Where the Winter Ales Are

Written by Damon on December 6, 2008

There’s nothing like large quantities of beer at lunch time after sleeping late for sucking all motivation to accomplish anything with your day. I’m back from the Dix Winter Caskival (actually they call it the X-mas Xtreme beer festival, but whatever) and in condition to write about it. Thank God for notes, and beer.

The glass is all empty now.

The local brewing dons had a mix of their best, most interesting, and surprising beers on tap. There were 25 beers in all and, while I didn’t get to sample all of them, the only beers that I didn’t try were ones that I’ve tried in the last couple of weeks.

I posted a nearly complete list in my last post. In addition to the previously listed beers, there was also a Scotch Ale from Longwood and, instead of the Storm Snakebite, there was a a Ginger Stout from Storm.

Winter Ales Rule the Day

While there were a lot of beers to choose from, Winter Ales were the most common with 6 to choose from. I haven’t been impressed with the Winter Ales that I had in the past and, based on both history and the 6 ones that I had today, I think it’s a style that is very easy screw up.

My favourite Winter Ales, the Central City Spiced Winter Ale and the Crannog Old Puddinghead, were both more balanced with no one flavour dominating but several evident. Actually, the Central City beer got my vote for best of show.

Smoked Fruit Beers

I’d tried a Smoked Peach Porter by Dix recently and I was quite curious how the Smoked Plum Porter would taste. I was particularly curious about the smoked plum because I made a Prune Plum Stout once which was a little too fruity. I think smoking the fruit might have helped balance the prune plum flavour.

Now, after trying two smoked fruit beers, I think adding smoked fruit is probably a better way of getting smokey flavours in beer than it is of getting fruit flavours. Both beers were a lot smokier than any other beer that I’ve tried. It’s definitely something that I’ll try in the future.

Rapid-Fire Final Notes

It’s hard to stop here because there were a lot of good beers on the menu. A couple of final notes:

Storm Ginger Stout:
This beer had very strong ginger flavour, but was surprisingly good.
Whistler Brewhouse Bear Arse Barleywine:
Aged 2 years, I liked it better than most Barleywines.
Tree Double Hophead IPA:
This tasted suprisingly close to their regular Hophead.
Russell Cranberry Porter:
I thought the combination of cranberries and porter would be terrible. I was wrong.
Dix Rum Candied Mandarin Orange & Organic Espresso Imperial Stout:
RCMOOEIS for short. The coffee was really nice in this strong, full-bodied beer. Too bad I couldn’t taste the rum candied mandarin orange.