Lompoc Winter Ale Roundup

One of the things I’m starting to look forward to is the Lompoc Winter ale offerings. Every year they seem to go all in on their seasonal offerings and since I don’t get out too often, I always appreciate the invite to see what they have coming up. This year distinguished itself a little differently from previous years by offering us some beers that were still in progress. Some are meant to come out in December, specially offered for the Holiday Ale Fest so I tried to keep that in mind as I reviewed the beers. The ones that weren’t quite ready yet I took note of, so you can read the reviews with that in mind and take it into consideration when it’s time to try them for yourself.

The opening beer offered while we settled in was the Entropy cream ale, which is a really wonderful starter: bready, something I think might have to do with the yeast, and a hint spicy but nothing overwhelming. All in all, it’s pretty swell. Sure, they’re bribing is with an excellent beer to start, but I won’t complain. It’s not a winter ale but it’s a good one and I recommend it.

Cherry Christmas- and now they Winter ales start up. This was called a spiritual successor to a previous ale they did (mostly, they liked the name) but the concept is this: wheat ale and cherries in a wine tote. This is an early version, unblended, so it’s a beer in the middle of the process. Scent is…sweet, and a bit leafy. The cherry flavor is really mild and it’s not too sour at all. They didn’t do anything to sour it up and I prefer it that way but apparently that is what’s coming: addition of lactobacillus to intensify the sour elements. The wheat malt is what’s holding it together, for me. This beer is almost thin and that’s halted by the denser mouthfeel the wheat malt provides. I would love to try this in a few weeks without the sour addition.

Jolly Bock lager: originally made for holiday ale fest, 97ish. I don’t much nose: something cake or baklava like… honey? The hop bitterness snuck up on me: there isn’t much malt to this one and my girlfriend suggests a little less hops might’ve been better. I’m inclined to agree. The hops dominate it a little too much.

Brewdolph, which I remember liking in the past, has changed a bit: this year they used more American malt instead of German. I’m told that this was to ensure the freshness of the ingredients. Belgian Ardennes strain of yeast gives it a clove character you can taste: there’s a saisonish flavor but it is restrained, giving the beer some character without blowing it out of the water. Makes me think of a French-oriented saison. The malt comes out in the nose a bit candy like? Low key though.

It’s about this point when the brewers at Lompoc tell us that we’ll probably be getting louder as we talk about the beers. What I notice about that moment is: when given permission to get louder, we get louder. Everyone was pretty restrained up until then but with a bit more noise seems to come a more festive feel to the event.

Holiday Cheer vanilla porter: a genesis of ’01 or so: another Holiday ale fest. Lompoc doesn’t have enough room to make as many styles of beer as they previously did, having moved from their NW location. Last year they made the 8 Malty Nights, so they are switching for this year to satisfy everyone (sort of).  Aged for a week on vanilla beans, they say they want to have it spend more time with the vanilla, so this beer is also not quite finished. The vanilla is just starting to peek out, chocolate still the overriding flavor here. With some more time, I think we’ll have a very different story.

C-Sons Greetings is probably one of the most infamous (in a good way) Xmas ales they do. The nose is just full on spicy pine and I am not disappointed at all: it is a very good beer. Apparently the trends are moving away from really hoppy, potent beers but if this is what brewers are making, I don’t know why. It’s an excellent beer.

Old Tavern Rat has a very strong toasty flavor, caramel in the nose and is a fine ale. I like barleywines and this is one worth savoring. Let this warm up and hang out with a cat on your lap. Also, it tastes like a vanilla ice cream topping. That always feels right.

The bourbon barrel aged Tavern Rat is only going to be offered on tap so get it while you can. It smells hot, with hints of licorice or maple in there: fig is what I’m told I should be looking for and as soon as I hear that I get it: dried fig and molasses. But it’s really smooth and doesn’t have a hot finish. Definitely a pour and share beer, something to let warm up. I am going to have to make a trip out just for this, I think.

Revelry Red- this is another one they will do things with. Currently unblended, this ale has been sitting with sour cherries, not unlike the Cherry Christmas. This year, the Revelry Red is going to be combined with the same base beer that has been port barrel aged.  The sour cherry in this is more pronounced. As it stands, it feels a bit…weird. It’s not one dimensional but I feel like the blended version will really elevate this beer and criticizing it is unfair. It isn’t bad but it feels unfinished.

That’s it, folks! Thanks to Lompoc for hosting.

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