I am going to ask the brewers of Bend, Ore. something here. I’m going to ask that every year, they release their seasonals on the same day. Here’s why:
I saw that Worthy Brewing was releasing their first winter seasonal ever — Powder Keg Winter Ale. Given my recent review of the Beertopia, I decided to go check them out. Soon after, I find out that Deschutes Brewery is releasing their famed 2013 edition of Abyss the same night. My night was officially planned.
I started at worthy and grabbed a pint of the seasonal and here was my take:
It started out great. The bartender poured a beautiful deep amber beer with a rich ivory head. I was greeted with a strong citrus aroma with a mysteriously tantalizing slight spice hints. At this point, I was pumped for the first taste.
The beer was a little less than expected. I was hoping that mysterious spice would come through with some cinnamon, maybe some clove or allspice. But, it actually was just a good, hoppy beer backed with light malts. As the flavor developed, the citrus and malt gave way to a strong bitterness that finished with a silky mouthfeel. Worthy is a hop-forward brewery (see post about Worthy’s IPAs…these guys know how to use hops), which is why this beer makes sense. Come to think of it, maybe I wanted spice in the beer so bad I crafted the aroma. Dang it…I’ll have to go back and try it again (I imagine it was more than likely the pine/resin aroma, but either way I’m having this one again).
Like I said — it’s a good beer. I could keep drinking it and wouldn’t have thought it was a step away from imperial; at 7.1 ABV, it’s unreal drinkable. I could absolutely see myself pouring a pint of this while bundled up in my jacket and beanie, sitting on my porch with the wife watching the snow fall. But, that doesn’t mean I couldn’t see myself drinking this in between making leaf piles, planting hops or escaping the heat. What I’m trying to say is, this beer is a good beer year round and should be more associated with the brewing company’s beer list.
As I write this post, I’ve come to realize my only memorable experiences with Winter Ales are Deschutes Brewery’s Jubelale and Sierra Nevada’s Christmas Ale, which for sure both have some spice involved. So, I decided to look up winter ale in the Oxford Companion to Beer (if you don’t have this yet, get it…it’s a wonderful resource).
Amongst all the history (did you know winter ales were traditionally warmed?), these lines help understand the modern interpretation of a winter ale:
“The tradition of winter warmer beers or seasonal old ales was revived, like so many other beer styles, from the mid-1970s onward by the growing craft beer sector in the United States, the UK, and elsewhere. These seasonal beers, generally at 5% to 8% alcohol by volume, have an emphasis on darker malts and sometimes use spices along hops, recalling the old heated spiced ales.”
To me, Worthy has some forward progress on this one. It’s a hell of a step for a brewery that’s under 10 months old, and every brewery needs to take that step. Best of luck to you, Kennedy and Kellner, for the next batch. I encourage some spice to make this feel like a real, dead-of-winter beer.
Pick this one up and try it for yourself. At 7.1 ABV, you’re having a good time either way.
I trotted from Worthy over to Deschutes, where I heard they were releasing The Abyss for 2013. Sure enough, like always, the bar was PACKED with people as eager as I to try the annual barrel aged stout. I was able to weasel my way to the bar and throw enough money ($7 for the 2013 vintage, more for the older years) at the bartender to grab a snifter of the 2013 on Nitro.
It was great. Actually, I feel like they toned down the bitterness from last year, but I didn’t have them side by side like many of my fellow visitors, so I can’t be for sure. The nose was a strong aroma of roasted coffee and a alcoholic, whisky tinge. The taste was a smooth, rich chocolate finished off with a date-like flavor wrapped up with a slight bitterness. Overall, fantastic. I kind of want to grab a bottle of this a keep it for a couple of years. But, I have a feeling that would work better in theory than practice. We’ll see.
Back to the original point:
Tonight was fun. Hopping from one bar to the other to try the winter seasonal was a cool experience. It seemed like there was a buzz in the air about the seasonal release at each establishment. I heard about Deschutes release at Worthy, and I heard about Worthy’s release at Deschutes. So, brewers of Bend, consider releasing your winter seasonals on the same day — making a sort of annual pub crawl situation where we can all gather together on a cold evening and try out the best you all have to offer to make us warmer. You would really be doing your beer drinkers a solid, creating a fun promotional event in the meantime.
Think about it…that’s all I ask.