#SippyTimeBeer Review – @HalandAls Winter and Christmas Beer Tasting 2013

Bells Winter White

Bell’s Winter White with the commemorative Hal & Al’s glass

I went to Hal & Al’s last night for their Winter and Christmas Beer Tasting. It was just what the doctor called for since the lady & I have been a bit grumpy getting prepared for Christmas. Our friends Chris & Lacey got there ahead of us. You got a punch card for the 12 beers of Christmas. At the end of the tasting, you got a special pint. Let’s delve into these four ounces of beer.

Bell’s BreweryWinter White Ale – Last year, I tried Bell’s Christmas Ale in my second Sippy Time Beer post. I also had the Winter White Ale in the fourth post. Unlike Christmas ales, Winter ales tend not to have cinnamon, nutmeg or clove. Christmas ales also don’t tend to be whites either. I’ll get more into that topic later. This beer doesn’t use any of those spices but the mixture of yeast, barley & malt do make it taste like it has a hint of clove in it. That line is a correction from the original review. This beer has a hefeweizen like quality without the wheat flavor. Availability here. Solid start.

Smuttynose Brewing CompanyWinter Ale – This beer was interesting because it was an amber ale, which isn’t used much for these style of beers. It did seem to have the normal spices in it which had a different tone to them since it was playing off the malt instead of hops. I enjoyed this beer out of New Hampshire. Availability here. Two for two.

Buckeye Lake BrewingChristmas Ale – This beer is obviously a local one that most read won’t get to try. This beer was more of a red ale with the usual spices but there was an interesting note on the beer list. This beer had graham crackers in it. I didn’t taste it unfortunately and it didn’t seem to make the beer any thicker. They also said it finished with a sweetness and it did. A little too much in my opinion.

Smuttynose Winter Ale, Buckeye Lake Christmas Ale and Southern Tier Old Man Winter (L to R)

Smuttynose Winter Ale, Buckeye Lake Christmas Ale and Southern Tier Old Man Winter (L to R)

Southern Tier Brewing CompanyOld Man Winter Ale – My third review covered Southern Tier’s other winter offering, 2xmas. This beer was more traditional than that one. The barley and hops stand out. You were supposed to sip this because of it’s high alcohol content, 7.0% which isn’t that high. I took this one down with a quickness. Availability here. Seriously, try it.

Full Pint BrewingFestivus – This beer comes out of Pittsburgh, PA. The verbiage of this beer gets the Seinfeld treatment so you don’t get much of a description and their site doesn’t even list. I think it was another amber ale though because of the heavy malt with a little more hops than normal. It was very tasty also. The distribution area is pretty limited but if you’re in this area, try it.

The Brew KettleWinter Warmer – This beer is another local offering that many people won’t be able to wrangle. From the northern city of Strongsville, OH this beer brings the usual Christmas spices of cinnamon, ginger (not as common) and honey. They also toss in some orange (not tasted much) and lemon (very much tasted). It actually helped to cut through the sweetness of the honey with the acidic taste of the lemon. I still don’t think it cut the sweetness enough. I sense a general trend of holidays beers that I don’t like.

Full Pint Festivus, Brew Kettle Winter Warmer, Thirsty Dog 12 Dogs of Christmas and Oskar Blues Yule Chub (L to R, T to B)

Full Pint Festivus, Brew Kettle Winter Warmer, Thirsty Dog 12 Dogs of Christmas and Oskar Blues Yule Chub (L to R, T to B)

Thirsty Dog Brewing Company12 Dogs of Christmas – The sweetest of the lot as noted a few weeks ago.

Oskar Blues BreweryYule Chub – This beer was a strange one because of it’s dark color. It looked like a porter or stout. Neither the description nor their website say exactly what style of beer it is. The website doesn’t even acknowledge that this beverage exists. That is probably why we were supposed to thank someone at the bar for procuring this limited edition keg. The description used orange peels and spruce tips in it and I tasted the pine flavor but not the orange. I am not a fan of of drinking spruce but the darker beer held up to it much better than a lighter style of beer. Availability here although you probably won’t be able to snag this beer in particular.

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#SippyTimeBeer Review – Brew Kettle, Stone and Widmer

Brew Kettle Summer Soulstice

The Brew Kettle Taproom & SmokehouseSummer Soulstice – With summer coming to an end, I should probably clear a couple of extra summer beers off my list. This one is from Strongsville OH (which is near Cleveland) and I have reviewed one of their beers now, Lake BeErie, which was not good. I’m pretty sure I tried another one but can’t find a picture or written proof of it. You’ll have to take my word for it here though that this one was the best of the three. It’s a Belgian Wheat Ale with coriander and orange & lemon peel. I don’t feel like any of the three had a prominent taste but is was a great beer. Light, crisp and refreshing. Sit out in the sun this weekend and sip one of these beers.

Stone Brewing CompanyRuination IPA – This beer is a variation on their IPA. They just put in a bit more malt and a lot more hops. That is usually my time to get right on out of the joint. I don’t enjoy chewing on hops but this one didn’t seem as heavy handed. Maybe they added just the right amount of malt to even things out on my palate. Unlike the previous beer, you shouldn’t have any problems getting a hold of this beer from southern California.

Widmer Citra Summer Blonde

Widmer Brothers BrewingCitra Blonde Summer Brew – We’re staying on the West Coast but heading north to Portland OR. We’re also hanging around on the summer beat with this Blonde. They don’t clarify what citrus they use which doesn’t help to pick out the flavors but it’s pretty easy in a summer ale. They usually use orange or some variation, lemon or lime. I didn’t detect any hints like that. It was a crisp and refreshing beer though. It’s only one of two seasonal beers they produce. Again, it’s much easier to get ahold of this beer in other parts of the country, but it might be out of season. If you’re lucky, you might find it in the discount six pack area so they can bring in all of those pumpkin beers I’ll soon be reviewing. – Kevin

#SippyTimeBeer Review

Abita Brew Kettle Founders

Abita Brewing CompanySatsuma Harvest Wit – I learned what a satsuma is this weekend.  It’s the name for a tangerine since it was originally from the Satsuma province of Japan. The good folks from Abita Springs, LA got a hold of them for a very refreshing beer. I’m not one for summer shandies because I think they get heavy handed in the fruit department. This beer left just enough orange flavor on my palate. It was a nice change after drinking a rye beer, which I won’t review today. Abita makes good products so go out there and hunt this one down.

The Brew KettleLake BeErie – This beer is from Strongsville, OH which is west of my old stomping grounds at Kent. As far as I can tell, the distribution is just in Ohio and specifically for their Taproom and Brewhouse. This beer has confirmed something that I’ve been thinking since starting these reviews, I’m not a big pilsner fan. They’re just there. It’s hard to describe something that goes in and out almost as smoothly as water. I’m not the biggest fan of “cute” names especially when you look at the map and still see a solid 30-45 minute drive from Strongsville to Lake Erie. For a pilsner, I’d pick this one over the Victory Prima Pils though.

Founders Brewing CompanyPorter – It’s billed as dark, rich and sexy. I can agree on the first two parts. The last part might happen if you have enough of them at the bar and you strap on your beer goggles. This porter is dark and rich enough to drink like a stout. They say there’s chocolate and caramel (also called crystal) malt. I didn’t taste much of the chocolate but I did taste the toffee flavor which to me is more like a coffee flavor. Here’s TheFullPint review. They’re out of Grand Rapids, MI and have a find it search for their products in your area. There isn’t anything too fancy to this porter and that makes it just right to drink, hopefully in your area. -Kevin

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