As someone who appreciates sampling craft beers, one of my favorite aspects of the trade is the traditional brewing of seasonal specialties. Pairing limited edition brews with the tastes of each season is one of the simple pleasures I look forward to with each time of year. It just so happens that my favorite season, winter, also pairs with some of my favorite types of beer. While we still have a few weeks until the winter solstice, beer’s winter season is in full swing. We started things off with Goose Island’s Winter Sampler Pack, and here’s a quick overview of what we thought:
Winter Ale, 5.3% ABV, 25 IBU
Typical of the Winter Ale style, this beer manages to have a rich flavor without being too overpowering. While chilled, this beer starts off sweet, with a light brown sugar/caramel taste that opens up to a nutty dark-chocolate finish. The malt becoming much more apparent as the beer warmed, but not so much that it drowned out other flavors. Given how strong-flavored many Winter Ales can be, Goose Island’s Winter Ale is an accessible entry into the genre, but it didn’t have enough character to be memorable.
Pale Ale, 6.2% ABV, 50 IBU
Ten Hills seems an uncharacteristic choice to join the rest of the Goose Island sampler. Citrus and herbs isn’t exactly the first taste to come to mind when thinking of winter. It serves well to balance out the sampler however, and it’s a pretty tasty beer at that. Ten Hills is an easy drinking pale ale with crisp citrus notes, more acidic than sweet, and a sharp hoppy finish. The right kind of beer for a big meal, any time of the year.
Goose Island IPA
India Pale Ale, 5.9% ABV, 55 IBU
No need to spend much time on this one. It’s a standard IPA you’ve likely had. Nice and hoppy, it’s a typical example of the style.
Experimental Winter Ale 2015
American Strong Ale, 6.2%, 50 IBU
The most striking feature of this beer is its ruby red hue, then its rugged earthy scent. It’s unfortunate to say, but the rest of the beer doesn’t quite stack up to its first impression. This winter ale is a bit too sweet for my liking, with toffee, caramel, and malt notes that finishes nutty and just a tad bitter. If it had a slightly deeper flavor behind its sweetness it would be far more enjoyable. As it is, the Experimental Winter Ale for 2015 is worth trying, but only once.