I received an e-mail from my eldest brother Mike last week, lamenting the state of holiday beers. As this is the season for rich, hearty ales, he thought they'd all be largely of the same quality, but found several so bad that he condemned them to the sink drain, saying they tasted like "bitter ginger ale mixed with beer. Really nasty." He then suggested I do a blind taste test on various seasonal holiday beers.tourterie under our belts, my wife randomly picked out three beers at a time for us to judge on aroma, taste, finish, and year-round enjoyability versus plain seasonality enjoyability. Here is the line-up:
DuClaw Brewing - X8 Spiced Winter Warmer
Susquehanna Brewing Co - Toboggan Lager Brewed with Cocoa Chocolate Dopplebock
Bells - Winter White Ale
Sierra Nevada - Celebration Fresh Hop IPA
Dogfish Head - Piercing Pils
Weyerbacher - Winter Ale
Erie Brewing Company - Ol' Red Cease& Desist Wee Heavy Ale
Saucony Creek Brewing - Captain Pumpkin's Maple Mistress Imperial Pumpkin Ale
Samuel Adams - White Christmas Ale Brewed with Spices
Magic Hat Brewing Co - Snow Roller Hoppy Brown Ale
Anderson Valley - Winter Solstice Seasonal Ale
Atwater Brewery - Traverse City Cherry Wheat
Brooklyn Brewery - Winter Ale
Tasting just for seasonal beers, I went with Ol' Red Cease & Desist Wee Heavy Ale, which had a robust body and long, sweet and malty finish. I actually thought it was a Belgian beer on my initial tastings. On the negative, DuClaw was the worst offender for me, tasting like artificial flavoring that would make FourLoco seem like a better alternative. Matt's seasonal favorites were the Weyerbacher Winter Ale and Captain Pumpkin's Maple Mistress Imperial Pumpkin Ale.
The real surprise came the next day, when we opened a 22oz bottle of Satan's Bake Sale Mint Chocolate Chip Stout by Spring House Brewing. It tastes like drinking a stout and eating a fresh-from-the-oven package of Girl Scout's Thin Mint Cookies. It's smooth, rich, and exceptionally balanced for what sounds like a bizarre beer flavor attached to a wacky name.