It's only the first week of winter, but dozens of bold new winter seasonal beers are already on the shelves around town. These special beers are designed to comfort a beer lover on a chilly winter evening. They dance on the tongue, fill the belly, and warm the soul.
Many of the traditional winter warmers are malty, high-strength ales with a sweet and/or roasty character. Old ales, strong ales, and barley wines fit right in. Some new holiday beers boast Christmas-inspired herbs, fruits, and spices. Almost all of them are rich and delicious.
This Twelve Beers of Christmas series is modeled on the traditional Twelve Days of Christmas, the festive days beginning on Dec. 25 and ending the day before Epiphany on Jan. 6. It reviews a variety of new winter warmers and Christmas holiday-styled ales or lagers in the Charleston market.
The Boston Beer Company has been brewing winter seasonals for more than 20 years. Last month, the Samuel Adams Winter Classics 12-pack sampler arrived in local beer shops and grocery stores at a very reasonable price of $12-$15.
The box includes two bottles each of the standard Boston Lager alongside five seasonals — the Holiday Porter, the Black and Brew Coffee Stout, the Chocolate Bock, the Winter Lager, and the Old Fezziwig Ale. It's a flavorful variety of dark and light ales and lagers.
Available from November through January, the medium-bodied Samuel Adams Winter Lager (5.6 percent a.b.v.) has been an annual treat since 1989. Brewed with orange zest, fresh ginger, and Indonesian and Vietnamese cinnamon, it's spicy but well balanced. Based on traditional German styles of bock and Munich dunkel, it's an amber/copper-colored lager with a solid malt foundation and light hop accents in the flavor and aroma. At first, the ginger and cinnamon aromas stand out, but the complex blend of pale, caramel, and dark malts follows through with just a hint of hop bitterness in the finish. Zesty, robust, and very drinkable, it goes well with heavy holiday fare, spicy sauces, and roasted beef dishes.