Cheers for Lompoc’s holiday beers!

19 Nov

RELEASE PARTY NOV. 29 AT THE SIDEBAR

The other night we were invited to preview the beers Lompoc is releasing this holiday season. With 10 different holiday beers, there’s one for everyone. So, bring your friends, neighbors, and the extended family down to the Sidebar for some holiday cheer!

Here is a preview of the 9 holiday beers you will find on the menu at the release party.

Blitzen is a spiced golden ale that you’ll fall in love with just from the smell. The nose is bright and spicy with a slight sweetness, like grandma is baking gingersnaps in the other room. The beer is light and fresh, not too much hop or malt, with prevalent ginger and spice notes and a crisp finish from the yeast. It’s nice to have such a refreshing, festive beer among the many rich winter ales, and was one of my favorite beers of the night. This is a beer that would go perfectly with your Thanksgiving turkey.

Cherry Christmas is a blend of four different beers resulting in a light, fruity, slightly sour beer. This beer has a strong sour cherry nose, without any hint of the Merlot barrels that one of the beers was aged in.  The oak is much more prevalent on the tongue, giving this beer a slight red wine quality, but with the thinner body and crisp finish of a white wine. The sour is noticeable, but not overwhelming. It has a cherry pie tartness that comes from the sour cherries and a fruity lambic yeast. It is a nice balance to the rich Merlot and oak notes, and worth a try even if sour beers aren’t your thing.

Brewdolph is a well-balanced, medium bodied red ale brewed with a belgian yeast that gave this beer a nice, spicy clove character. There is a creamy, biscuity malt nose and front, with a slight sharp hop finish that balances the beer and enhances the spice. Despite a 7.7% ABV, the alcohol in this beer was subtle. As it warmed, the hop smoothed out even more, making this an excellent winter warmer and one of my favorites of the night. I can’t wait to see how it ages in the Cab Franc barrels and blends with next year’s Brewdolph to make the Franc’ly Brewdolph (my favorite beer of 2010).

Holiday Cheer is a robust vanilla porter that went perfectly with the rolos Lompoc had out on the table. This beer smells like a chocolate biscuit, has a rich chocolate malt front with a roasted finish. The vanilla is very subtle, almost just a balance to the roasty chocolate. As the beer warmed, the vanilla was more noticeable, and Zach’s use of whole vanilla beans resulted in a delightfully smooth, true vanilla flavor. This is a great porter, perfect for watching the snow fall or for pairing with a rich, chocolate dessert. One of my favorites from the line-up!

Jolly Bock is a nice, subtle fall beer with a smooth, biscuit malt backbone that finishes with just enough hop to balance the beer nicely. This beer drinks like a sessions-style beer that you could enjoy while watching a full day of football. But be careful, this beers packing heat with 7.3% ABV.

C-Sons Greetings is an Imperial IPA, a higher alcohol version of Lompoc’s C-Note. The pour on this beer was beautiful with a thick, creamy head accompanied by a strong floral hop aroma. There was a lot of depth to the hop flavor in this beer – grassy, floral and citrus. There was a decent amount of caramel malt to help balance the abundance of hops, but you definitely have to enjoy hops to like this beer. It’s a great IPA, but last year’s version was just a tad more balanced with slighlty more caramel to the finish. This beer was fantastic paired with a spicy salami and smoked gouda.

Bourbon Barrel Aged C-Sons Greetings was aged for seven months in bourbon barrels giving this beer a fantastic nose of floral hop combined with sweet oak. Using older barrels, they imparted oak, but none of the vanilla. This is a unique beer that absolutely works. Bourbon barreling is traditionally paired with porters, stouts, and other dark beers. So you anticipate more rich, malt, and vanilla flavors. As an Imperial IPA, this beer has the opposite flavor profile. Surprisingly, the floral and citrus hops complimented the oak character. It was nice to get the flavors of the oak without having to drink an overwhelmingly rich beer – despite my love of porters and stouts. This was my favorite surprise of the night.

Old Tavern Rat is an english-style barleywine with a sweet caramel malt, but well-balaned. The alcohol is prominent but  maintains the caramel backbone so it isn’t too harsh or overpowering. Jerry took some time to tell us a few stories about the late, great, Don Younger, whom this beer was named after. They’ve been making this beer for years, each year changing the grain bill. Jerry wished Younger was here to enjoy a glass of this year’s Old Tavern Rat, even though “he would have f***ing hated this beer!” It’s fitting Don Younger’s painting resides above the fireplace at the Sidebar, as this is the best place to enjoy a glass of the Old Tavern Rat.

Bourbon Barrel Aged Old Tavern Rat brewed in 2009 and aged in Heaven Hill Bourbon barrels for 10 months and then cellared for another 13 months gave this beer a burnt brown sugar nose and a rich, caramel profile. This was less sweet and more roast-y than the regular Tavern Rat. For a full review check out Michael’s post from last weekend.

The 10th holiday beer, a Chanukah seasonal, will follow two weeks later at its own release party at the Sidebar on December 14th:

8 Malty Nights is a Chocolate Rye porter. This was a favorite holiday beer of mine last year and I have the same expectations for this year’s version. Although it is not quite ready, we still got a special screening. I detected heavy roast with a slight sweetness. It was flat and it was still quite bready and yeasty. This should mellow out as the beer finishes maturing and carbonates. Once that happens, I think the heartiness of the rye will become more prominent as will the rich chocolate malt, which will partner wonderfully with the rich roast of this beer. I’m looking forward to how this beer finishes and comparing it to last year’s version, which I still have hanging out in my beer cellar.

Overall, we had a great night hosted by the great people over at Lompoc. We were among over 30 local media attendees that got lucky enough to get some behind-the-scenes stories, about techniques, aging process, and the naming of beers, from the brewers themselves.  We met some really nice people from other local blogs, including the author of A pint for Dionysus, who sat next to us and gave us some great beer blogging stories as well as other holiday beer recommendations.

It was clear that everyone enjoyed themselves, and most importantly, Lompoc’s line-up of holiday beers. I’m not sure you can find another brewery in town with this extensive and diverse of a holiday beer list. So, bring your crazy cousin Billy, your drunk aunt Betty, and your cranky uncle Bob down to the Sidebar to kick off the holiday season.

If you can’t make the release party, just be sure to hurry over to your favorite Lompoc before you miss out on these excellent brews. And don’t forget, if you are planning on attending the Holiday Ale Fest, you should know that Lompoc’s holiday release party is the unofficial pre-party. See you on Ale Fest Eve!

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