Many tidings unto you oh Bipp’s Beer reader!
I have a present for you, and it’s some amazing beer you can pick up tonight for your holiday partying all the way through 2016. All but one of these beers are brewed in California, and they all happen to be seasonally curated to start conversations while you’re staying warm and enjoying your time this holiday season. We remind you all to enjoy these with the best intentions and your loved ones in mind. Share and be merry!
Samuel Smith Winter Welcome Ale - Samuel Smith Old Brewery (Tadcaster)
A mainstay for decades, but it seems each year tastes a little different. This year is particularly great in how dry it is. Don’t worry about being a beer “expert” with this one. This beer is very un-snobby while still being traditional and great. This beer is also a great lesson in Yorkshire flavors and makes you want to go out and slide on a snow bank. You are more of a beer lover, homage payer and class act to adorn those around you with such a delicious and traditional glass this holiday season.
Appearance: Clear brown and crisp looking right out of the bottle.
Nose: You can smell England as soon as you pour it and this one has a bit of a yeasty banana note and coffee in the nose.
Taste: Watery with a bitter toasty malt taste and an herby earthy hop taste - all complex but not overpowering in any regard. A bit of berry comes through especially if you are smelling throughout. This beer is incredibly balanced.
Mouthfeel/Aftertaste: Mouthfeel is notably dry and the aftertaste gives you fall aromas and coffee again. Delicious Winter Warmer and definitely one of the originals.
Overall: Although this isn’t super crafty and robust, it packs a lot of flavor and traditional style into one bottle. The holiday packaging is delightful, and who doesn’t like the look of that golden foil wrap? This is easy and fun to sip and reminisce about times of yore… or something like that.
Winter Welcome / Winter Warmer/ 6.00% ABV / Samuel Smith Brewery
Overall Score: 9/10
Monsters Park - Modern Times Beer
As the bottle states: “Monster’s Park is named after a surreal and beautiful 16th century sculpture garden in Northern Italy featuring a variety of monsters in a variety of terrifying states.” This has a ton of amazing malt, oat and wheat in it giving it an incredible finish and lots of great flavors. It’s chocolatey but not too coffee like or too sweet and will have you satisfied at a crowded patio party, even without heat lamps, or while listening to some smooth jazz followed by Jimi Hendrix.
Appearance: Pours super dark/black and is syrupy but not as syrupy as something like Bourbon County.
Nose: Very boozy alcohol scent with coffee and herbal rosemary and spearmint with earthiness like fresh soil after a rain.
Taste: The taste is like no other Imperial Stout I’ve ever had. This is super floral and fruity once you taste it. This has some red berry notes and big dark chocolate and coffee notes. This has nice hop bitterness and an added sharpness and bitterness from the dark chocolate notes.
Mouthfeel/Aftertaste: Cool, smooth and dry. Enlightening for a cold night.
Overall: If you’re looking for a big boozy stout with plenty of flavor this is the one. What better than to have a nice Imperial Stout when it’s cold out? Did you know that they are called Imperial because they were the type of beer that was originally exported to Russia from Europe? If you feel like it’s cold as Siberia out there, do yourself a favor and pick this one up. Not the best Imperial stout ever, but for complexity’s sake alone it should be a seasonal holiday favorite.
Monster's Park / American Double - Imperial Stout / 12.00% ABV / Modern Times Beer
Overall Score: 9.2/10
Gift of the Magi - The Lost Abbey
The ultimate “winter warmer”
My neighbor from the U.K. brought this one to my attention, and let me tell you it packs a punch. Something about the wonderful fermented flavors and delicious, juicy, spiced flavors make this an excellent bottle to share and crack jokes over. It makes you feel great, and shared between people will lead to a very fun evening.
Appearance: Beautiful looking Belgian style with a beige foam head that looks like the top of a hot cocoa. This is amber to brown in color and hazy.
Nose: The scent reminds me of being at a brewery. I can smell the roast of the barley and the yeast that gives off a banana note especially in a beer like this. There is also a bit of sourness to it in a good way. A toasty waffle and biscuit note comes through that makes it extra delicious. This was also dry hopped and has a grainy earthiness to it that reminds you of the harshness of winter. It tastes home-brewed, and like it could sustain you for days (not recommended). It reminds you how lucky you are to have such a complex and delicious beer in your hand to warm you up. This is so wild and spicy and herby and delicious that it is leaning toward savory. It is truly an American craft version of a true Belgian ale. You can really smell the brewery and it comes through in a mineral way almost like they used old oaky barrels and copper equipment to brew the beer.
Taste: Fruit and blackberry with honey and water cracker. This has some of those wild fermented flavors that you get from Trappist ales.
Mouthfeel/Aftertaste: The aftertaste is a little like sweet bread but with some medicine like bitterness that is actually delicious and takes it to another level. That medicine bitterness I mention is often a hard flavor to pinpoint but it can be found in most sharp cheeses, garlic, citrus rind, seeds, anise, and root beer just to name a few. The mouthfeel is dry but has some body.
Overall: Truly one of the best holiday beers ever, and it probably gets even better with age. The complexity is something you cannot miss. What it does not fall short in is euphoria and big flavor so for that I have to give it a 9.3/10
Gift of the Magi / Biere De Garde / 12.00% ABV / The Lost Abbey
Overall Score: 9.3/10
Mega Fortunate Islands - Modern Times Beer
As you can figure, I love hops, and I love to defend the vastness of hop flavors that can be found in beers today. This one does not disappoint and has plenty of caramel malt flavors to contribute as well. This is incredibly tropical and has bitterness but so much balance that it can only be described as really hoppy as opposed to very bitter. The tropical notes are bursting out of the bottle and will really wow someone if they think hops can only be piney, herbal or bitter in flavor.
Appearance: Beautiful syrupy with a colorful glow and big furious bubbles coming from the bottom.
Nose: Intense guava, papaya, pineapple, and banana peel with grapefruit. You get a healthy dose of sugary alcohol and crystal caramel malt. There is a small amount of piney and herby notes and spice from the alcohol that is very floral as it sits longer in the glass with a rose sharpness and touches of cinnamon. The complexity is endless.
Taste: This is out of the park delicious. The use of crystal malt gives an awesome caramel corn flavor that also reminds me of a fresh glazed donut. The rich maltiness and grain shine through. The hoppiness is beautiful and stands out after the sip is gone in a citrus rind way, but the tropical flavors are resonating throughout like trumpets in the background of the Imperial March.
Mouthfeel/Aftertaste: Finishes dry with a rich bitterness.
Overall: This is a nearly perfect Double IPA. This is scarily better than most of what is out there purely because of the balance between the bitterness and the incredible tropical and floral notes with the two-row malt and crystal malt really changing it up for me. This is sweet and warming and can really take you out of your realm just by scent alone. It would be delicious with carrot cake, mild cheeses and dried fruit among other usual holiday treats.
Mega Fortunate Islands / American Double - Imperial IPA / 8.00% ABV / Modern Times Beer
Overall Score 9.5/10
Stone Enjoy By 1.1.16
This has a nice richness from the dark malt and an excellent dry finish perfect for the Holiday season. As the bottle says, it’s “Devastatingly Celebratory” - It’s also my top pick for your holiday party. Bring this and Gift of the Magi, and you’ll be the coolest around.
Appearance: This Black IPA pours out with foamy and big clear bubbles that cascade up into a very light tan and foamy head with big fresh bubbles just waiting to burst. The appearance isn’t frothy or creamy so it definitely has dry ale characteristics right off the bat. Has some clarity but still very dark, only a bit darker than a cola without looking like mud.
Nose: Very hoppy and tropical citrus with charred coffee depth. If I was wearing a blindfold it would take me a second to realize that this is actually a black IPA as this leans toward a similar flavor profile of Stone’s Ruination IPA.
Taste: Deliciously sweet. The bitterness is not overpowering and just gives it a bit of bite. The malt and alcohol give it a lot of its flavor. This makes the hops taste more floral and juicy/tropical while giving you a healthy dose of coffee and dark malt flavors.
Mouthfeel/Aftertaste: The beer finishes dry and clean leaving hardly any bitterness, which is dangerous. This will warm you up! This is a bit spicy/menthol on the finish. Very hop balanced and hop forward yet entirely drinkable.
Overall: I almost wish it had more cocoa flavor but that’s what makes it unique. This is minerally and hoppy without being sappy and bitter. By far the most unique dark beer that I’ve had in a while. The bitter cacao on the finish is amazing though. There are grassy dark and increasing “mud from the garden” flavors that are quite rewarding for someone who loves hoppy beer. I feel like I just bit off some fresh hops from the vine with my teeth. This is like a red IPA with more roast flavor and richness that is so perfectly balanced.
Enjoy By 1.1.16 / Black IPA / 9.40% ABV / Stone Brewing Co.
Overall Score: 9.6/10
Be the best you can be and always have a designated driver if you choose to have something to drink. Be safe out there and love one another. Enjoy good times with good people. Happy Holidays from Bipp's Beer to you and yours!