Thursday, December 9, 2010

Christmas Cheer on Tap in Oshkosh

During this time of wretched music and violent shopping, it’s good to set aside a few moments to appreciate the things that truly matter. Let’s start with Anderson Valley’s Winter Solstice Seasonal Ale and Three Floyds Alpha Klaus Christmas Porter. Yes! The rich and the bitter have arrived in Oshkosh to salvage the holiday season. ‘Tis the season to raise the dark cup and drink deep.

Anderson Valley’s Winter Solstice is pouring at Becket’s and Alpha Klaus is on tap at Oblio’s, setting them apart by just a few blocks geographically as well as spiritually. Both are medium bodied ales that deliver a load of flavor with a significant hop finish, but they each take a different path getting there.

Winter Solstice, at Becket’s, is the more traditional of these holiday brews. The aroma is close to Christmas cookies with ginger and nutmeg drifting up. The beer is semi-sweet and rich with a sticky, caramel malt flavor that builds as you drink it. And then comes a nice, smooth bitterness. At the very end all that rich, sweetish malt gets peeled away with a refreshing wash of bitter hops. It works as a great contrast to what came before it and makes the beer eminently drinkable. This is an excellent brew and at 6.9% it’s a fine match for the cold weather.

Meanwhile, over at Oblio’s, there’s Alpha Klaus - just the sort of beer you’d expect from Three Floyds. Lotsa hops and great brewing make them one of the most dependable breweries in America and their Christmas porter is everything it promises to be. The thing pours like liquified black chocolate and the aroma is enough to make you thankful for the smoking ban. Plenty of brown sugar and ground coffee in the nose of this beer and it’s all brought along on a clean breeze of piney, Christmas-tree smelling hops. I’m guessing there’s a fat dose of Challenger hops in this one because that evergreen flavor shoots all through it. The first few gulps bring a nice mix of caramel and roasted malts, but as you continue to drink those hops take over and the beer veers into IPA territory. This is a fun one and you’ll continue to taste it when you move on to your next as those hops keep working your palate. It’s the beer that keeps on giving. Who said Christmas is for kids?

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