It’s Halloween! I hope all of you are out enjoying a well-deserved dose of weirdness for the night, whether you’re dressed as a ghoul, historical figure or slutty pumpkin.
But I don’t want to focus on the day’s festivities, (or – on a side note – this excellent video from Odell that’s worth checking out). I want to instead give credit to the recent World Series winners: The mighty Boston Red Sox. They might not have been one of my top five picks to win it, but you’ve got to have respect for what their win represents for the town of Boston and, more importantly, for excellent beards all over the world.
While there are several excellent breweries in the northeast, I had to pick up a batch from their flagship brewery: Samuel Adams. Okay, I know the mega-craft brewer sometimes gets a bad rap, and many think they’re just a notch below the stuff from Coors and Budweiser. But I think they have some pluses:Their bigness gives them room to try dozens of different beer styles; they can distribute those styles all across the country; AND some of them are pretty good.
It’s still possible to grab a “sampler” pack for their fall offerings, but I opted to sample their winter batch while it was at its freshest. The five new beers I tried – plus their signature Boston Lager – all claim to be good until at least March, which means they should be in peak form. And fortunately I found them all at least worth a try, with the exception of one (see below).
I’ve decided to rank them from my favorite to least favorite below, with a handful of notes to go with them:
Samuel Adams Old Fezziwig Ale: 3.75
I don’t usually like “winter warmer” beers, but this one snuck up on me. It’s black, lumpy-headed appearance gave off some good whiffs of roasty chocolate malt, sweet cranberries and ginger. But the taste is what got me more and more as it warmed: roasty, spicy and warm despite its sessionable 5.9% ABV. It’s kind of like drinking the comfort of sitting by the fire with your family during the holidays, and I like it.
Samuel Adams Juniper IPA: 3.75
This more English-style IPA was the only IPA included in the batch, but I think it was fitting, unique and festive addition. This 5.8% ABV, mandarin amber beer kept a fluffy egg-white head for longer than I expected. Its smell of juniper berries and piney hop oils was a bit stronger than the similar flavors that followed. But it was a full, fresh-tasting beer that would be fit to store under a Christmas tree.
Samuel Adams Winter Lager: 3.5
This beer had plenty of good flavors (and reviews) to make it worth a try. I might even get it again if I see it on tap. But it wasn’t anything fancy. It had a bready malt smell with some cinnamon and a nutty, musty malt flavor to back it up. Think a Boston Lager with stronger, darker malt notes. The best part of this beer is the way it looks: Crystal clear ruby with a steady stream of carbonation, which makes it very enticing.
Samuel Adams White Christmas: 3.5
By far the lightest beer in color and taste in the bunch. The faint scents of wheat, nutmeg and cinnamon come through in the taste of this hazy golden witbier. But only faintly. It has a light body, light taste and light finish that begs for an orange slice. Take from that what you want. At least it’s refreshing.
Samuel Adams Chocolate Cherry Bock: 3.25
Don’t let the name of this beer fool you. It’s a trap. This bock may look great (totally black with a tan, long-lasting head), but the smell should be a dead giveaway: Cherry Icees and dusty chocolate covered cherries all the way. It stings it’s so sweet. Unfortunately, that comes through on the taste as well. It’s sickly, candy sweet, which smacks you with some cherry candy first, then milk chocolate and finishes with roast and some kind of cherry liqueur. This brew has some great reviews online, so I’m sure its layered, “complex” taste impresses some people. But not me. I felt like I ate my whole bag of Halloween candy at once.