Cheers to winter: Rating local beer

Beer snobs take off their mittens and savor seasonals from Treasure Valley breweries.

Statesman staffDecember 20, 2013 

  • TASTE THE BEERS IN ONE PLACE

    You’ll find the beers in this taste test at area breweries, pubs and retailers, but here are two good catch-all destinations (OK, catch-most): Winterfest, Pantyhose, Augustus and Pray for Snow are on draft at Taphouse Pub & Eatery, 760 W. Main St., Boise. You can buy bottles of Pray for Snow, Barrel-Aged Twelve Gauge and Augustus, and cans of Winterfest, at Brewer’s Haven, 1795 S. Vista Ave., Boise.

The brew crew

• Brian Forde, owner, Taphouse Pub & Eatery

• Katie Vant, general manager, Brewer’s Haven

• Michael Deeds, chronicler of brew, Idaho Statesman

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BARREL-AGED TWELVE GAUGE IMPERIAL STOUT

Payette Brewing aged its Twelve Gauge Imperial Stout for more than a year in Wild Turkey bourbon barrels. The brewery says this results in “a deliciously dark brew with hints of vanilla and bourbon sweetness.”

Alcohol by volume (ABV) 10 percent, International Bitterness Units (IBU) 70

Availability: 22-ounce bottle

Taste

BF: Booooozy. Potent. It definitely took on the bourbon-barrel flavor, so if that’s what they were going for, they got it.

KV: I get molasses. And booze. It’s complex. You can taste the oaky sweetness. I’m also tasting licorice. It needs more time in the bottle. I couldn’t drink a whole bottle of this.

Logo/label

MD: You’d think that during an entire year, they might come up with something. The label’s too dark to really notice the shotguns.

Holiday spirit

MD: It’s definitely a nice Christmas gift at $12 per bottle.

BF: I could see carrying this with you in a snowstorm. It’ll keep you warm.

Winter grade: B

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PANTYHOSE VANILLA IMPERIAL PORTER

Slanted Rock Brewing Company says its beer “features a distinctive aroma of caramelized sugars and chocolate-like characters of roasted malt and dark sugars. Dry hopping with Madagascar Bourbon vanilla beans added a rich, dark and creamy flavor.”

ABV 8.4, IBU 28

Availability: Draft only

Taste

BF: The first time I tried it, I thought it tasted like a Tootsie Roll. I don’t taste that now.

KV: It’s got a pretty light body for a porter. It’s pretty sweet.

MD: I like it quite a bit but would go for something else after one pint. I could see it appealing to women.

Logo/label

KV: I think it’s pretty funny that it’s a winter beer with pantyhose on it. It makes me think of my college days, laughing at all the girls who dressed inappropriately during winter.

Holiday spirit

KV: A nice treat after a holiday meal — a dessert. I might go all the way and make a beer float.

Winter grade: B

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AUGUSTUS

Crooked Fence Brewing says its dark chocolate ale “blends complex layers of bittersweet chocolate, cacao and dark roast malts to add rich, warm flavor to any cold day.”

ABV 7, IBU 30

Availability: 22-ounce bottle; on draft

Taste

BF: The brewery’s description is accurate. This is one I’d call a winter warmer.

MD: I’m a huge fan. I like that the chocolate is not overwhelming. Cigar smokers could get decadent with a maduro stick.

Logo/label

MD: Crooked Fence has the best labels around. This pudgy guy looks strangely dejected. Eat too much fudge, bud?

BF: I agree they have the best labels around, but this is probably their worst.

KV: I want to pinch his cheeks. It’s cute.

Holiday spirit

MD: I paired this beer with a slice of Marie Callender’s chocolate cream pie and about wept. Unreal delicious. This is the kind of Christmas treat I want to have all winter.

Winter grade: A

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PRAY FOR SNOW

10 Barrel Brewing Co. says that it changed this year’s winter ale by “using East Kent Goldings, Chinook and Willamette hops for a piney, spicy hop aroma and eight different malts for caramel, coffee and raisin notes.”

ABV 7, IBU 75

Availability: Six pack of 12-ounce bottles; 22-ounce bottle; on draft

Taste

BF: They nailed it as far as what I would expect out of a true winter seasonal. We had it on tap. It was really popular.

KV: Nice balance between the caramel malts and roast malts. You can drink it really easily, too.

MD: Very drinkable. Definite winter warmer. In the interest of local beer, let’s pretend it doesn’t say “brewed in Oregon” on the label.

Logo/label

MD: Hmm. Well, it’s got the good ol’ barrel on it.

KV: They’re all about brand recognition.

Holiday spirit

MD: This captures night skiing — the exact type of beer I want in the lodge when snowboarding under the stars at Bogus Basin.

Winter grade: A

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WINTERFEST

Sockeye Brewing calls its seasonal an “American-style strong ale with a deep and rich malt complexity offering hints of toffee, caramel and lightly toasted barley. Of course, we’ve hopped it up, giving this beer enough bite and flavor to balance the big malt profile.”

ABV 7.25, IBU 85

Availability: four pack of 16-ounce cans; on draft

Taste

BF: It tastes like a Sockeye beer! Hopped-up, for sure — there’s a bite. It’s like their winter version of Dagger Falls IPA.

MD: I might like this even more than Dagger Falls.

KV: Consider the region — there’s a lot of hop heads here. I think the roast malt and hops go together; they’re not clashing. It’s a nice alternative to what I would consider a winter beer. It’s like an India Brown Ale.

Logo/label

KV: Love the Sockeye saying: “Drink like a fish.”

MD: I’d like to see an ice fishing concept worked into this label.

Holiday spirit

KV: I wouldn’t mind drinking these on the ski lift.

BF: I would definitely drink multiple of these — on the ski lift, in the lodge, parking lot, whatever.

Winter grade: A

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S’NO ANGEL WEIZENBOCK

The Ram Brewery says “creamy notes of chocolate mingle with flurries of fruit and spice” in this annual winter offering.

ABV 7.4, IBU 22

Availability: Draft only

Taste

BF: It tastes to me like Belgian yeast, which I’m not a big fan of. Not getting any chocolate, really. It doesn’t seem wintry.

KV: I can’t get any chocolate. I get a little fruit on the nose and spice. I love this style of beer. It’s not a winter beer. It’s a September beer.

Logo/label

MD: Well, she’s a snowboarder. That’s cool.

KV: It suits Boise.

Holiday spirit

KV: It’s risky to do something like this for winter — a wheat beer. Maybe pair it with holiday fruitcake. It’ll bring out those spices.

MD: I’m guessing The Ram’s Lost Reindeer Winter Ale packs a more traditional cold-weather punch. It should be on tap by Dec. 24.

Winter grade: C

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