A Trio of Very Different Holiday Beers

A cold I contracted towards the end of last month has severely slowed by holiday beer tasting – yes, I said “holiday” and not Christmas, not to be PC but for reasons that should shortly become obvious – so I’m doing my best to catch up before I take off on my annual winter sojourn to warmer climes. Here are three very different brews, representing three different countries and a couple of religions!

Deviator Doppelbock from Ontario, Canada’s Cameron’s Brewing Company is a rare foray into the style for brewers of this province, and so its arrival is quite welcome news. The nose of this deep brown beer is faintly cinnamony, sort of like overtoasted cinnamon toast, with rich toffee notes dominant. It hits the palate with a blast of licorice-edged sweetness, slowly segueing into a more malty, well-roasted body with less apparent sweetness and some burnt coffee-ish notes and a slightly bitter, moderately warming finish. Overall, I’d say that this is a good first attempt at a doppel, but overstates its case with a too-roasty body and a hoppiness that doesn’t quite allow the luxurious maltiness that should typify a doppelbock to fully express itself.]

From the United States, contract brewed in upstate New York, the He’brew Genesis 15:15 Barrel-Aged Harvest Barleywine Ale from Schmaltz Brewing is a 13.4% alcohol monster of a beer, and one that certainly needs some time to simmer down. Dark purple in colour, it’s brewed with pomegranate, fig, date and grape juice, and aged in used Sazarac Rye barrels. The nose is intense, with lots of spicy, oaky notes layered over top of the fruity background and a rather pronounced alcohol singeing the nostrils, while the no less assertive body is a tangled mix of fruity, roasty, bitter and alcoholic notes ending in a rather spirituous finish, all of which would almost certainly benefit from aging. Right now, however, this beer is a bruiser.

Finally, from Runcole Verdi di Busseto, Italy, we have Birrificio Del Ducato’s Winterlude, a bright gold, 8.8% alcohol brew with an aroma of tropical fruits – pineapple and mango, starfruit and a little gooseberry – along with a hint of almost minty herbaceousness. The flavour arrives with a mix of herbals and marmalade, developing quite quickly into a much more hop forward body with some candied sweetness, soft fruit notes and hints of brown spice lingering in the background. By the finish, it’s all moderately bitter, almost grassy (spring onions?) hop mixed with warming alcohol. Quite a curious beer, but a very good one.

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