Ranking the Winter 2013 Beers (Updated 12/28)

It has snowed at least once in Syracuse, so as far as I’m concerned we can talk about winter beers. As I did in the fall, I will drink as many of the winter and Christmas beers as possible as a service to you, the reader. As long as I can get my grubby hands on them, they will be consumed.

It’s a tough job, but someone must take it on head first.

  1. Anchor Christmas Ale: Perfect. Great body, not too fruity, not too malty, not too hoppy, not too…the only thing it is too much of is good. Worth every dollar.
  2. Southern Tier 2XMAS Ale: Right off the bat, the orange peel and fig provide a happy holiday greeting. A great beer with a nice spice and medium body. (8.0% ABV)
  3. Founders Breakfast Stout: Like liquid cement. A big heavy stout with a lot of awesome oat and coffee flavors. So good, but you can only have one before being crippled. It’s brewed October to March, so I am counting it as a winter varietal. (8.3% ABV)
  4. 21st Amendment Fireside Chat ale: An exceptional winter beer. There’s a lot of spice, but it’s subtle. Full-bodied and smooth, not unlike myself. (7.9% ABV)
  5. Boulder Beer Never Summer Ale: A big, bold red ale that balances its hops with a clean finish. I really liked this offering and may go back for more. (6.5% ABV)
  6. Shiner Holiday Cheer: Not sure what I was expecting, but the peachy finish was a nice surprise. A malty, dark beer with pecan notes and balanced flavor. Call me biased towards Shiner beers, but I like this a lot. (5.4% ABV)
  7. Great Lakes Brewing Company Blackout Stout: An exceptional imperial stout with a big coffee flavor. Toasty, high ABV and full-bodied, it’s the type of beer that warms you up without weighing you down greatly. (9.0% ABV)
  8. Great Lakes Brewing Company Christmas Ale: Warming, like a blanket. Instead of fleece, the honey and ginger is backed by a high alcohol content and a toasty malt flavor. Typically I would run children over in cold blood if they got in between me and the GLBC Christmas. Not this year. It is good, but the 2011 and 2012 editions were much better. (7.5% ABV)
  9. Leinenkugel Snowdrift Vanilla Porter: I’m probably underrating this beer. I’ve had it the past couple of years and it just gets better each time out. On draught, it has a great coffee/vanilla flavor with a lighter body than you would expect from a porter. (6.0% ABV)
  10. Brooklyn Brewery Black Chocolate Stout: A solid effort for 2013. I didn’t think much of last year’s effort, but it rebounded. A very smooth high octane imperial stout with a chocolatey, almost toasty flavor. (10.0% ABV)
  11. Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale: So much better than 2012. Strong hop flavor but otherwise smooth and full bodied. (6.8% ABV)
  12. Harpoon Winter Warmer ale: It’s like drinking beer made with all of the spices in our baking cabinet. Nutmeg and cinnamon are prominent. A heavy beer that is enjoyable but in small doses. (5.9% ABV)
  13. Brooklyn Brewery Winter Ale: Brooklyn’s ale takes a different approach. They make a Scottish ale without a lot of spice. Very malty and toasty, they let the grains do the heavy lifting. (6.1% ABV)
  14. Samuel Adams Winter Lager: Smooth, but not a lot of flavor. It went down very easy…too easy, actually. (5.6% ABV)
  15. Ommegang Adoration: As The Sister said upon tasting it, “There’s a lot of flavors going on here.” Nothing seemed to complement one another. Mace, cardamom, coriander…everything felt like it was fighting for attention. I wished I did like this one. (10% ABV)
  16. Southern Tier Old Man Winter Ale: Hoppy, spicy, but not too much of either. It was like a heavy pale ale. (7.0% ABV)
  17. Laguintas Brown Shugga Ale: Really hoppy, but not that bad. It was interesting, because there was an understated sweetness that rang through the hops. (9.99% ABV)
  18. Rogue Yellow Snow IPA: Spicy, hoppy. I didn’t really enjoy it. Just a really big bitter IPA.
  19. Blue Moon Mountain Abbey Ale: This used to be my favorite winter beer. They tinkered sooooooo much with the recipe that it’s a disappointment. (5.6% ABV)
  20. Samuel Adams White Christmas: It was like a spicier Blue Moon. No imagination. No body. Bo-ring. (5.8% ABV)
  21. Ithaca Brewing Company Cold Front: I’m always disappointed with IBC beers. I want to like them…I really do. This tastes about as bad as the Victory offering one slot below. It’s supposed to be a strong Belgian dark, but ends up tasting like a spicy, malty mess. (7.2% ABV)
  22. Victory Brewing Company Winter Cheers: Strong spicy flavor. A lot of hops in this winter wheat ale, but not a lot of bitterness. I just didn’t enjoy it. (6.7% ABV)
  23. Troegs Mad Elf Ale: I’ve enjoyed this in the past on draught and in the bottle. For some reason, this year’s version did not agree with me. The Sister liked it but I was so disappointed. (11.0% ABV)

The next time I go shopping, I’ll pick up: Full Sail Wassail, Breckenridge Christmas Ale, Abita Christmas Ale

Fondly missing: Pete’s Wicked Winter Ale

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