December 2007/January 2008

Winter Seasonals

It's wintertime. It gets dark so darn early and the cold is ever present. I don't know about y'all
but I get CRABBY in the winter. But with the bad comes the good, and there are nice things
that come along in winter. Some of them include craft-brewed holiday offerings. One usually
expects darker, spicier beers, but this time around our tasters were treated to 17 varieties of beer;
each one different and with its own sense of style. Summer seasonals are usually pretty varied;
I guess it's only fair for winter seasonals to change it up as well.

It was also a change for us as we ventured into the outskirts of South Buffalo. Hop Jack was
glad we finally made a trip out to where he lives. The pub was certainly a gem and thanks
to the good folks there for hosting us.

The Place:
Gene McCarthy's Irish Pub. 73 Hamburg St, Buffalo

The Tasters:
The Core Four - Tried and True! (Vinny, Big Evil, Hop Jack and The Magistrate); Rounding us
out were Gerhardt - pub owner/winter beer lover; Lenny - dark beer lover & self proclaimed
novice; and M.D.I. Guy - an award-winning home-brewer and hop-head.

The Method:
Tasters are served each beer without knowing what the beer is. They are told
what style the brewery is emulating, if there is a style

The Beers:

Southern Tier Raspberry Porter
2051A Stoneman Circle, Lakewood, New York 14750

Avg Rating: 5.36

There was a big raspberry flavor in this beer, but not so much porter. The Magistrate noted lots of raspberry in the nose and it's “unique”, and Hop Jack felt the raspberry was “overpowering.” Lenny thought it was easy to drink, but MDI Guy said it wasn't really what he was looking for.

Otter Creek Winter Ale (Raspberry Brown)
793 Exchange Street, Middlebury, Vermont 05753

Avg Rating: 5.64

Evil had the perfect description for this beer - “Newcastle with raspberry in it.” This beer balanced the raspberry better than the first, but Vinny smelled a “murky, funky nose that tainted the flavor for me.” MDI Guy said it had a lighter body than we was expecting and that it ended on a sweeter note. Lenny said he'd “drink a bottle or too.”

New Holland Cabin Fever (Brown Ale)
66 East 8th Street, Holland, Michigan 49423

Avg Rating: 5.77

Gerhardt sensed a “mild, oaky flavor” in this brown ale. There was some creamy chocolate flavors and light berry, but Vinny thought it lacked finesse. Evil and Lenny both noted it went flat in the glass. Hop Jack felt it had no faults, but was nothing great. The Magistrate said it well - “A nice brown, but not a big brown.”

Magic Hat Roxy Rollers (Amber Ale)
5 Bartlett Bay Road, South Burlington, Vermont 05403

Avg Rating: 6.14

Magic Hat calls this one a “hoppy amber” and they don't lie. Gerhardt called it a “hop blast in the nose,” which Evil described as “freakishly pungent.” MDI Guy noted it was a “bright, sweet hop with light malt.” That was fine with him - “Give me the hops!” Hop Jack and The Magistrate both felt the hops were way out of balance. “Where is the malt?” Hop Jack. Lenny said “too hoppy, not happening.”

Magic Hat Winter 07
5 Bartlett Bay Road, South Burlington, Vermont 05403

Avg Rating: 5.98

The group got some berry in the nose and some maple and malt in the body. MDI Guy commented it was pretty well balanced, but Hop Jack and Vinny noted some oxidation.
Evil wasn't loving this one. He called it a “cloudy concoction of the four ingredients [needed] to make beer.” Gerhardt picked up on some cherry in the flavor. Lenny didn't think he'd buy it.

Point St. Benedict's (Dunkelweizen)
2617 Water Street, Stevens Point, Wisconsin 54481

Avg Rating: 5.81

Lenny said this one was “my favorite so far. I like my mouth right now!” The taste was very unique and MDI Guy noted, “here were lots of tastes, from pine to tobacco - I liked it.” Evil said it would be a “good beer to cook with.” Vinny and Gerhardt commented that they couldn't stop drinking it and the more they did, the more they liked it. The Magistrate compared it to a dunkleweizen, but Hop Jack couldn't figure it out. “I thought it was… weird! Sour Belgian Bubble Gum.”

Long Trail Hibernator
Rte 4 & 100A, Bridgewaters Corne, Vermont 05035

Avg Rating: 5.3

After this one, Gerhardt declared, “I guess I'm a winter ale guy - I like these!” Evil thought if Ocean Spray made a beer” it would taste like this one. Apple-cranberry rested in the middle of this beer, and both Vinny and the Magistrate thought it tasted “soft.” MDI Guy felt the finish was “tart, tannic - I feel like I want to bite a steak!” Lenny enjoyed its “simple taste. Not too complex,” he thought, but in a good way.

August Schell Snow Storm
1860 Schell Road, New Ulm, Minnesota 56073

Avg Rating: 5.38

This had some sweetness and coffee in the nose. Vinny described the body as “fruit jelly,” which MDI Guy called “unfortunately light.” Lenny didn't like the taste, which the Magistrate and Vinny referred to as “cloying” and was definitely a little sweet. Evil called it “light malty apple brew-ha-ha.”

Southern Tier Old Man Winter
2051A Stoneman Circle, Lakewood, New York 14750

Avg Rating: 6.71

Evil - “Alcohol + Hops + Winter = the Holidaze!” The Magistrate gave this one his highest score so far. He said he'd have more than one.
Gerhardt doesn't much care for hops, but admitted that “if you like hops, it's for you.” Hop Jack thought the hops and malt seemed to be “fighting
in the middle” but Vinny thought a “net contrast was achieved.” Even Lenny thought it was better than the other hoppy beers - “it left a good
taste in my mouth.”

Mad River Scotch Porter
195 Taylor Way, Blue Lake, California 95525

Avg Rating: 6.95

The group liked this one. “Very nice,” (ALERT: Cheesy joke ahead!!) “Beam me up, Scotty!” - Vinny. MDI thought this one “tastes like a
nice, big, full beer.” Gerhardt called it “a strong porter for those who
can handle it,” and Lenny admitted his preference for dark beers. The
taste lacked some of the peat flavor The Magistrate was looking for to
give it that scotch quality. Evil summed it up: “It's a good dark beer,
you should drink it.”

Wolaver's Oatmeal Stout
793 Exchange Street, Middlebury, Vermont 05753

Avg Rating: 7.06

This beer was referred to as by our tasters as a “foreign stout,” or a “micro-stout.”
It's brewed bigger than a normal stout, with some bigger flavors. Hop Jack felt it was a good example of one. Vinny enjoyed the smokiness flavors, but Gerhardt “struggled with it.” At this point he learned he is not a fan of roasted barley flavor, which this has in spades. MDI Guy detected a metallic flavor he “could have done without.” Lenny liked it “quite a bit.”

Mad River Extra Stout
195 Taylor Way, Blue Lake, California 95525

Avg Rating: 7.57

MDI Guy liked this one. He noted it was “light, not bitter with a great coffee color and a beautiful brown head.” The Magistrate felt it was a “nice beer” and Hop Jack described its rich, opaque appearance. Evil said it was so dark you'd need a flashlight to see through it. Vinny started hallucinating, but still tasted “Senior Juan Valdez and Sugar Plum Fairies dancing in the body.” Gerhardt called it a “thick, dark, creamy beer.”

New Holland Dragon's Milk
66 East 8th Street, Holland, Michigan 49423

Avg Rating: 7.54

This beer had big maple and woody flavors. Heavy alcohol - Evil wanted
a beer chaser. Vinny asked, “Where's my pancakes?” and commented
this was an “after-drunk drink.” Hop Jack and the Magistrate felt it
needed more balance; Hop Jack would have liked more hops, and the Magistrate couldn't really taste the stout through the wood. Gerhardt
said “this stout distinguishes itself,” but Lenny found it be “syrupy”
and “a little too sweet.”

Mendocino Imperial IPA
1601 Airport Road, Ukiah, California
(707) 463-2087,

Avg Rating: 8.14

“Hello Hops!” - Vinny. This double was one “mean IPA” thought Gerhardt, and Lenny said he would have liked to start out with this. After a long tasting, it was just too much. The Magistrate said he loved it (“Thank Ya Jesus!”), but Hop Jack would have liked more balance. Hoppy, with a nice “fruit backbone” as Vinny described it, Evil said, “it flared my nostrils into a handlebar mustache.” MDI Guy would love a case of this left under the tree - but he's Jewish.

New Holland Pilgrim's Dole (Wheat Wine)
66 East 8th Street, Holland, Michigan 49423

Avg Rating: 7.03

MDI Guy called this one a “sweet as hell Belgian.” It was rather sweet, with some raisin, maple and oak flavors. Gerhardt called it a “cornucopia of tastes” that reminded him of a port wine. Evil thought it was a “syrupy, bourbon casked, oak-aged destroyer of brain cells,” that he liked very much. Hop Jack felt it was extremely un-attenuated and lacking in hops, and Lenny said a polite “No thank you.” We think Vinny liked it, but it made him run off to hide in the woods.

Mad River John Barleycorn 2007 (Barley Wine)
195 Taylor Way, Blue Lake, California 95525

Avg Rating: 6.3

While this beer was heavy on alcohol, it was light on barley wine qualities, according to the Magistrate. Vinny and MDI Guy got some nail polish/airplane glue smells in the nose, and Gerhardt thought the heavy alcohol swept all other flavors away. Lenny felt this beer was out of his league; he didn't care for it. Hop Jack thought this seemed very young. He'd like to give it a try again next year.

Grand Teton Black Cauldron (Imperial Stout)
430 Old Jackson Hwy. Victor, Idaho 83455

Avg Rating: 8.38

This beer had a “nice, smooth dark malt nose” - the Magistrate - with malt, hops, chocolate and coffee flavors all in a very nice balance. All the tasters agreed it was rich and smooth - drinkable yet powerful. It got Hop Jack's highest score of the night. Evil asked, “Brown sugar, how come you dance so good??” MDI Guy would like it for a “breakfast coffee substitute.” I told him, “Maybe on a Sunday.”



--- by Kelly Kroese, Beer Beacon columnist

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