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Thursday, January 7, 2010

Holiday Ales

The fourth meeting of the Beer Club took place on Friday, December 18, 2009 at the Rileys. The theme, appropriately enough was "Holiday Ales." As more and more craft brewers are getting into the game, seasonal brews are becoming much more commonplace. Before the craft beer explosion, the closest thing to a seasonal was the annual release of Bock beers in the spring by some brewers. Now we have Octoberfests and Harvest Ales in the fall, Holiday brews as the holiday season approaches, Spiced Winter Ales, Maibocks as well as Bock beers in the spring, and Summer Ales. All of which are brewed in limited quantities.

The full compliment of members were present and for the first time, our very own Mike Watkins threw his hat into the ring with his own home holiday brew - Hoppy Holidays. The competing beers were as follows:

Great Lakes Christmas Ale
J.W. Dundee's Festival Ale
Otter Creek's Winter Ale
Middle Ages Winter Warmer
Saranac's Seasonal Beer
Sierra Nevada's Celebration Ale
Watkin's Hoppy Holiday Ale
Using our usual scoring system the results were as follows:
1. Sierra Nevada's Celebration Ale - 15 points with 4 1st place votes - Comments: "Pale, cloudy, hoppiest so far; hops throughout the gauntlet cloudy amber color, very hoppy, excellent beer, nice finish; nice color;  hoppy."

2. Watkins' Hoppy Holidays - One first place and three 2nd place votes - Comments: "Yummy, delicious, deep red color; nice finish, cloudy; nice hop start, clean finish; cloudy red color, full bodied, very tasty, interesting; not too spicy; mysteriously murky with an end well! Best brew of the night!"

3. Great Lakes Christmas Ale - 24 points - four 3rd place nods. Comments: "Spicy flavor, copper color; clean start, finished with a nice hop taste; copper color, very distinctive taste; spicy finish, crisp wintery spice taste; lighter, good on pancakes, replaces maple syrup (almost)."

4. J. W. Dundee Festival Ale - Comments: "Very tasty - tastes like more - a good session beer; not too hoppy, slight malt; malty, smooth, slight bitter aftertaste; light; I was dying of thirst here (only first place vote - and it was from Mike Watkins who brewed Hoppy Holidays. Just to show how we protect the identity of the beers as they are being tasted.); amber, rich, goes down smooth."

5/6 - Tied at 34 points - listed alphabetically: Otter Creek Winter Ale: Comments: "Aroma of raspberries,  nice winter drink, nice bitter, not sweet, not hoppy; subtle raspberry, not overpowering, too sweet."

5/6 - Saranac's Seasonal - Comments: "Again very nice, pale lighter color, more malt than hops; light hooppy start; red in color, nice balance tilting toward malty/sweet; smooth; easy taste."

7. Middle Ages Winter Wizard - 40 points (three 7th, two 6th) - Comments: "fruity, caramel color' banana; somewhat banana undertaste; smooth, some hops; fruity; reddish, somewhat bitter/with banana; Hello!"

Congrats to Mike for taking a very respectable second place to Sierra Nevada which is one of the gold standards for good hoppy interesting beers. Nearly everyone placed his beer first or second. It's a terrific beer and remember, these were blind taste tests.

I hate to see Middle Ages fare so poorly, it's a great local brewery, but they tend to hew much more closely to the English style beers rather than the hoppier brews we tend to be drawn to.

Along with the beers, we had some terrific food - with a Mexican theme. Perfect for nice bold beers.

Next we move this movable feast to Gerry's and we will be tasting some British beers.

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