Microbrew seasonal beers, mostly Northwest
After a seemingly brief season of autumn beers made mostly with pumpkin, I made a point of re-assessing the Oregon winter beer offerings. The usual formula is a moderate malt body, light spices, and generous hopping, making for a high probability of a bitter brew. Here’s a rundown of what I’ve tried this year so far, in the name of research.
Double Mountain Fa la la la la: This was a cruel joke, and the last time I take a recommendation from someone at Whole Foods. It tastes every bit of its 80 IBU. If you’re expecting an IPA, you’ll get exactly what you want, right down to the color. Good thing I didn’t buy a sixer.
Widmer Brrr: I wanted to like it, with a below-average IBU, but it just had too much bite all the way through.
Laurelwood Vinter Varmer: Cutesy name. Unpleasant in spite of its stats, much like Brr.
10-Barrel Pray For Snow: Not their finest brew, with a strange lingering bitter aftertaste.
Red Hook Winter Hook 29 & Deschutes Jubelale 2013: Not too bad, but still on the bitter side. If someone offered me one, I’d ask what else they had.
Oakshire Ill-Tempered Gnome & Ninkasi Sleighr: I thought these were above average, probably due to their richer maltiness. They still have significant hoppiness, but it worked for me. The missus didn’t care for either one though.
Pyramid Snow Cap: The one Oregon winter brew that did what I expect, staying smooth without descending all the way into amber territory.
Sadly, the ones that really stand out weren’t from Oregon. As a Belgian trappist beer fan, I naturally like the Trader Joe’s Vintage Ale, which seems to be a test batch of Trois Pistoles by Unibroue. I haven’t picked any up since 2010, so I’m due to grab a few this year.
Two other that were particularly enjoyable are the Blue Moon Spiced Amber (if you can find it), and the Shiner Holiday Cheer. The latter is very atypical and sweet, while reminiscent of wintertime desserts. I’m disappointed that New Belgium keeps going the hoppy route, making a black IPA called Snow Day. I’ll try to find their better alternative, 2º Below, which sounds much smoother.
Kona Brewing, completely disconnected from the usual seasons, tends to release Koko Brown at the end of the year. It’s a very smooth, malty beer and perhaps their best, rivaling Pipeline Porter.