Monday, December 10, 2012

12 Beers of Christmas: 2 Sam Adams White Christmas and 3 Anderson Valley Winter Solstice

Welcome back to Ben Likes Beer's 12 Days of Christmas! Let's continue with our friendly six-packs, the lovably chuggable brews of the season that you should be able to pick up just about anywhere with a decent beer selection. Pick up these guys for your Christmas Party with confidence as they should please just about anyone with a pulse.

Day 2: Samuel Adam's White Christmas 
White Ale 
Sam Adams Brewery, Boston, MA
5.8% ABV

What we have here is a seasonal beer done right. On paper - Sam Adam's calls attention to its "familiar citrus and wheat characters" - makes it sound like another run of the mill summer Hefe, but there's something more interesting at play here. 

It is indeed familiar (the sweet, medium bodied flavors of Sammy's lager are recognizable and welcome) , but its fun, too. There's a caramel warmth from the malts, and a whole hint of every flavor you'd identify in your favorite Christmas cookie - cinnamon, clove, nutmeg. There's a hint of citrus, sure, but it's content to remain behind its spicy buddies. It's sweet, in a sense, but not cloyingly so, meaning it's perfect to wash down your favorite baked goods with.

The front is crisp and the finish is smooth, and though it's not a tremendous departure, that turns out to be one of its greatest assets; it is a spirited beer that is easy to drive and derives its festivity from balanced flavors and not gimmicks. 

A word of caution - Be careful not to pick up the other Sam Adams seasonal brew, called Winter Lager, when hunting for White Christmas. Winter Lager is more likely to be plentiful on the store shelves, and there's a reason for that. While White Christmas may not be a huge departure from its Boston Lager base, Winter Lager offers hardly any difference at all. A bit spicier, maybe, but not as flavorful and not as "Christmasy" (though, to be fair, Winter is its seasonal release, not its holiday one). It's kinda boring, to be frank, so look carefully for White Christmas. If all else fails, it's part of their Seasonal Pack, featured among a few other less available Holiday offerings, though White Christmas should be the highlight for you. 

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Day 3: Anderson Valley's Winter Solstice 
Seasonal Ale
Anderson Valley Brewing, Boonville, CA
6.9% ABV

Those of you who have been following this blog for awhile (thanks Mom!), you know that Anderson Valley is one of my favorite breweries out there, with none of their offerings scoring below a "Solid" in my book. There's one general general kudos they invariably deserve - those guys can texture a beer, and Winter Solstice continues the tradition into the Holiday Season with much fanfare. 

Creamy, smooth and wonderful, Solstice has a wonderful mouthfeel that goes down with all the fuzzy goodness of liquid velvet. Anyone who enjoyed the Summer Solstice will find a lot to like here as well, as it shares many of the same sweet flavors. Like its Summer Solstice brother, the caramel goodness is in full force here, but the creamsicle vibe is traded in favor of the spices of the season, with ginger and cinnamon taking the forefront. There are hints of metallic flavors and the hops lend a touch of bitterness to balance the sweet, but you have to really look for them. 

Like White Christmas, Winter Solstice is a really well-rounded, crowd pleasing brew that is as delicious as it is simple, with the flavors of the season being used but not exploited. Creamy, sweet, and festive, Winter Solstice is yet another Christmas beer for the masses. 

This one should be widely available, in both cans and bottles.

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Wonderfully similar but distinctively different, both have a place at your festivities. Christmas beer countdown continues! 9 to go!

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