Winter Ale Tasting

I just realized as I was writing this that Rachel has the cable for my digital camera, so as soon as I can get that I’ll toss up some pictures from this event.


Last night was Salem Beer and Wines “Winter Ale Tasting”. Basically we were all supposed to get a six pack of our favorite winter ale and bring it for everyone to try. Despite the fact that there were 12 people we had only one repeat. Since I have avowed not to become another beer review blog I figured I’d just do a write up on the initial impressions others got. We started lowest alcohol first, rather then lightest flavor because we weren’t all familiar with the beers present. Also I think Dr Worts “tired palate” theory reared it’s head last night. People in the Northwest really are tired of the same pedestrian styles. Not to the extant the Dr asserts, but still.

Here’s the lineup we had (not in the order we drank them)

Monkey Face Porter, Pikes Place Auld Acquaintance, Blue Moon (not sure how it’s a winter ale still), Deschutes Jubelale, Alaska Winter, Samuel Smiths Winter Celebration, MacTarnahan’s Humbug’r, Fish Tale Winter Fish, Anderson Valley Winter Solstice, Buffalo Bills Pumpkin Ale, Overcast Espresso Stout, Delirium Noel, and I managed to sneak in some homebrew just to get some initial reactions from unbiased sources. While I understand this isn’t a list of impressive winter beers we stuck with what is available in bottles locally at this point.

Monkey Face

This beer was well received by most people there. The wine drinkers of the group smelt soy sauce and tasted burnt toast. Personally it tasted like a porter that needed more body to me.

Auld Acquaintance

This one also found me at odds with most of the group. While I wasn’t a fan I appreciated some of the flavors going on. Most of the group felt there wasn’t much flavor or aroma and gave it a thumbs down. We all agreed that with some more body behind it we would have gotten a better sense of the beer.

Blue Moon

I’m not sure how this one got in. Maybe it was the wintery picture on the label, who knows. Most of the group like blue moon since it’s a cheap drinkable beer. Even if I’m not a huge Blue Moon fan I have to say that when it came out it was the most well balanced beer of the group to that point, and I even enjoyed it.


The first, and one of only two beers, that had a noticeably strong hop flavor. Well received beer as it usually is in the northwest. The hops kinda woke everyone up from the tediousness of malty beer after malty beer.

Alaska Winter

I’m not a huge fan of Alaskas lineup of beers, but this one always finds it’s way into my fridge in the winter. It’s the only Alaska I drink. Not one person seemed to dislike this beer. Everyone loved the cherry notes and the people who had it for their first time all said that they would drink more of it.

Winter Celebration

I really wanted to like this beer. No matter how hard I tried though it went in the don’t buy again category. I think everyone else put it there too.


This is the one where “tired palate” showed up. The group seemed split on wether we liked it. The general concensus seemed to be that it was a fairly generic porter and nothing special.

Winter Fish

This beer was dumped by several people. It was a big piney mess and some people were reminded of the smell of cat urine when they had this. Personally I think it was a poor choice of hops. I got the piney scent and taste, as well as some earthyness, but there was some underlying quality from the hops that managed to kill it. They went for a big, piney, bitter, in your face beer and struck out. Alan I think enjoyed this one.

Winter Solstice

This beer generated the most conversation. Anderson Valley says it’s supposed to remind you of a warm fire, snowflakes, and the like. Most of us were reminded of Easter though because this beer tasted dead on like malt balls. If everyone hadn’t agreed I would have thought that my tongue was playing tricks on me. Moe did an awesome job choosing her sixpack to bring.

Pumpkin Ale

This beer was better then I remember it tasting. The last time I had this there was an overwhelming taste of bananas that killed the beer for me. This time though it tasted like pumpkin pie spices throughout. Well received by everyone, but most people felt they couldn’t drink alot of it.


This beer was well received by most of the group for the same reason it was well received on the beervana blog, it tastes like espresso through and through. I did find another person who was willing to join me in dissent. Thanks Brian for refusing the kool aid.


This was the highest alcohol and therefore the last beer opened. I think because it was saved till last it had gained almost a mythic feel when we opened it. The nose was wonderful, and people seemed to like it, but it fell short of our expectations.

The Homebrew Experiment

As I was packing up the beer I was bringing for the tasting I decided to sneak in a 4 pack of my heather and yarrow beer. After drinking so much of this stuff I’ve started to dislike it again. Also with mixed reviews from family and friends I had started to think that maybe this beer was a flop and I was just refusing to see that. Curious what some fresher palates would think I brought it along. It didn’t flop however and actually seemed to steal the show last night, and the 2 bottles that were unopened were quickly claimed when the night was over.


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