Just in case you all are tired of pumpkin ales, I’m going to throw a “winter beer” out there for review – Old Jubilation from Boulder, Colorado’s finest, Avery Brewing Co.
Now, I’m not sure how ideal it is to be sipping an 8.3% winter ale on a warm, humid 83 degree day after I just worked out and ran a couple miles, but such is the life of the Miami beer drinker. If we adjusted our drinking based on the weather, we’d drink nothing but Berliner Weiss and Kolsch. Anyway, yes, this is a winter beer. While fall/pumpkin beers mostly taste like pumpkin pie, winter beers generally taste like gingerbread cookies. There are countless variations on this theme, of course, but “gingerbread” is a good benchmark flavor. This one may prove to be slightly different – per the label:
“Our winter ale has a gorgeous mahogany hue, a hint of hazelnuts, and a finish reminiscent of mocha and toffee. No spices, just a perfect blend of five specialty malts. Cellarable for 3+ years.”
Well OK then, no spices? Looks like this one is going to be a veritable malt bomb. I certainly get the deep, rich mahogany hue. There is some powdery sediment at the bottom of the glass, which is a little off-putting; I didn’t think this one was bottle-conditioned. It also shows a massive, well-formed head that nearly overflowed the class.
When I dip my nose into the glass, I note a huge aroma of slightly-smoky toffee, caramel, and butter, as if one threw a few Werthers Originals onto a charcoal grill. There’s some earthy hop, but it’s mostly toffee/caramel candy – indicative of a big fat malt bomb. It smells like a dulce de leche, like a caramel dessert.
As is often the case, this isn’t anywhere near as sweet as it smells. There’s an off-dry caramel up front, followed by a suggestion of hazelnut and coffee, and a tightly-wrapped bitter bite to finish. It’s not as punishingly carbonated as it looked, which is good as I’m not sure I would have wanted this to show that much spikiness – this kind of beer should land silky smooth on the palate. The 8.3% doesn’t manifest much in the taste, though I can certainly feel it.
I could see this working with a nice smoked ham, but on the balance it doesn’t scream “Holiday Ale!” at me. I think it’s more of a muscular big brown ale, and these are excellent food beers in general, especially when you start talking BBQ, and loaded burgers. You could probably also find some synergy here with a pecan pie, I’m thinking. This has that caramelized, nutty taste that will go with just about anything. I would just note that this is a full-bodied strong beer, so you wouldn’t want to pair this with anything too delicate. Think rich meats, pasta, etc. Duck confit would be a winner, but with this kind of beer the sky’s the limit.
This one can be found at any local Total Wine, so I’m not going to bother posting analogs. Get some.