Season Ale

Six winter-worthy brews that spread hops and joy but once a year

By John Chandler May 19, 2009 Published in the December 2007 issue of Portland Monthly

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Image: Jim Golden

DON’T GET US WRONG we’re all about glad tidings. But the mere thought of trolling for a parking spot at the Lloyd Center, or standing in post office lines that stretch out like spools of ribbon before us, is enough to put a damper on even the most jovial soul. To keep your holiday spirit intact, we recommend the following seasonal Northwest brews—listed from mildest to most potent, and all but one priced between $6 and $8 per handy six-pack. If nothing else, how better to stuff the stocking of the spirited imbiber on your list? Here’s to merrymaking all around.

By Widmer
On those tempestuous nights when you’re snowed—OK, rained—in and you’ve just fired up a fresh Presto log, this creamy, smoky stout with a chocolate finish makes for the perfect après-dinner brew. It’s also the newest seasonal on our list, having debuted in 2004.

By Bridgeport
If the label depicting the Dickens protagonist is any hint, this sweet and subtly spicy (think coriander with a touch of mint) winter warmer can melt the heart of the most avowed miser—or just quell bouts of Scrooge-like shopping malaise. And it’s been doing so since 1999.

By Deschutes
As the festive name implies, Deschutes’ Jubelale is an honored guest around the holidays—and has been for nearly 20 years. The initial jolt of hops from this English strong ale (a robust, dark-hued, malt-heavy beer) is ideal for the early stages of party euphoria, while its complex fruity and woody notes are worth savoring as the evening winds down.

By Pyramid
Another English strong ale—this time from Seattle—Pyramid’s classic 1986 winter brew packs a wallop. It’s the ideal way to cap off a day on the slopes, as the revivifying flavors of chocolate and caramel help you focus on the pleasures of the palate and forget about aching muscles and frozen feet.

By Golden Valley
Straight from Golden Valley Brewing—a small, family-owned craft brewery in McMinnville—this English strong ale stands apart from the pack with its deceptively smooth, slightly sweet, nutty taste that might just inspire a flurry of cookie-baking. Sip more than two, however, and you might find yourself under the Christmas tree.

By Hair of the Dog
As befits local Hair of the Dog’s reputation for knockout brews, the strongest beer on our list is an ale made in the style of ancient barley wine—with a hefty 11.5 percent alcohol—which improves with age. Buy a 12 oz. bottle (not sold in six-packs) to give to your hardiest drinking buddy—next year.

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