So for this Christmas eve, I offer you shorty reviews of three nice beers I've recently tried. All recommended as appropriate partners for your roast beast on Christmas day.
MacTarnahan's Goose Bump
"Wow. That's a little over the top for me."
Sally got to her half of our 22-ounce Goose Bump before I did, and when she offered her first reaction, I considered it a very good sign. When was the last time you heard someone describe a Mac's as "over the top?"
Goose Bump is an imperal stout saturated with a mighty infusion of coffee. When I saw brewer Vasilios Gletsos at the Holiday Ale Fest, he mentioned that it had been made with cold-brewed Stumptown coffee. The idea there is to extract the purer, tastier essences of the coffee been, leaving behind some of the harsher, more bitter compounds. Still, use enough coffee, and you get a mouthful of java, and that's apparently what Mac's did. This is absolutely not a beer for those who don't like coffee. Even for those who do, it's pretty aggressive. The most impressive element of this beer is its mousse-like structure, an amazing creaminess in the mouth. The beer employs oats to this end, but I wonder if the coffee didn't add something, too. A beer that won't be for everyone, which is a great credit to the brewery. For those who do like it, they'll really like it. I'll go a B+ on the ratings scale, partly just because the coffee flavor is so intense it will eliminate a fair number of drinkers from the picture. (Bonus: video of Vasilios talking about Goose Bump.)
Hopworks Kronan the Barbarian and Abominable Winter Ale
I finally made it down to Hopworks for a pour of Kronan the Barbarian, a Baltic Porter. This no-longer-so-obscure style is one of my faves, and I hadn't had a chance to try Kronan at the Holiday Ale Fest. It's a pretty nice version, too. A burly beer with lots roastiness and all the flavor you want out of a Baltic. If I were to ding the beer, it would be on the grounds that it's pretty ale-y. The Baltics I've tried distinguish themselves from porters and stouts by a smooth lager character. Some are so bitter they tend toward sourness, and there's little in the way of ale fruitiness to rescue the beer from this tendency. In a blind tasting, I'm not sure I would have identified this as a Baltic. A very tasty beer on its own merits, however, leaving aside style considerations. Also a B+.
The Abominable, though, was the real winner. Put it squarely in the Fa La La La La camp of exquisite extreme hopping. From the first whiff (evident at 12 inches) to the first sip, this thing is all hops. I scoured the intertubes, but found no mention of the varieties of hops used (Hopworks is in danger of joining Roots for most out-of-date website)--a pity, because I'd like to know how they achieved the almost lemon-intense citrus tang. For a beer of this heft, the hops are remarkably clean and articulated. Not for nothing, but it's also a damn pretty beer, too. Maybe the best beer I've ever had from Hopworks. I'll go an A- here, though that's a little Grinchly of me. If it's this good next year, Abominable will earn top marks.