty limited for a while. Two glasses of wine and a very strong beer in one night far surpasses what I’m used to.  So you can imagine how I felt when I was awakened by the baby at 1:00 am, just an hour after going to bed. Headache, exhaustion, dehydration … yuck. Things just went downhill from there when the four-year-old got sick in his bed an hour later and then several times after that before morning.  (Let me just take a minute to say that jimmywags is the best ever because he dealt with almost all the puke.) Getting through Sunday nursing a baby, a sick child, a mild hangover, and a long list of to-dos was rough to say the least. By the time all the kids were in bed for the night, I was ready for a little hair of the dog, but it had to be something mild.

Scanning the random beers jimmywags has picked up for this Advent beer project, I came across Brooklyn Brewery’s Winter Lager. While the label doesn’t say so, they style is essentially a Schwarzbier and comes in at a very drinkable 5.6% ABV. I decided it would do the trick.

Winter Lager looks dark brown in the glass with no cloudiness or sediment. When held up to the light, it glows a dark-red color. When poured into the glass, the carbonation creates a milky swirl through the beer, not unlike a Guinness, that resulted in a thick rocky head. The head settled down into a creamy layer atop the beer and stayed that way for several minutes. The maltiness of the beer came through in the aroma—like the smell of wort on a brewery tour—but was balanced by the aroma of roasted coffee. The beer tasted true to style, like an extra roasty mild beer, or perhaps a very light-bodied porter. The roasted coffee was the strongest element of the flavor profile.  The mouthfeel was light and crisp, but the flavor lingered on the tongue for a while.

Overall, I enjoyed the beer. It fit the bill for what I needed and was very drinkable—consistent from the first sip to the last even as it warmed slightly in my glass. Winter Lager is not the sort of beer you wait in line for or count down the months till it’s released again next winter.  But it is a perfectly respectable beer that would be great for sharing at holiday gatherings, drinking with dinner, or sipping on the couch while unwinding from a particularly long day.

The post Decembeer 9: Unwinding Winter Beer appeared first on KC Beer Scouts.

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All through the month of December, up to Christmas Eve, we will be doing a quick review of a seasonal beer for our own enjoyment. You might like them, too. Or maybe we can provide a quick guide to the winter or holiday beers that you haven’t tried yet.

You can see all of the Decembeer 2018 list here.

A Bright Spot in the Darkness New Belgium Accumulation White IPA

I appreciate the zags in life. When everyone flows one way, those that move against the grain to try something new or unexpected. It’s welcome, often enough, as a parade of sameness can fatigue anyone’s spirits or motivation. In the beer world, winter seasonals usually revolve around sugary heft, spices, roasty flavors, and/or alcohol. It makes sense and those traditional ales are welcome all season long. But sometimes, a beer moving in the opposite direction brightens the palate.

New Belgium Accumulation is a pretty straight forward white IPA. I expect lots of citrus aroma and flavors, like a witbier. Maybe slightly cloudy, very very pale, with a pile of white foam. And Accumulation delivers. It reeks of tangerines and citrus. The body is soft and little hollow. There isn’t much in the middle. Each sip ends with a citrusy, slightly pithy sort of bitterness. It’s perfectly good, but not amazing. If white IPAs are your thing, this is a great beer for you.

Like the glare from a white rabbit bounding across a field of new fallen snow, Accumulation is a flash of hoppy brightness through the winter months. If your tongue has tired of bourbon-barrel aged double imperial stouts, give this seasonal a go.

The post Decembeer 8: A Bright Spot in the Darkness appeared first on KC Beer Scouts.

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All through the month of December, up to Christmas Eve, we will be doing a quick review of a seasonal beer for our own enjoyment. You might like them, too. Or maybe we can provide a quick guide to the winter or holiday beers that you haven’t tried yet.

You can see all of the Decembeer 2018 list here.

Deck Your Tree and Drink it Too Ballast Point Spruce Tip Sculpin

Adjuncts and additives in beer don’t always have the same impact as you’d expect. At times, that is a reflection of the additive itself. Some just don’t pack a punch. Other times, the additives don’t show through enough in the finished product to be noteworthy. In some examples, the extras so overwhelm the palate, you can hardly notice the beer. The balance of additives with its beer make the difference between forgotten, overpowering, or sublime.

Straight-up Sculpin IPA is an excellent beer with both the bright, tropical fruit aroma of modern IPAs and a hint of the older West Coast-style IPA pine and grapefruit. Ballast Point has played with additions before. Sculpin variations have included pineapple, grapefruit, or habanero. Grapefruit Sculpin, I felt, was a bit heavy handed with the grapefruit. I could see how the addition of spruce tips could enhance the pine aspects, but also imagine that it would dominate the entire profile of the IPA and turn it into a evergreen mess.

Thankfully, my worries were unfounded. The spruce tips within the context of the base IPA were handled well. The spruce added a pleasant piney aroma that melded right in with the fruity, citrusy hops. Their flavor was less evergreen and more berry-like, interesting and complex. Sculpin finishes gracefully between the tongue-numbing bitter bombs and the hardly-bitter milkshake IPAs. It’s an excellent beer.

May my biases against a corporate-owned California brewery using buds from a conifer associated with northern climes in their IPA be vanquished. Ballast Point has won me over with your winter beer.

The post Decembeer 7: Deck Your Tree and Drink it Too appeared first on KC Beer Scouts.

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All through the month of December, up to Christmas Eve, we will be doing a quick review of a seasonal beer for our own enjoyment. You might like them, too. Or maybe we can provide a quick guide to the winter or holiday beers that you haven’t tried yet.

You can see all of the Decembeer 2018 list here.

A Visit from die Weihnachtsmann KC Bier Co. Winter Bock

’Twas the night before Thursday, when all through the house
the kids were just crazy, irking me and my spouse.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with glee,
And we’d just gotten home from buying our tree.

It took us a while to get them to bed
Because milkshakes for dinner is what they’d been fed.
We prayed that the forecast was wrong about snow,
Because tomorrow to school the children must go!

Finally, after they all fell asleep
I went to the fridge and took a quick peek.
When what to my wondering eyes did appear
But a bottle of Winter Bock from KC Bier!

I quick found a glass and popped off the lid,
Inhaled the aroma then took my first sip.
I took a deep breath, then let out a sigh.
With this beer in my hand, I will have a good night!

KC Bier Co’s Winter Bock is a lovely dopplebock that pours a dark auburn, and is clear when held up to the light. The aroma is sweet with just a hint of alcohol, like over-ripened dark fruit. The sweetness comes through on the tongue as well, but is balanced by a little bitterness from the roasted malt and some sharpness from the carbonation, which gives it a bit of tang.  The beer hints at the satisfying combination of a sweet red wine and a dark chocolate, while not really tasting of either wine or chocolate. The mouthfeel is full, because the flavor activates so many parts of the tongue, but is not thick or syrupy. The flavor is robust without being overwhelming and lingers just a moment or two while you contemplate your next sip.

While I’m sure this beer pairs well with many foods (I’m thinking hearty stews and roasts), it also works well on its own as a nightcap on a cold winter evening, paired only with holiday music, a flickering fireplace, and a cozy blanket. Coming in at just over 8% ABV, it’s enough to warm you up without knocking you over.  All around, it’s a great winter beer.

The post Decembeer 6: A Visit from die Weihnachtsmann appeared first on KC Beer Scouts.

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All through the month of December, up to Christmas Eve, we will be doing a quick review of a seasonal beer for our own enjoyment. You might like them, too. Or maybe we can provide a quick guide to the winter or holiday beers that you haven’t tried yet.

You can see all of the Decembeer 2018 list here.

OK. Christmas Can Start. Sierra Nevada Celebration

I do love Christmas. Though I also fight my children sometimes when they want to listen to their Spotify xmas list in November. I feel the month-long buildup is so overblown that I’m tired of the songs, the lights, the shopping, the you-should-be-happy cheer days before the actual day. Grumble grumble.

But I’ve had my first Celebration from Sierra Nevada in 2018. So, fine. Christmas can start.

Celebration, in all its old-school West Coast IPAness, has been an integral part of my family’s Christmas celebration for years. It’s been to more Wagner-family gatherings than my wife and most of my nieces and nephews. Shaker pints of this warming, poinsettia-red IPA is a staple in my brothers’ and my hands each year. It helps mitigate the cacophony of nearly 30 people shoved into my parents’ front room to open gifts for an afternoon.

Sierra Nevada Celebration smells of strong pine needles and faint grapefruit. It hits you with big pine hop flavor, followed by sweetish, toffee middle before running through a grove of evergreen bitterness. The warm glow of alcohol follows closely behind. It’s a throwback to the beginning of the craft beer movement. California IPAs with distinctly American hop profiles, clean fermentation, and substantial bitterness.

My bottle and glass are empty, so I’m feeling much more jolly. Ho ho ho. Bring on the carols, lights and shopping. Time for another Celebration.

The post Decembeer 5: OK, Christmas Can Start appeared first on KC Beer Scouts.

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All through the month of December, up to Christmas Eve, we will be doing a quick review of a seasonal beer for our own enjoyment. You might like them, too. Or maybe we can provide a quick guide to the winter or holiday beers that you haven’t tried yet.

You can see all of the Decembeer 2018 list here.

Stay Warm Inside Great Divide Hibernation

To be completely upfront and honest, this particular brew wasn’t even on the list when jimmywags created the Beer Advent Calendar – but I thought it deserved a spot on our calendar … also, I really wanted another reason to drink this and really taste and smell it.

According to Great Divide’s website, this particular brew has been their “celebrated winter tradition since 1995” and there’s a reason for that – it’s damn delicious. The smoky, brown sugary flavor that this English Old Style Ale provides makes it the PERFECT winter beer.

The aroma, according to some of my cohorts, is caramel and malty … but we all know that my nose has trouble catching “good” scents, so I really think it smells like old, dry concrete. That being said, even though I believe the aroma is off-pudding (is that how you spell that phrase? – I have no idea), Hibernation has an immediate bitter taste that is immediately rescued by a lovely malty sweetness that covers your palate for a finishing mouthfeel of warming alcohol. This beer has literally every flavor that you would want in a seasonal winter beer; bitter, malt and warming alcohol.

THEREFORE, in order to have a perfect winter: Drink This Beer.

Cheers, champs!

The post Decembeer 4: Stay Warm Inside appeared first on KC Beer Scouts.

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All through the month of December, up to Christmas Eve, we will be doing a quick review of a seasonal beer for our own enjoyment. You might like them, too. Or maybe we can provide a quick guide to the winter or holiday beers that you haven’t tried yet.

You can see all of the Decembeer 2018 list here.

It Must be a Texas Thing Shiner Holiday Cheer

Shiner tries. I give them that. I genuinely like Shiner Bock. It’s not a bock. But it’s good. It reminds me of a simpler – and younger and poorer – time in my life. It used to be all the folks in Shiner, Texas brewed up. But they are trying their hand at crafty, like some other regional breweries who survived both prohibition and the corporate brewery consolidations that followed. So given that, I was not at all reluctant to pick up a bottle of Holiday Cheer for Decembeer. But, it’s almost winter and there will be dark days.

The neck label says Holiday Cheer is a Bavarian-style dark wheat beer. The back label mentions “old-world Dunkeweizen” and “peaches and roasted pecans”. Dunkelweizens, especially old-world examples, are driven by the banana and clove aroma spewed from its particular yeast strain. I don’t immediately consider peaches an appetizing partner with either bananas or cloves. And roasted pecans are totally out of left field. I guess a dunkelweizen can have some nutty aspects from the darker malts, but they are pretty subdued compared to the fruity and spicy aspects.

Maybe it’s a regional taste. Maybe there’s a Texas dessert that features peaches and pecans. My three minutes of Googling didn’t turn up an obvious answer. But I pressed on with the beer.

Holiday Cheer certainly lives up to the adjuncts. The peaches burst thru in the aroma, sweet and candy-like. The beer tries, and fails, to balance a roasted, nuttiness with sweet fruity peach flavors. If there are any esters or phenols produced by the hefeweizen yeast, they are totally upstaged in this beer. Holiday Cheer is very drinkable, not too sweet nor too nutty. But it’s all peaches and pecans, and if that’s your thing – and maybe in Texas it is a thing – this is for you. I’m not sure it is for me.

The post A Texas Thing? Decembeer 3 appeared first on KC Beer Scouts.

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All through the month of December, up to Christmas Eve, we will be doing a quick review of a seasonal beer for our own enjoyment. You might like them, too. Or maybe we can provide a quick guide to the winter or holiday beers that you haven’t tried yet.

You can see all of the Decembeer 2018 list here.

Snow and Snow and Snow and Tell Boulevard Snow and Tell

I won’t lie to you – I immediately grabbed this beer to write about second (obviously had to grab Nutcracker first and this was before I saw that my tried and true Old Raspy was on the list). The weird thing is – I had to check my Untappd, since this is a seasonal, I’m sure I would have checked it in … and I did. Apparently the first time I drank this beer (Nov. 18, 2015) I only gave it a solid two stars … this was at Ruins Pub, which I absolutely love the concept, but when it comes to tasting beers to their true form and style, it’s probably not the best place to do so. The next time I had Snow & Tell was Nov. 23, 2015 at Harry’s Country Club (SHOUT OUT HARRY’S – I LOVE YOU) and yet again, I gave it a freakin’ two stars. What is wrong with me?

Since then, I really haven’t used Untappd, to be quite frank – when you start working for breweries and have to personally deal with the Untappd reviews, you learn to either be kinder in your reviews or you just simply not use it.

If I did use Untappd as it is meant to be used – I’d give this dude a four star (or an eight rating on the Beer Scouts Flavor Wave). Snow & Tell is an oak-aged Scotch ale coming in at 6.3% with a dark reddish-caramel semi-clearness to it. It has the lightness of toffee yet the warmth of caramel with a medium body. This pairs so well with the season because it is the PERFECT beer to enjoy while waiting out … oh let’s say … A BLIZZARD. It’s not necessarily the epitome of cold weather beer but it does take the sting out of having to sit at home and not be out and about. I say that as I sit in the Boulevard Tasting Room BUT I AM looking out at the snow and thanking the beer gods that I’m not out in it (at the moment).

Snow & Tell has such an even balance of malty sweetness that it wouldn’t be hard to toss back a few while lounging around in flannel pjs when hot chocolate just isn’t cutting it because it’s too thick and rich. It is light and warm, as I said previously, but also has enough of the “winter warmer” vibe to carry me through these cold-as-ass days and frigid nights.

You can find Snow & Tell in some tasting rooms around KC, liquor stores, and obviously, the Boulevard Beer Hall.

Cheers, champs!

The post Decembeer 2: Snow and Snow and Snow and Tell appeared first on KC Beer Scouts.

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All through the month of December, up to Christmas Eve, we will be doing a quick review of a seasonal beer for our own enjoyment. You might like them, too. Or maybe we can provide a quick guide to the winter or holiday beers that you haven’t tried yet.

You can see all of the Decembeer 2018 list here.

A Bloom in the Snow Free State Brewing Frost Flower

There’s a mini-trend happening within the seasonal beer world. Seasonal beers are breaking from the ‘traditional’ styles that were chained to the weather. Light, fluffy wheat and lagers we associate with summer or spring are popping up like flowers from the snow. Don’t @ me. The late fall and winter are still dominated by big, hefty barrel-aged monsters. But these brighter blooms zagging into this cold, dark weather is welcome.

One of the best examples I’ve run into so far also happens to be one of the better traditional pils-style beers available in the area. Free State Frost Flower, a Bohemian-style pils on the heavier end of the scale. Pouring a bright and brilliantly clear hay, nothing could be further from the barrel-aged motor oil stouts. The aroma is unmistakably a pils, with noble, spicy hops. The body is soft and bready and gives way to a biting continental bitterness the way great a pils should.

Frost Flower has vaulted to one of my favorite lagers, season be damned. If you need a break from the darkness, I have a beauty for you.

The post Decembeer 1: A Bloom in the Snow appeared first on KC Beer Scouts.

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