“Sumptuously smooth” 44th annual Xmas Ale may lack capacious distinction of some previous versions, but rounded chameleonic subtleties (though pallid in spots) never fail to engage. Over its peaty chocolate malting, wintry cinnamon-nutmeg-allspice seasoning sedately serenades delicate orange peel sweetness, restrained prune souring, tart raisin stint, wispy banana breading, salted pine nut pinch and mentholated eucalyptus whim.
Silken smooth ’20 vintage winter warmer plugs lightly creamed dark-roast chocolate malting into dried cocoa, bitter coffee and tarry molasses apprehension. Mocha-backed walnut, cola and hazelnut sedation as well as coniferous holiday-spiced fern, pine nut and spruce tip illusions recede.
Pallidly seasonally spiced winter ale lacks resilience and allows phenol hop astringency to decay orange-peeled cinnamon and nutmeg spicing and sweet vanilla creaming.
Nearly sublime winter warmer (circa 2018) stays closer to original dark ale version from a few years back. Resilient caramel-malted chocolate roast, wintry cinnamon-nutmeg-ginger spicing gain and ebullient dried fruiting gain nutty coffee bean reminder.
Wintry Christmastime dark ale (circa 2018) places coarsely embittered hop astringency very close to dry-spiced chocolate roast in unspecific blend. Obviously staying less sweet than previous versions, its ashen nuttiness overwhelms seasonal cinnamon, nutmeg and pine nut illusions.
Knocking off a ginger snap cookie to good effect, dry-spiced winter warmer allows molasses-sugared cinnamon, clove and allspice seasoning to rise above its honeyed biscuit pale malt base. Minty fern influence and herbal lemon snip appear at underwhelming phenolic finish.
On tap at Ambulance, audacious red wine-barreled oats-fortified winter warmer not clearly defined. Tannic red wine esters barely register as mildly acidic wild yeast saddles its sweet ‘n sour fruiting. Inconspicuous “cantaloupe rind, pear and mango” illusions warble by candied lemon tartness and gin-teased grapefruit juicing. Musky corn-liquored pilsner malt spine seems outta place.
On tap at Curley’s, complex and well-balanced wintry witbier lets sweet orange-peeled coriander adjunct, zesty lemon spritz and gentle vanilla sway gain lightly lingered white-peppered sea salting above wheat-flaked pilsner malting. Candi-sugared Belgian yeast obtains herbal fungi notion at floral-perfumed citrus finish.
On tap at Growler & Gill, casually winterized Imperial Extra Special Bitter lacks definitive stylistic profile. In a wayward manner, nutty caramel malts, mossy fungi dewiness and moderate earthen hop bittering gain latent honey-spiced dark fruiting. Bittersweet fig, sugarplum and date pleasantries waver.
On tap at Biggie’s, velvety mocha-bound 43rd annual winter ale features cacao nibs, toffee, roasted nuts and herbal spicing. At the entry, creamy dark chocolate malts pick up casual dried-fruited baking spices to offset moderate hop-charred tarring. Recessive cocoa, coffee, roasted tobacco and berry illusions flutter below.
Pleasingly underwhelming winter-spiced moderation tingles tongue with brown-sugared malt sweetness. Vague cinnamon-nutmeg-gingerbread-cardamom illusions receive mild hop astringency by inconclusive finish of fair holiday celebrator.
Wondrous wintry moderation (in a can) retains pleasant caramelized nuttiness above barley-flaked chocolate piquancy and earthen Glacier hop bittering. Almondine, hazelnut, almond, pecan and chestnut illusions get caressed by citric-candied tartness and mulled cherry wine souring in the backdrop of proudly ‘unspiced’ winter warmer.