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Dec 2, 2009 03:44 PM

Winter Brew Battle

So far I have tried Anchor (Our Special Ale); Sierra Nevada (Celebration Ale); Alaskan (winter ale); Full Sail (Wassail); New Belgium (2 Degrees Below Winter Ale); Red Hook (Winter Hook) and Sam Adams (Winter). Not surprisingly (as is the case most years), I enjoyed Anchor's version with Sierra Nevada's a close second. Full Sail and New Belgium's variations were good and the rest were fairly mediocre.

Does anyone else have an opinion on these Winter Brews? Any others out there that need to be tried?

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  1. I think Deschutes Jubalale belongs on your list and in your fridge. I concur with your other recommendations, particularly the Anchor and Celebration.

    1 Reply
    1. re: chuckl

      Big 2nd for the Jubelale. Also if you can find Bruery's Rugbrod, that's excellent as well.

    2. I like the Harpoon Winter Warmer, it's a little over the top, but I kind of like that in my winter brews. Very spicy.

      5 Replies
      1. re: Shaggy

        I beleive they cut back on the spices last year. A few years prior, it tasted like Big Red chewing gum.

        1. re: LStaff

          The versions of Harpoon's Winter Warmer that I tried (I have not had it in a few years) were completely smothered in cinnamon and -- I guess -- brown sugar.

          1. re: LStaff

            I think they're back on that train. I had one the other day that tasted like fireball candies. It burned!

          2. re: Shaggy

            I had it this year and didn't think it was over the top with spices and really liked it. Then my friend told me to take a sip of his after I had a different beer. It tasted way too spicy. So I guess it could depend on if you're drinking anything beforehand or not!

            1. re: Solstice444

              Good to hear that I'm not totally crazy. I also really like the Three Floyd's Alpha Klaus, thought I would throw that out there so I don't lose all credibility.

          3. Recently I have been enjoying the Belgian Scaldis Noel.

            1. Anchor's used to be a favorite until they started adding spices a number of years ago (it was originally more like a traditional WInter spices). Sierra Nevada's Celebration is generally my favorite one. Lancaster Brewing in PA makes a very nice one, and Samuel Smith's WW from Great Britain is also very good.

              9 Replies
              1. re: The Professor

                I think Anchor changes the recipe every year, as some years it has been spicier than others. I tend to not like overly spiced beers and last year they went way overboard. This year's version is much more subtle. Try one if you see it on tap or can get it in singles.

                1. re: MVNYC

                  Good to hear. I still have a couple Anchors from last year in the back of my pantry. Undrinkable.

                  1. re: Scott V

                    They are probably really good now.

                    I like this beer with 6-12 months on it as some of the spices drop back and more of that dark malt flavor comes forward.

                    1. re: LStaff

                      Good tip. Much better now. Wish I had more than 2.

                      Guess I'll be buying some for the holidays 2010 soon.

                  2. re: MVNYC

                    In general, I really don't like the Our Special Ale. Too much like sucking on a pine cone many years.

                    That said, if you sit on it for a few years, it does mellow out and almost becomes enjoyable.

                    1. re: MVNYC

                      agreed, I like Anchor's Special Ale a lot better this year without the nutmeg or whatever they put in it.

                      1. re: MVNYC

                        My understanding is that the Special Ale recipe is different every year, as shown by the different label each year. There is always a different tree on the label, and I was told that the tree on the label is represented in the brewing process as one of the ingredients.

                        1. re: starrcrow

                          "I was told that the tree on the label is represented in the brewing process as one of the ingredients."

                          That seems unlikely to me (altho', since it's a new "secret" recipe every year, kinda hard to prove or disprove). The labels have featured trees since the beginning (1975- which, IIRC, was an early version of Liberty Ale), but the labels have only noted "spices" and/or "natural flavors" since the late 1980's. Anchor has a nice poster with all the labels , and this pdf reproduces them as well- and one can zoom in and read the specifics.

                      2. re: The Professor

                        I like the Anchor this year - not as perfumey as it has been other years. Thirty-fifth year they have made it - gotta admit that is pretty cool!

                        I liked the Lancaster offering as well. I was lucky enough to visit both their brewery and Stoudt's in the same day last month - mmmmm! The Stoudt's Winter Ale is a gorilla of a brew. Bottom line - If I were to see bottles of either, I'd scoop them up.

                      3. I've been a fan SN Celebration since the 80s. I usually like Anchor's OSA, but its appearance was more exciting for me in the early-to-mid 90s, when it really varied quite a bit from year to year.

                        I haven't been into the recent Samuel Adams Winter Lagers, and I never found Winterhook terrible interesting.

                        Rogue's Mogul and Santa's Private Reserve ales are great.

                        I don't know if North Coast's Old Stock Ale is strictly speaking a winter release, but that's when I usually encounter it. It is spectacular, in my view.