Friday, December 7, 2007

The Session: Winter Beers

So I finally have it together enough to participate in this month's "The Session," which has been deemed as "a monthly virtual beer tasting. Hosted by a different blogger each month, and each month has a different theme chosen by the host." I've kept my eye on it over the last few months and have really enjoyed the exchange and some of the brilliant beers. This month is about Winter Beers, and since I had just written about them, I thought that I would include The Session in this post.

So my fellow chicks, I should tell you, if you haven't found out by now, that there are certain beers which are only brewed for the Winter season. These beers run the gamut in flavor, but a lot of them are spicy, malty, piney and a little higher in the alcohol content department: all things that you know this beer chick likes. So, without too much more ado, here are some of my favorite holiday seasonal beers or beers that are great as special holiday treats and gifts!

Samichlaus Bier - originally brewed by Hurlimann Brewery
Rheinfelden, Switzerland
Want a little warming up on a cold winter night? Only want to have one seasonal ale? This one is it. Samichlaus ("Santa Claus" in Swiss-German dialect) is brewed every year on December 6th, St. Nicholas' Day. The delicious lager is then matured an entire year before being released the following December. At 14% alcohol by volume, this beer was once the world's strongest lager and has been listed in The Guinness Book of Records. But don't shy away. Samichlaus has a smooth creaminess with brandy, cherry flavors and spice. Yum.
Pairs With: Rich and roasted foods, duck, pork and cured meats.
Try it with German chocolate cake or rum tart.
Glassware: Specialty Samichlaus Glass or Small Tulip or Snifter

Craftsman Holiday Spruce - Pasadena, CA
This Winter warmer has an unbeatable balance...but its a big balance, the aroma is a mix of fruit and sweet spice. One detects cinnamon, allspice, and really delicious orange and orange peel notes in the flavor. Then the maltiness hits you with distinct fruitiness. I get apples and old world fruit like raisins and figs. Then the beer rounds out with nice spiciness and dryness provided by the FRESH SPRUCE TIPS that Craftsman uses in the brewing of this beer. Does anything say Winter more?
Pairs With: I served this beer last night at a beer dinner and it paired amazingly well with a bite of marinated beets and goat cheese with a rosemary pesto. Forget about it.
Glassware: Teardrop

Anchor Christmas - San Francisco, California
Famous for its Steam Beer, Anchor Brewing's Christmas Ale or "Our Special Ale" has been a west coast tradition since it was first brewed in 1975. Available only from Thanksgiving to New Years, this ale's recipe is different every single year and it is kept top secret. Since ancient times trees have symbolized the winter solstice. So every year this beer bottle label features a different tree. Because of the special limited ale inside and the special label, Anchor Christmas is very collectable. There are people who claim to have a bottle from every year. This is a great beer to drink at a holiday party or to bring as a gift. Besides regular 12 oz. bottles, this beer is sold in magnums: a big unique one of a kind present.
Pair with: This beer is different every year. The style will determine what it pairs with.
Glassware: American Shaker Pint Glass

Deus Brut de Flandres - Brouwerij Bosteels - Buggenhout, Belgium
This beer isn't necessarily a winter ale, but if you want to bring a fabulous gift that nobody other than a beer aficionado would know, or you want something special to lift for that holiday toast, the Deus Brut des Flandres is the way to go. This divine drink combines the best of two production methods. Using techniques developed over centuries of brewing, first the beer is brewed in Belgium, then the ale is matured and refined in the champagne region of France, using ancestral Champagne making techniques. This beer makes me want to celebrate.
Pair with: Deus makes an excellent aperitif (before food) or digestive (after food). Its also great with desserts.
Glassware: Flute

Deschutes Jubelale & Cindercone Red Ale - Bend, Oregon
Hailing from the Northwest US brewing mecca, Jubelale calls itself an "apres ski brew." Perfect for a gathering of family and friends, Jubelale is a strong festive ale characterized by a large malty body balanced with hop bitterness. Jubelale is available around the first of October. Cindercone Red Ale is another great seasonal ale from Deschutes. This beer is great for the new year as it is available January through April.
Pair with: Jubelale - Big intense dishes, roasted beef, lamb or game.
Cindercone Red Ale - Chicken, seafood, burgers; great with spicy food.
Glassware: Pint Glass

Unibroue Quelque Chose - Chambly, Quebec
This is really cool. Quelque Chose is strong cherry ale that is to be consumed hot! It's amazing sitting by the fire, winding up the evening, a perfect after dinner drink. This beer tastes like a warm sweet and tart cherry cider. "Quelque Chose" is a popular French-Canadian expression that is used like "That's something!"
Pair with: Strong cheeses and chocolate desserts.
Glassware: Stemmed Large Tulip Glass


  1. Nicely done, love the writing style, the pairings and glassware recommendations. I've not tried the Craftsman Holiday Spice, I suppose I have a new beer to look for. Thanks.

  2. Nice choices - I haven't had the Unibroue Quelque Chose since the 2005 "vintage," but this is definitely on my "must-haves" for the Christmas season if for no other reason than it's novelty -

    Terrific blog - keep up the great work!