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BeerSport Qualifying Round: Moose vs. Fox

Michael Donato, December 15, 2015 -   

The third of two qualifying rounds for the BeerGraphs BeerSport Winter Championship features Anderson Valley Winter Solstice (2.88 BAR 103 Style+) against Sly Fox Christmas (1.85 BAR 102 Style+). I’d thought Sly Fox was a little bit bigger, but there aren’t even enough check-ins for the 2015 version yet and I see no generic, so the stats above are from 2014.

I’m now six winter beers in, and have reached Level 5 on Untappd for the Winter Wonderland badge. It’ll probably stick there for a while, I’m going back to IPAs and Imperial Stouts after this. There is an Enjoy By 12/25 that’s calling my name and it’d be rude to ignore it for much longer.

I’m calling this round the Moose vs. Fox round, but that doesn’t seem like a fair fight. Though I suspect a Fox might enjoy these beers. I own a wildlife camera, and have a bit of wilderness behind my house. The camera frequently catches a fox or two, and no moose, darting around in the middle of the night. Those foxes, and the raccoons, really enjoyed the rotting pumpkin I tossed up there after Halloween. I’m not saying winter warmers necessarily taste like rotted pumpkins, but I’m not not saying it either. 

Appearance

Both beers are light brown with a little head, and the Anderson Valley’s stuck around a wee bit longer. Perhaps the Sly Fox is a little darker. Since again these winter warmers are pretty similar looking, I’ll defer to my favorite tie-breaker, bottle art, or in this case, can art. The Anderson Valley has a simple moose drinking from a lake, where as the Sly Fox has a simple red, green, and white striped motif going on, making the can look like a wrapped present. It even has a to/from label, which is neat.

Winner: Sly Fox

Aroma

I smell fruit in the Anderson Valley. Cherry, and not much else. The Sly Fox is much more potent, with the spices shining through. A little nutmeg and clove, but it’s mostly reminiscent of that scent you get walking past bins of cinnamon pine cones. It’s a pleasant aroma, and is offering much more than the Anderson Valley.

Winner: Sly Fox

Taste

Anderson Valley definitely has some tartness to it, tying into that fruity nose. The can isn’t as up front with the spices as Sly Fox’s, only suggesting it’s an ale with natural flavors. There’s a lingering lightly toasted malty flavor and the initial tartness fades into a little tingling on the tongue, but if it’s a spice I can’t place it. 

Meanwhile the Sly Fox hits you with all the spice. It’s hard to pick out individual ones, I’m certainly not adept enough to pick out allspice from nutmeg. If a pumpkin pie was cold, this is similar to what it would taste like, and it has me wondering if there is much difference between a pumpkin ale and a winter warmer. It’s just spice all the way through, and it’s too much.

Winner: Anderson Valley

Feel

The Anderson Valley has a nice mouthfeel that really lingers to almost caramel chewy at the end. There are times the Sly Fox feels like I’m eating a jar of allspice. This is an easy one.

Winner: Anderson Valley

Overall

This ended up being pretty easy. While the Anderson Valley was mostly boring to look at and smell, the taste was a warm non-offensive drink. The Sly Fox was an assault with the spice rack. I don’t love either beer, but I’m not sure I’m even going to finish the Sly Fox.

Winner: Anderson Valley

Our finals are set. It’s Anderson Valley Winter Solstice up against Harpoon Winter Warmer in the illustrious BeerGraphs BeerSport Winter Championship at the palatial Drinking With Shirt studio. Make sure you ask T-Bone questions for the podcast by tweeting @BeerOnMyShirt with the hashtag #AskTBone. 

Michael can be found on Twitter and Untappd where he still has a bottle of Elysian BiFrost Winter that he's in no hurry to drink. You can also email him at beer@ceetar.com.

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