The day the beer stole Christmas

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With the winter season beginning, it brings forth a magnitude of great seasonal beers in the process. Ranging from malty, light beers with tons of spice to chocolate chili bocks with more kick than Manny Pacquiao – there’s one for everyone.
As it goes without saying, neither The Campus Ledger nor the college condones underage drinking. This one’s for the seasoned veteran drinkers. Drink Responsibly.

By Dillan Straight

FreeState – Winterfest IPA (Seasonal)

Pours with a dark amber/copper brown color with a white foamy head and has a sticky lacing that adds with the bitter hops aroma. Has a piney and floral texture with some sharped spice on the back but a lot smoother and sweet in the middle than other FreeState beers. While FreeState is following this year’s trend in using Galaxy hops, the taste isn’t too overpowering. It doesn’t linger on the back palate as much as others IPAs and proves to be a nice citrus touch, not your typical winter beer, yet alone one from FreeState.

Score: 4/5

Anderson Valley – Winter Solstice (Seasonal Ale)

Pours thick with a malty texture, has a heavier texture following pour. Shares a toffee, caramel aroma but brings forth a malty, toffee finish that you can taste with the coffee finish throughout. Surprisingly drinkable for such a thick beer at 6.9%, yet remains extremely balanced and shares a light carbonation throughout. After having Anderson Valley’s Summer Solstice, the Winter Solstice scores much higher in how it’s so delicately disguised as a heavier, malty beer in an incredibly smooth to drink package.

Score: 4/5

Schlafly – Christmas Ale (Seasonal)

Lighter pour with a decent amount of foam head on the top. Has nutmeg and citrus/banana cues on aroma, and taste overall is a lighter feel despite its 8% APV (Alcohol Per Volume). You can taste a banana flavor throughout with their usual forte of heavy spices tasted, but not overpowering from the St. Louis brewed seasonal. The Christmas Ale stacks up well with Schlafly’s other seasons such as their Pumpkin Ale, released this past Halloween season, and will make for a great beer along the holiday season.

Score: 3.5/5

Anchor – Christmas Ale (Seasonal)

Anchor is a brewery outside of San Francisco which takes great pride in its old fashion process of brewing natural, excellent tasting beers, and its seasonal ale this year is one not to disappoint. Pouring into a pint glass, there is little foam and this looks more like a cola than a seasonal beer. Having some nutmeg/roasted cues in the aroma, the beer has a nice bite of spices throughout. It is sweet up front with a bitter finish that meshes well with the ginger flavor. Only thing I’d like to knock on is its overall buttery smell and taste, a little overdone in reference to prior years.

Score: 3/5

Odell – Mountain Standard – Double Black IPA

Without a doubt, Odell makes some damn good beer. Making one of the most heavily enjoyed IPAs of beer snobs everywhere, there has been little disappointment in Odell’s other seasonal: Red Ale, St. Lupulin, and Isolation. Mountain Standard is their winter beer and takes the flavors of a quality double black IPA to a great mark. Smooth upon first sip, the beer has a sweet beginning and the classic IPA bitter taste on the back of your tongue to finish. Tasting cues of a good coffee stout, Mountain Standard has a syrupy-sweet taste you can get throughout as the chocolate finish wears in. Like any IPA, it is always a bit better once it adjusts to room temperature as the chocolate cues become more noticeable and it has an overall fantastic finish. One of my favorite winter seasonals from Ft. Collins, Colo.

Score: 4.5/5

Abita – Christmas Ale (Seasonal)

Abita holds a solid ground as one of the best microbreweries in North America, already known for their Purple Haze and Amarillo, and Christmas Ale is a great addition to their craft. While most winter seasonal are heavy on spices to flare up the taste, Abita’s Christmas Ale is light on them though it has great hints of nutmeg, mint, and subtle marks of orange peel. The beer is overall light to the first sip, but the more you taste, the more you want. It has an overall powerful hop taste throughout but leaves any IPA fan pleased in its use of quality dry hops. Great beer for a traditional Christmas dinner.

Score: 4/5

Blue Moon – Winter Abbey Ale (Seasonal)

Many like to knock on bigger name breweries due to how they feel anything to come from them made in large quantities has little of the creative, microbrew “magic” you come to expect. While Blue Moon is owned by Coors, it still hires the best and brightest in microbrewing to make their seasonal beers stack up against others. The Winter Abbey is a lighter colored beer, and stacking up with a 5.6% APV you notice the light taste immediately. While not the most complex of tastes on your palate, it does share Blue Moon’s use of wheat and barley sugar tones. The beer has a bit of a citrus taste, but not held down by lots of spices. Overall, it’s not my favorite of the beers rated, but certainly not the worst.

Score: 3/5

Shiner – Christmas Cheer

And then you have Shiner’s mass produced microbrew. Shiner may no longer be the “little brewery in Shiner,” but they certainly are more in-house for how much their product covers the U.S. While Shiner Bock has never been a go-to contender for me, I’m always pleased by their seasonal work. Cheer comes in a ruby red slipper-colored pour and you can taste the strong essence of peaches right away. The first sip brings you back to that of homemade peach pies on Christmas, good at first – but proves to linger. I do enjoy the lack of spices, but the peach taste is almost too omnipresent. You can barely enjoy the rest of the beer as its candied coat takes over on taste and leaves you wondering if this is a beer or a flavor from Smirnoff.

Score: 2/5

Contact Dillan Straight, sports editor, at dstraig1@jccc.edu.

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