Friday, December 12, 2008

'Tis The Season

Just in time for the holidays, the Beer Ratings Page has been updated. Fourteen new beers have been added, bringing the total to three-hundred and fifty-two judged so far.

I've also added a new category to each beer by using my best judgment on the seasonality. Some beers are made to be quaffed anytime. Others are a better fit for certain times of the year. Some of these calls are easy to make as the beer is obviously a seasonal selection like Summit Winter. Others are more debatable. While I prefer to drink porters in the colder months, there is no reason that you can't have one in July. On the other hand, cracking open a Corona in January in Minnesota is just plain wrong.

Before I get gloating e-mails from folks in California, Arizona, or Hawaii saying that they drink wheat beer year round 'cause it's always warm there, let me point out that this beer seasonality is based on the weather here in the Northern climes. And if you're on vacation in a warm weather locale, you go with the flow and drink what the weather there dictates.

I also took a few liberties by relating certain styles of beer with a particular season. For example, bock beers are not all brewed for the Spring. However, when I think of drinking bock I think Spring and hence the link.

My favorite newly rated beers of this batch were Bitch's Creek ESB from the Grand Teton Brewing Co. and Lost Arrow Porter from the Rush River Brewing Co.. Back in the glory days of Sherlock's Home, my favorite beer was a hand-pulled pint of Bishop's Bitter. Since it closed, I have yet to be able to find another brewpub bitter of its caliber and finding a top-notch bitter in a bottle can also be difficult. Summit, Sierra Nevada, and Full Sail produce good ESBs and you can now add Grand Teton to that mix. In fact, I might even give Bitch's Creek the nod for best bottled bitter that I have yet come across.

Like Surly, Rush River is a relative newcomer on the local brewing scene who seems to brew consistently excellent beers. Their Unforgiven Amber Ale is one of the best new beers that I've had in recent years and their Bubblejack IPA does that hoppy beer variety proud. Lost Arrow Porter is a rich, smooth, and hearty beer that is perfect this time of the year for curling up in front of a fire and keeping the cold at bay.

Speaking of that, Leinenkugel's Fireside Nut Brown is a nice addition to the Winter beer category. It too is very smooth and has a creamy (as in cream soda) flavor that I really enjoyed. I should also mention Surly's Fest as another new beer of note. I'm not a big fan of the Oktoberfest style of beers and ever since Summit stopped brewing their Düsseldorfer Alt, the beers of Fall haven't done much to excite me. Fest is definitely the best Fall varietal to come around in years.

Last but not least, I must acknowledge New Holland Brewing Company's Full Circle kolsch beer. Kolsch is one of my favorite styles of beer (especially in the Summer), but one that very few brewers attempt. Other than Lake Superior Brewing Co. in Duluth with their Kayak Kolsch and a handful of others there just aren't many kolsch beers around. Full Circle is a tasty and refreshing beer that is best enjoyed on a warm Summer's day (at least in my opinion).

Sigh. Only six more months of winter, right? Good thing we've got the beers to get us by.