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This Year's Seasonals

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Looking for thoughts on this years seasonals and some hounds' favorites and letdowns:

07 Studs so far:
Victory Festbier
*Troeg's Mad Elf (best of the year so far)
Anchor Christmas
Sierra Nevada Celebration
Post Road Pumpkin
New Belgium 2 Below
*Dogfish Punkin
Sam Adams Octoberfest

duds:
Jack's Pumpkin Spice
Blue Moon Harvest Moon
Southern Tier Pumpking
Becks Oktoberfest
Saranac Pumpkin
Hacker-Pschorr Fest

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  1. I've not tasted all of these beers, but on the whole I agree with you except for the Southern Tier Pumpking which I thought was the best pumpkin beer I have ever tasted. In fact, I have really enjoyed every one of their bomber-based beers and think they are a real up and comer in the craft brewing industry.

    7 Replies
    1. re: brentk

      I feel like Ii do need to give this one another chance, people seem to love the hell out of the pumking- perhaps a bad bottle? I do agree that love their bombers as well especially the oat and I like pumpkin beers and that is why I was so surprised to dislike it so much.

      On the contrary, I am not a fan of most fest beers or sam adams yet I really really liked their oktoberfest.

      1. re: yankeefan

        This is a couple of weeks too late, I suppose, but are you sure you got this year's Hacker-Pschorr (sadly, some distributors will send their previous year's stock to unsuspecting retailers so you have to be careful with O'fests in general)? Personally I found it to be a return to form, quite toasty and malty.

        Sierra Nevada Celebration was most definitely a home run this year- I've been enjoying the heck out of it (and probably will continue to do so until my local shop runs out).

        1. re: TongoRad

          This year's Celebration really is good -- the best since '04, to my mind.

          1. re: Kenji

            I just had a few of this year's Celebration. Outstanding to say the least. the fresh hop bite really jumps out at you. Really a fresh hop lover's dream. I will be drinking a lot few of these while fresh.

            Kenji and Tongo, I definitely agree with you guys, this year's version may be one of if not THE best yet.

            1. re: MVNYC

              Had it on tap, it was astounding. I love that it's a super-hoppy beer, not a spiced ale or standard winter ale.

              1. re: lpfaf

                Yeah. And even though SNCA is robustly hopped, it's got that juicy-tasting malt to hold the hops up.

                Sierra Nevada has just come out with a new bottled brew, an ESB, which they cleverly subtitle "Early Spring Beer." I can't wait to try it.

                1. re: Kenji

                  Had the ESB, didnt like it too much.

                  However, the beers of the season so far have been Bells Hopslam and Troegs Nugget Nectar. Both over the top delicious.

    2. I am also a fan of the Mad Elf (although he has won most of our battles). This weekend, I saw a 101oz flip-top bottle of it for about $75!

      I'm not sure how many friends it would take to polish that one off.

      1. You certainly tried a lot of great beers!

        I've enjoyed Anchor Christmas and Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale off of your list. For late seasonal stuff I've also enjoyed Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin, Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout, and Stone Double Bastard Ale. Just had the Double Bastard this weekend, it was fantastic.

        I can't get any of the Troeg stuff where I am in upstate NY. I'm seriously thinking about making a road trip down to PA just to pick some up. I've heard too many great things about them!

        Jason
        http://www.brewbasement.com

        1 Reply
        1. re: tjason1

          On my beer trading, the Mad Elf is always a top request. It is ridiculous this year.

          Funny you mention, I literally just picked up the Double Bastard today and look forward to putting that bad boy away tomorrow night- sticking to my Elf tonight.

        2. I am patiently waiting for Bell's Hopslam. My local specialty liquor store says they have it on order but the Bell's web site says January.

          1. I liked the Dogfish Punkin (had it at a tasting with some cheese pairings - very nice).

            Last night we were at a Harpoon tasting. I liked the Winter Warmer (very cinnamon and clove, like pie). But I liked the Brown Session Ale much better. Very malty. It made me feel warm.

            1 Reply
            1. re: LNG212

              The Dogfish Punkin is a more successful spiced ale than the Harpoon because it's not so overloaded with spices and because it's got a more robust malt base. In Harpoon's winter brew, all I taste is cinnamon and sugar. Anchor's spiced Christmas beer is usually better still; their blend of spices tends to be subtle and interesting.

            2. Really like Ayinger Oktoberfest.

              1. Harpoon Winter Warmer is great. I think that's what it's called. And I agree with you on the Blue Moon Harvest Moon but I like the Full Moon, though friends say it tastes exacty the same as the regular Blue Moon. Haven't done a comparison- has anyone noticed this?

                1 Reply
                1. re: yamalam

                  I agree and that partially explains my distaste for it. I look forward to the Harpoon, have not tried that one yet.

                  Tried 1 more last night: Long Trail Hibernator did not impress, went right back to the Mad Elf.

                2. I'm enjoying the Smuttynose Winter Ale...very smooth and mellow. Nice balanced and soft hops.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: gatorfoodie

                    Is it like last years - a sort of APA/Dubbel hybrid? I thought that was pretty good.

                    1. re: Kenji

                      I didn't get a chance to try last years, but that description sounds about right

                  2. Another big winner: Goose Island Christmas. The more I drnk of the Anchor 07s, the more I like them. Even better are the ones Ive saved and laid down from 06, they really carryover well. Im going to be sure to buy more of the 07s to age as well- great with the infused flavors.

                    1. You seem right on, though I haven't had all of them. Buffalo Bill's Pumpkin is also really good and you might want to give it a shot. I'm the same way with most Sam Adams, but there Octoberfest is just really great.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: triguy

                        Loved

                        Bell's "Batch 8000"
                        Founder's "Kentucky Breakfast"

                      2. If you can still find it, Jolly Pumpkin's Christmas release is incredible. Mildly sour, barrel aged, and delicious.

                        1. I want to add a surprise one that I really liked - Magic Hat Roxy Rolles.

                          good job on their part.

                          1. Being from New England, I've always enjoyed Shipyard Prelude Special Ale out of Portland, ME. It has historically only been available in Nov. and Dec. of each year, but this year they are not brewing the Shipyard Winter and making the Prelude available all winter long. I say great decision.

                            1. Highland's Cold Mountain, which has always been a cult beer, is awesome this year. Very different from other seasonals it has a nice, but balanced blend of holiday spices and vanilla. Not too sweet, with just the right level of hops to add complexity. Of course, you need to be in their limited distribution area, primarily North Carolina, to get it.

                              1. I am a true fan of Troeg's Mad Elf.

                                I am currently enjoying a Sam Adams Old Fezziwig Ale.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: soultender

                                  How is the Fezzwig? That is one that I havent had yet this year but am looking to try.

                                  I keep meaning to go into others, but constantly cant avoid turning to Anchor Christmas and Mad Elf. Both are so freaking good.

                                  Not sure if I had mentioned, but the Goose Island Christmas is flat out awesome as well. Wish we got that here in Jersey without jumping through hoops.

                                2. I'm really enjoying Alesmith Yulesmith this year.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: menuinprogress

                                    I was wondering if anyone was going to mention that one! The Yulesmith was amazing. Densely flavored, perfectly carbonated, hearty and wintry but without any fakey pumpkin or nutmeg type distractions.

                                  2. Christmas beer's I've tried this year:

                                    Anchor Christmas, the best they've done in a few years.
                                    Sierra Nevada Celebration, a great beer; I've gone through three sixes already.
                                    New Belgium 2 Below, suffers from having immediately followed the 2 previously listed beers.
                                    Anheuser-Busch Winter's Bourbon Cask ale, a Vanilla delivery system; the underlying ale is smooth, but all you can taste is Vanilla, Oak & vanilla-y, oak-y Bourbon flavors.

                                    I'm bringing my 3-Liter growler to Stone on Monday for the 2007 Double Bastard; gotta get it before the hops run out...

                                    7 Replies
                                    1. re: Freddie Freelance

                                      Im in ridiculous agreement with what you said about christmas, 2 below, and especially celebration. I jus tloaded up on all those before too late.

                                      I posted about Stone, Ill be in San Diego next week and was trying to find out if it would be worth the trek to Escondido to Stone. Love anything bastard, particularly the Oaked.

                                      1. re: yankeefan

                                        As long as you arent driving it would be. As a former San Diegite(Diedoan?) I would say skip Stone and go to the Solana Beach Pizza Port. They have great brews and are right by the beach, good SoCal vibe to the place. besides their own beers, which are tremendous they also have a lot of other locals like Stone, Alesmith, Ballast Point, etc.. as well as Russian River offerings. Pizza Port is responsible for the Port Brewing products as well as the Lost Abbey. Their stuff is really phenomenal.

                                        If you want to hit up another place with a great selection that is not far from downtown, go to O'Briens. This was my other top place for beer when I lived in the area. They always have a great selection on tap and also very good bottles. They have a lot of beers you cannot get on the East coast

                                        1. re: MVNYC

                                          Don't forget Liar's Club.

                                          Nice location near the beach (although parking is somewhat of a problem). In addition to all the selections from the breweries mentioned by MVNYC, they serve great bar food.

                                          Between Liar's Club and O'Briens, you've got two of the best beer bars in the country.

                                          1. re: brentk

                                            No more Liars' Club:

                                            http://www.chowhound.com/topics/465655

                                            1. re: menuinprogress

                                              Liars' Club is now in Alpine.

                                          2. re: MVNYC

                                            I was just at the Solana Beach Pizza Port on Monday (for the Piggie Bites BBQ Sliders (BTW, they either need better buns for these sliders or need to dunk'em in BBQ Sauce before assembling the Sammich; just a little dry for the amount of BBQ.)) and they didn't have Oaked Bastard, but I'd bet the Bottle Shop next to the Carlsbad Pizza Port has it.

                                            1. re: Freddie Freelance

                                              I just got back from San Diego and had the bastard on cask at the Linkery. What an absolute treat. The texture of that beer from cask made it surreal.

                                              I have to mention my all time favorite hot sauce as well- the oaked ab version. Sweet and spicy.