High Hop(e)s for a Holiday Hit

Wreck the Halls

For the record, I dislike most Holiday beers. At this time of year, brew masters all seem to fall prey to the reckless notion that throwing baking spices into an otherwise perfectly good brew is desirable. I do not support the opinion that taking a malty wort and turning it into a nutmeg or gingerbread cookie makes for a happy palate. To the contrary, such misguided inspiration often yields a beer that is so sweet and so cloying that the consumer might find them self feeling as though it would take no less than 2 liters of cold water to wash away the regretful aftertaste. Too many breweries make this mistake and it is because of this that in general, I tend to simply dismiss beers with words like “holiday”, “winter” and “warmer” in their names after little more than a cursory glance.

For these reasons, I thought it oddly out-of-character for myself when I realized I was leaving the alco-mart with a bottle of Full Sail Brewery’s “Wreck the Halls” in hand. Perhaps I was enamored with the beer’s name or its clever “Hoppy Holiday Ale” tagline– however I think that ultimately, it was because most holiday brews out there end up revealing themselves to be sugary malt monsters and the idea of a hoppy ale as a base for one was too intriguing to pass up.

Upon arriving home, I finally unleashed my Wreck the Halls into my trusty Samuel Adams glass. It cascaded forth a translucent amber, concluding in an almost coppery color. The slightly off-white head rose thick and foamy as a steady stream of tiny bubbles constantly percolated to the top. As I prepared for the first taste, my nose was filled with the familiar bouquet of an IPA, and additionally a sweet malt aroma which was immediately followed by a spicy, piney hop punch. The actual first sip was especially IPA in nature as well- the malt settling on the front of my tongue while a bright flash of the pungent Cascade hops (this is a classic West Coast brew, after all) slapped around the bitter receptors at the back of my mouth. I did not find the hops to be as bold or acidic as I would expect them to be in a beer explicitly labeled an IPA, but they still were quite prominent. As the initial hop bite began to dissipate, a strong but nonspecific citrus tang blossomed on the sides of my tongue. I tried to isolate whether I was tasting grapefruit, orange or lemon, but the taste never revealed itself to be anything other than generically citrus. This development was as unexpected as it was welcome in the flavor profile of this beer. As I swallowed, it finished crisp and somewhat dry with a slightly lingering (but not unpleasant) citrus aftertaste. I can hardly begin to express how relieved I was not to have detected any cinnamon, nutmeg or ginger and eagerly went back for a second pull. As I descended through this delightful brew, the still-persistent head left lovely, marked lacing on the glass.

When I finished, I felt a compelling urge to write a sappy thank you note to the good folk at Full Sail. I doubt that I have ever enjoyed a holiday beer as much as I did this one. It definitely possesses a bright flavor which fits in flawlessly with the seasonal festivities without confusing itself with some type of spice-infused baked good left on a plate for Santa. From start to finish, it tastes like beer; sturdy, hoppy, satisfying beer. I daresay, going forward, this will become my default brew for any and all Yuletide celebrations. Perhaps it is now a bit late in the season, but if you happen to find a deuce-deuce of this winter gem in your local LQ’s cooler, secure it and bring it home. You will thank me.

Speaking of thanking…I’d like to thank my proofreader/editor/co-contributor for her contributions in making this and future posts more structurally sound and content rich than was previously possible.  That’s right kids, I’m big-time enough to have a staff!

~ by schlippo on January 17, 2011.

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