For the last couple of weeks, winter brews have been finding their ways onto the shelves in increasing numbers. For us beer drinkers, this is a special time. In addition to the drop in temperatures, the addition of clothing layers and the gathering of friends and family for special events, we get to drink winter seasonals again. Did you read my pumpkin ale review? Of course not, because I didn't write one and I don't like them (no offense to those that do). But winter beers, they're a different story.
My personal favorite is Jubelale by Deschutes Brewing. Why? Because it does all of the things that a winter beer has to do. For example, most important aspect of a winter beer, in my opinion, is the ability to convey the essence of the season. It's got to be dark, like the cold short days, and have the notes of brown sugar, nutmeg and/or clove that we've come to expect from the foods of the holidays. On top of that, an ability to warm the drinker with some spiciness is always a plus. Jubelale delivers on all of these.
- Appearance: a deep, dark amber with some reddish hues (3.75)
- Smell: a noticeable aroma of spice and fruit (3.5)
- Taste: in addition to the malt and grain taste, this winter beer has an apparent bit of hops that provide some balance. Also has those spice notes that winters are so well known for (4)
- Mouthfeel: not a heavy beer, more of a smooth, medium-weight on the palate. The aforementioned hops provide some bitterness in the aftertaste (4)
- Overall: I'm biased, but I love the balance this beer provides. Has all of the season requisites without overdoing it. Maintains drinkability, which can get lost in some other seasonals with an over-abundance of winter notes (4)
But beyond the tasting notes, Deschutes' winter effort has some other redeeming qualities. Each and year, the label of Jubelale is redesigned by a Northwest artist. Just as we anticipate the release of the beer itself, it's always exciting to see what the new label looks like and how the artist will capture the coldest season. To understand this more fully, explore the evolution of past labels, or order the poster.
I'm glad that it's winter warmer season. Goodbye pumpkin ales and hello spicy seasonals. Jubelale happens to be my favorite and not so far behind are Celebration and Snow Cap, but I'd love to get some other suggestions in the comments thread. Fire away!