- Mike Riedel
During the holidays, an ocean of ales and lagers playing on unique seasonal culinary themes and flavors flood the beer-nerd universe. This week, I had the pleasure of seeking out some of the best holiday offerings from local breweries, and found three very different examples of Yule for your glass.
Hoppers The First SnoAle: This high-point offering pours a deep burnt orange color, with a luxurious amount of fluffy off-white foam that settles at the top—it looks outstanding. An earthy and fruity nose welcome you as you start from the top; pear, peach, bread and some herbal hops are most noticeable. The fruits aren't candy-like, and complement the bready aromas. Semi-sweet cake and malt start us off upon first swig; peppery yeast and some banana notes in the back become more assertive, and intertwine with the fruitcake backbone of the beer. For all of the toothsome things happening here, it has only mild sweetness. The end is a little more rounded, as hop bitterness dries out the finish.
Overall: This is one of my favorite offerings from Hoppers. The use of their French Ale strain produces a complex ale that hides the beer's warming 8.1 percent ABV very well. The First SnoAle is in limited supply, and can only be found at Hoppers brew pub in Midvale.
Red Rock Holiday Ale: This ale has a pleasant copper color that's as deep as it is clear. As you would hope, this holiday ale is rich with cinnamon, clove and ginger aromas—definitely a winter beer. Cinnamon pops right out of the gate as I take my first swig. The beer's toffee-like malts move in to put out that spice fire with the help of citrus peel and ginger. Though this is a spice-heavy ale, the selection of seasonings keeps its pricklier aspects at bay. The end is a combo of spicy hops and clove that wraps this present up in a nice bow.
Overall: Given the variety of flavors present in this beer, it drinks fairly light. It's one of those holiday beers that beer nerds and non-beer nerds alike can groove on. Its 4 percent ABV is gives you the gift of a level head, while the flavor pleases your tongue. This seasonal concoction is only available at Red Rock locations and Harmons grocery stores.
Roosters Holiday Rosemary Porter: The color is dark ebony, with a head that resembles sandstone. Rosemary is front and center on the nose, and you have to dig a bit to get the more roasted components of the malt, but once you find them, light cocoa and coffee notes shine. The flavor is a different story, as roasted malts and cocoa start off the show. Some caramel from the beer's base also pops up, adding balance. At mid-point, the rosemary becomes more prominent, taking over along with a dose of herbal bitterness that perfectly complements the hop character of this beer.
Rating: I was surprised at how well the rosemary interacted with the porter's more roasted components. It imparts a woody, tobacco-like quality that is broad and lingering. It's definitely one of the more out-of-the-box holiday brews that you'll find locally. This 4 percent beer is available at Roosters location and various grocery stores along the Wasatch Front.
All of these and other holiday beers are around through the end of the year. Take full advantage of them while they're here. As always, cheers!