Hoyne’s Gratitude Winter Warmer 2013

slider-gratitudeLast year, the Hoyne brewery was barely out of the cradle when they produced their first-ever Christmas ale, known as the Gratitude Winter Warmer. Now, a year later, they have once again made this limited release available just in time for the holidays. And of course, I felt the need to grab a bottle and see how this year’s vintage compared to last years.

And just like it’s predecessor, this year’s Gratitude lived up to the name. In addition to being very smooth, malty, and balanced, it packed a nice spicy profile that was very pleasing to the palate and very warming to the body. I did note a certain creamy quality that was not there last year, one which reminded me of their Off the Grid Red Lager (which is currently my favorite from Hoyne’s lineup). Pound for pound though, I’d say its just as good as last year’s.

Appearance: Deep red-amber, clear, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Spicy nose, cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, and sweet malts
Taste: Smooth, spicy start, creamy malts, mild tang, allspice, mild hops
Aftertaste: Lingering tang and spice, enduring malts
Overall: 9/10

I really do need to get back to the brewery and see what they are up to these days. Somehow, this fall season (what with all its sickness) has not been too conducive to growler drinking! But I shall remedy that soon enough. And I’m sure Hoyne is also taking donations of clothes and canned food this year, so be sure to swing by if you’ve got an overabundance of both. Tis the season for good beer and helping out, after all 😉

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Howe Sound Father John’s Winter Ale

father_john_winteraeAnother Christmas beer that graced my doorstep, courtesy of my friendly neighbor! And this is one that I’ve certainly had in the past, but which I neglected to do a review for thus far. What can I say, this blog didn’t always exist, and I certainly did brink beer in my pre-blogging days. But I’m nothing if not a fan of Howe Sound, and I’m always interested in anything that was inspired by (or named after) John Mitchell, the venerable brewmaster who started the Howe Sound operation. That is where this beer takes its name from, fyi, as part of the breweries extensive John Mitchell series.

As part of said series, this beer is a fitting example of something inspired by Mitchell, being a particularly malty, English-style winter brew. Made with four different malts, a mild dose of Nugget & Hallertau hops, and a hint of spice, the beer calls to mind both the holiday season and an English pub ale that is rich in toffee-style malts and has a nice, Christmasy finish.

Appearance: Dark amber-brown, clear, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Strong malts, good toffee notes, mild spices, alcohol
Taste: Sweet malt, good tang, notes of toffee, allspice, reminiscent of figgy pudding
Aftertaste: Lingering spice notes, toffee malt, and hint of bitterness
Overall: 8.5/10

Always good to resample old beers and give them their due. I sincerely hope I can remember all the beers I ever drank so that I might one day give them all a faithful review. Might take some time, but I’m willing to do the legwork!

Trainwreck Barley Wine 2013

TRAINWRECK-2013-LABELJust in time for the holidays, Phillips is once again back with their annual Trainwreack Barley Wine. This year, much like last, they have decided to release their extra strong ale to a bourbon barrel-aging process in order to produce an ale that is strong (10% alc/vol), yet smooth, and has a strong whiskey tang. This is the second year in a row that they have gone this route, whereas their 2011 was just the barley wine without any whiskey-infusion. As I’ve said before, I preferred the original and feel that Phillips has been on an inexplicable Bourbon kick for the past few years.

Nevertheless, they seem committing to making ales that have that extra kick. And the end result is hardly unpleasing or unappetizing, and is pretty much what one would expect from a faithful example of an American Barley Wine that is infused with a bit of Bourbon flavor. It pours out dark and clear, has a good head and carbonation, has some smooth malt the tastes of molasses, dark sugar, dark fruits (dates, plums and raisins), and is of course punctuated by a strong whiskey tang and bite.

Appearance: Dark brown amber, clear, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Strong whiskey notes, dark malt, brown sugar and molasses
Taste: Dark malt, molasses, dark fruits, strong burst of bourbon tang and bitterness
Aftertaste: Lingering malt and whiskey notes, slight sourness and bitterness
Overall: 7.5/10

Definitely something to keep you warm around the fire! Between two annual barley wines, their Twisted Oak Red Ale and Bock, they’ve managed to barrel-age four limited release so far. Can’t imagine what they’ll do next…

Parallel 49 Black Christmas C.D.A.

dark_aleWinter Beer season is here! And what better way to start this season of beer reviews off than with a newcomer to the beer scene! Known as Black Christmas CDA, this limited release by Parallel 49 is just in time for Christmas, and boasts a lot very Christmasy characteristics!

And interestingly enough, its probably the most normal, run-of-mill, and conventional beer Parallel 49 has yet produced. Compared to Watermelon Wits, Milk Stouts, Salty Scottish Ales, and Chocolate Pumpkin Porters, a Christmas Ale seems pretty… well, normal! And yet, they did a very good job of it and produced a beer which is highly reminiscent of other great Christmas beer I’ve had, the most noteworthy would be Anchor’s 2011 Christmas Ale.

Appearance: Deep brown, virtually opaque, mild foam retention
Nose: Light scent of molasses, caramelized sugar
Taste: Hint of smoke, mild tang, toffee-like undertones and figgy pudding
Aftertaste: Smooth finish, light but lingering bite of hops
Overall: 9/10

I’ve been craving the winter solstice for some time, largely because of the fine and fantastic beer it brings! Congratulations on being my first winter ale of the season, and for another fine beer in your ongoing lineup!