Wednesday, December 12, 2012

12 Beers of Christmas: 4 Snow Day and 5 Brown Shugga'

How're your pallets faring? Beered out yet? If you said no, thank you, and this is why we're friends. So, let us continue on this wintery adventure with two more six pack offerings, doofy Santa hats optional (though encouraged). Today we feature the Christmas Weirdos, like that uncle after drinking a bit too much of that scotch that you buy just for him (I don't actually have one of those, but I imagine it's a thing, right?) Tasty in their own right, they do something a bit different and unexpected than their chilly weather cousins.

Snow Day 
Winter Ale , 6.2% ABV
New Belgium Brewing
Fort Colins, CO

Snow Day is something of an odd brew, a seasonal beer with a bit of an identity crisis. From the outset , the color - deep, dark and nearly black - has you expecting a stout, but the body is lighter and the typical stout staples - like chocolate and coffee - aren't really present. The flavors arrive in layers - a hoppy opening is supplanted mid taste by the yeasty malts before you can label it anything close to resembling an IPA. A confusing beer, indeed.

It combines bits of pieces from a lot of different varieties and assumes its own identity. The flavors are mellow and mingle well; a bit of smoke and a lot of toasty flavors lend well to its classification of a seasonal beer - don a fez and grab a fireplace and this beer would suit you very well (if you're so inclined). Read A Christmas Carol aloud while you're at it for a festive kicker.

While White Christmas and Winter Solstice are crowd pleasers, Snow Day's slightly off-kilter flavors might not appeal to everyone. The psuedo-stout might appeal to fans of  your Guinness of New Castles (I personally liked the pint I had, but couldn't imagine chugging through a six pack), but beer newbies would probably find the mixed bag of flavors a bit too bizarre to really get into.

Kitschy scarf not required for enjoyment, though it hardly hurts ya know? Image from 

Brown Shugga' 
American Strong Ale , 9.9% ABV
Lagunitas Brewing
Petaluma, CA

Another enigma in a bottle, Brown Shugga' takes everything you expect it to be and defies you in one festive swoop, like some sort of tricky elf, if that exists in the Christmas mythos. With something that contains, according to Lagunitas themselves, "boatloads of brown sugar," you'd expect desert in glass, right? Not so much. But that's ok, actually, because it's something that's still pretty tasty. As it were, the brew itself was borne of a mistake - the brewery botched up another of their seasonals, and in hopes of resurrecting it, added all of that brown sugar. The result was something entirely new and as such has entered their annual offerings.

The brown sugar is certainly there - the flavor, that is, but not really the sweetness. In fact, the bitterness from the hops balanced with a bit of sourness is what really prevails here. It's surprisingly dry - the brown sugar notes flicker quickly at the beginning before hiding behind the hop flavors. It's tongue-tingling, and it activates your entire tongue (if you're into that).

It's called Strong Ale for a reason - at 9.9% abv its no slouch in the alcohol content, and its from this that it garners its "warmth." Still, as Lagunitas says, "Life is short, don't sip," and Shugga' went down surprisingly fast given its heft.

I personally enjoyed this beer but I anticipate many people would walk away from it after a sip or two. I won't say it's misnamed, but if you come in expecting some sort of sugary brown ale, you're in for a (tricky) surprise.

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