Christmas Eve

24 Dec

Christmas Eve is typically a day and night for the wife and I to get together with friends in Portland who are sans-family in the area.  We make Posole and tamales (our New Mexico tradition coming out) and drink beer until 11:00 or so.  Usually late enough that I am stuck putting some stupid kid-shit together until 2 am.  Not this year baby!  The tamales and posole were still on the menu, but I managed to get the toys together on the 23rd, so it was beer time at the Harper’s.  Miranda and Michael joined us, as they always do, and we decided to dig into the plethora of beers in my garage.  I managed to convince the two that we should do a tasting of the Sam Adams Holiday Pack.  Not sure why this struck me as something fun to do, because in hindsight it was not the best of ideas.  On a positive note, it’s not Bud.  But when that’s some of the best you have to offer a beer…well…you understand where we’re coming from, don’t you?  I am probably going to be dropping the remanants of that 12 pack on a street corner for a local Portland homeless person to have on Christmas.  Regardless, here are our notes from the “tasting”.  I use quotation marks because it’s debatable if this was a legitimate beer tasting or not.

Sam Adams Boston Lager- Deep golden color (which was nice, really) with a white head.  The nose is your typical caramel aroma and a bit of skunkiness that reminded us of Heineken.  Flavor was really a caramel sweetness with a hint of butter.  The beer is relatively light in body, with a clean finish.  Typical of a lager, but I thought there was some residual sweetness in the beer.  Sam Adams flagship beer is drinkable and something I don’t mind ordering in an airport bar.  Michael thought it was better than any other American Lager, when compared with domestics from the Big 3.  The beer offers way more than the Bud/Coors/Miller trio.  That said, not a first choice on anyone’s list.

Winter Lager- Slightly darker than the Boston Lager, almost red in color.  Slightly more toasted, but it was limited on the nose.  Supposedly flavored with cinammon, orange, and ginger.  We didn’t get much of those flavors in the beer, and we think it might be the level of carbonation in the beer.  Michael thought the ginger might be there, but it was hard to tell.  The body was definitely larger than Boston Lager, but this is really a slightly different version of their flagship beer.

Old Fezziwig Ale- Brown/Red in color and starts with a toasted sweet smell and a slightly darker color than the Winter Lager.  This beer was over-carbonated for an ale.  The beer is carbonated like something from the Big 3.  A mouthfeel that the lay-person might expect from a beer, but does a disservice to the flavor of this particular style.  This also claims to have cinammon, orange, and ginger in the recipe, but only the ginger seemed to come through.  And to be honest, Michael and I couldn’t tell if this was due to the carbonation as much as the actual ginger.  Miranda thought the spice was a bit more prevalent than the Winter Lager, but was not impressed with this beer.  A slightly darker version of Boston Lager.

Holiday Porter- Dark brown in color, more in the tradition of an English Style brown porter.  The nose was mild with just a hint of roastiness, but Michael thought it was almost non-existent.  Sweet malts abound in this thin body.  Oddly enough, there is a bit of chewiness at the end of the beer.  Michael thought that it started malty but with less richness than he expected, and didn’t finish with a well-integrated hop.  There is some sharpness here from the over-carbonation.    We felt like less carbonation would have allowed some flavors to shine that were held back in the bottle.  Miranda gave the beer a hard swirl and once the carbonation dissapated, there was some nice chocolate/biscuit flavors that came through.  Not the best showing of a porter, for sure.

Chocolate Bock- Color was dark brown with the ability to see through the beer.  Nose was vanilla and sweet, with a taste that reminded Miranda and I of vanilla bean and fake chocolate.  I thought it was similar to unsweetened cocoa and a bad version of creme brulee.  This was my least favorite of the beers, although Michael didn’t mind it.  He thought the chocolate gave it the bitter finish that it needed  Not saying he liked it, but it didn’t make him shiver in revulsion like Miranda and I.

Black & Brew Coffee Stout- Black in color, but you could still see through it.  The head was a light tan with tighter bubbles and a clear coffee nose.  Like smelling coffee grounds out of the pot on a weekend morning.  Still thin for the style, as it didn’t have the big, chewy body you would expect from a beer like this.  Michael again commented that it was overcarbonated, which took away from the beer a bit.  We all agreed that this was the best balanced beer of the bunch, with the hop doing exactly what it should in terms of bittering this beer well.  However, we were all left wanting this beer to be more than it was.

In closing, these beers are for beginners.  These are big ol’ tricyle beers.  The six tastings were enough for all of us to make a lasting impression.  Lesson known and re-learned: Big production, even in craft beer is not better.  Although Sam Adams is a pioneering brewery, and should be given much love and respect for what they helped start on the East Coast and the rest of the country, they are clearly not pushing the envelope when it comes to beer.  They are making beer for novices who don’t have a ton of exposure to what is happening today.  That probably all sounds really judgmental and snobbish.  We are not trying to do that, it’s just that these beers are 0what we thought they were.  Good for the masses, but if you have any type of love of craft beer, keep away and spend your money elsewhere.

We didn’t stop with the Sam Adams tasting though.  However, we had too many to offer a good review of each, so we just thought we’d list what we had and how much we liked it.  In no particular order:

1. Stoic Belgian Style Quad from Deschutes Brewing– One hell of a fruit beer (it has pomegranate in it).  Complex and aged in multiple types of barrels.  Highly recommended.

2. Bestefar Norwegian Winter Ale from Haand Bryggeriet Brewery– This puppy rocked!  Deep black with complex layering of flavors.  Some sort of savory herbal flavor in the beer that just blew us away.  Best of the night.

3. Allies Win the War from 21st Amendment Brewing– See my review

4. Oak Barrel Aged Doppel Bock from Lompoc Brewing– Brewed November 8, 2008 and bottled October 30, 2009, this thing has been sitting in my fridge for over 18 months.  Not your typical barrel aged beer, for sure.  Had a unique nuttiness to the flavor that we all loved.  But again…we love Lompoc.  It’s sort of like a character flaw…without being a flaw.

All-in-all, a great Christmas Eve night!  Fantastic treats from Miranda’s baking week, good dinner from Brian, and Michael keeping us all grounded in our reviews of beer.  He’s our rock, people.  Anyway, Merry Christmas to all and be on the lookout for interesting beer posts in the coming weeks from all of us!

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