Tag Archives: winter ales

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Jolly Bock lager: originally made for holiday ale fest, 97ish.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.

The Lompoc tasting

I was invited to Lompoc‘s Sidebar for a preview of their winter beers and after a long weekend of moving, I cannot adequately explain what a treat it was to sit down and relax a bit. I also got seated next to the authors of the Taphandle blog, and they were delightful people to talk to. As regular patrons of the Sidebar, they were quite knowledgeable about Lompoc’s brews and fun to chat with about what we were drinking.

There were nine beers served but I’m going to talk the most about my favorite four. I didn’t detect any flaws in the other beers but they just didn’t work for me.

Blitzen aleThe Blitzen, a golden ale with spices like cinnamon, clove and ginger, had a warm feel to it; there was a scent that I couldn’t place. At first I thought it was like cider but much later it hit me: the Blitzen smells like a cinnamon cookie. The finish on this beer is really clean so I think it might be easy to overlook but I’d like to have another one.

The Brewdolph was a really awesome red ale. Malty and finishing very crisply, with a little tiny bite at the end that the brewers told us was from the Belgian Ardennes yeast strain used for this beer. I was informed that we were getting a fresh batch of it and that they frequently age some of the Berwdolph for a year and serve it, when the yeast bite has smoothed out but I have to say, I liked that bite. Hearing that it smoothed out made me a little less curious to try it, as part of me is saying ‘but it’s good already! D0n’t fix it!’

Still, I trust ’em and I’m sure that when I have the opportunity, I’ll try an older Brewdolph.

Bourbon barrel aged C-Sons Greetings is next on my list and it took me a little off guard. Bourbon is usually a flavor that goes with vanilla or chocolate flavors, hence stouts and porters get the treatment and to have a beer as heavily hopped as the C-Sons aged this way was a surprise. It works though; the beer has a bourbon nose but it’s really mellow, flavorwise, nothing sharp or aggressive poking out at it, despite all the hops added. My girlfriend said that this beer fulfilled her desire to have a shot with a beer back by rolling it all in one, and that’s not a bad way to think about the aged C-Sons.

Bourbon barrel Old Tavern Rat aleFinally, the bourbon barrel aged Old Tavern Rat, brewed in honor of Don Younger crossed my plate. The brewers started making this ale well before his death and the brewers mentioned how they wished he’d been there to have some, despite knowing that ‘He would’ve hated this beer.’ This beer is, from my notes, ‘Smooth as hell–the dark fig flavors kick in and end the rougher warm alcohol finish, making it one of the better beers.’

It was good.

Of the others, the regular C-Sons is a hop heaven that barely retains its balance, the regular Old Tavern Rat has a great caramel/creme brulee flavor to it and the Jolly Bock was smooth and malty-but at 7% has “Danger, Will Robinson” written all over it, because it’s just too easy to drink.

The Cherry Christmas and the Holiday Cheer were both not quite my thing; the brewers mentioned that some of those beers weren’t quite ready yet and maybe that’s why I didn’t glom onto them. Still; I found those beers to be a little thin in the body and as a result they didn’t hold their flavors up as well as I might’ve liked.

All in all, it was a really cool night and I thank everyone who made it happen!