Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Christmas Ale Party

5 Hops each!

Today I am tasting 3 Northwest Winter/Christmas Ales. I thought a side by side comparison of 3 would give you a range of choices for beers of the season.

First up is Bridgeport 'Ebenezer'. This is brewed in Portland, OR and would be considered an English Strong Ale. Bridgeport makes a tasty traditional IPA as well. Ebenezer pours a rich amber color with scents of malts and fruit with a small hint of hops. Taste is on the malty/toffee side with only a hint of hop bitterness. At only 40 IBU, it is not a Hop Killer. I think it has a mellow refined taste and very enjoyable. I cannot find the hops used other than being "local and imported hops" according to the brewery. I don't detect a lot of late addition hops for flavor and aroma, so I would assume most are early boil for bitterness.

Next up is Rogue Ales 'Santa's Private Reserve' from Newport, OR. Rogue is by far one of my favorite breweries. They brew amazing beers that transcend boundaries and styles. All their beers are class acts. So Santa pours a light red hue with awesome citrus hop and malt aromas. Flavor is a hop fest in your mouth. Not overpowering at 65 IBU, but enough to get your attention; especially at the finish. This is in the range of an IPA for reference. Bittering is courtesy of Chinook hops with flavor and aroma by Centennial and the mystery "Rudolph" hops. The 3 C's hops: Cascade, Centennial, and Chinook are west coast favorites producing evergreen sprucey and citrus flavors/aromas. Mmmm...bitter never tasted so good. Abv is around 6%.

Last but certainly not least is 'Jolly Roger Christmas Ale' by Maritime Brewing in Seattle/Ballard, WA. This is one of my early holiday beers I first tasted in 2006. I even brewed a half decent clone of it last year. This 8-9% brew pours a red/amber color with complex malt aroma. For me, this is a rich, delicious, alcohol laced treat each year. The malt profile and hops are perfectly balanced in my opinion. It may be high in the IBU department; upper 80's I estimate, but I love the taste as a confirmed Hop Head. Bitterness, Flavor, and Aroma hops used are Chinook and Cascade alternatively with Chinook doing the bittering. Don't listen to any naysayers, pick one of these up ASAP and support Seattle!

I believe these selections present a variety of flavors that can be enjoyed by all. For those who prefer a milder, smooth and malty ale, try the Ebenezer. If you prefer a solid hoppy seasonal, go for the Santa. And if you enjoy a winter warmer with extra warmth and more malt, grab a Jolly Roger. Cheers!

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