Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Recap: Seasonal Beer Tasting at Jungle Jim's

Friday night, Nathan, Kelly, Gina, and I met at Jungle Jim's for their winter seasonals tasting, held at the new, adjacent Oscar Event Center. At about 40 to 50 people, the crowd was intimate, but significantly smaller than the turnout for the Garrett Oliver tasting. Instead of housing us in the ballroom, this tasting took place in the smaller, but impeccable, bar.

Ten beers filled the docket (see full list, with comments, below), ranging from a delicate and crisp B.B. Burgerbrau pilsner, to Bell's bombastic HopSlam and Avery's murky and cryptic The Czar. As we sampled each beer, our host Derek provided context, while Ed, in charge of the event, diligently delivered new bottles and spirited away the empties.

At the end of the event, Ed distributed swag (Dos Equis and Tecate shirts, and enigmatic Guinness bags) and Derek met many of us back at the grocery store, where a select few were given the opportunity to purchase rare four-packs of this year's Founder's Breakfast Stout (Jungle Jim's only received a handful of cases this year, so supplies were very limited.) In addition to the Founders, the four of us filled a cart with other rarities and delectables before heading back upstairs to the bar for a final pint of the HopSlam (with complementary glassware).

There were no stinkers on the beer list, although many who have a lower tolerance for Harpoon's Winter Warmer may disagree. (Derek pointed out that you either love the beer or find it disgusting. Apparently, the table next to us fell into the latter category--they ended up opening up a Victory Storm King Stout as a "palatte cleanser"!) Here's the list in full:
  • B.B. Burgerbrau (Budejovicky Mestansky Pivovar)--sweet, crisp, with an apricot color. No skunkiness, in spite of the green bottles (3.5 out of 5)
  • Winter White (Bell's Brewery)--fruity esters, along with some clove spiciness; tartness from wheat malt; some hints of orange peel; Gina's favorite (4 out of 5)
  • Leffe Blonde (InBev Belguim)--golden malt notes in aroma, with a touch of caramel; low hops; some slight oxidation in the bottle we tried (3.25 out of 5)
  • Nut Brown Ale (Samuel Smith)--tawny color; some raisin in nose; very subtle hops; low diacetyl (3.75 out of 5)
  • Winter Warmer (Harpoon Brewing Company)--heavy, HEAVY spice in the nose, followed by overwhelming cinnamon and nutmeg flavors; tastes like pumpkin pie. Not for everyone, although I liked this a lot better than the first time I tried it, about 5 years ago. (3 out of 5)
  • Double White (Southampton Ales & Lagers)--clove in the nose; tart mouthfeel; spices well-balanced (4 out of 5)
  • Christmas Ale (Great Lakes Brewing Company)--beautiful color and very nice nose; spice overpowers flavor (could it be the ginger); despite its popularity, I think there are better holiday beers out there (3 out of 5)
  • Santa's Private Reserve (Rogue Ales)--spruce taste as part of a very nice hop profile; dry finish, not overly complex, but bold flavors (4.5 out of 5)
  • HopSlam (Bell's Brewery)--nothing I say about this beer will do it justice; wonderful citrus hop flavor--clean pineapple/grapefruit aroma and flavor (4.85 out of 5)
  • The Czar (Avery Brewing Company)--well-balanced, although it would probably be even better after about 6 months in the cellar; clean, roasty, but not overpowering. At the time, I didn't think it was overly hoppy, but wonder how much of that was influenced by the HopSlam that preceded it (4.5 out of 5)
The HopSlam was the obvious crowd favorite. I was quoted as saying, after taking the first drink, "I could retire now." For me, this beer represents the feeling I would expect after looking back on one's entire career, and looking forward to my remaining years, devoted entirely to leisure and grandkids.

I've said it before, and will repeat it here: if you find yourself in Cincinnati on the night of a Jungle Jim's tasting, make the trek up north. You won't regret it.

The Great Lakes Brewing Company Christmas Ale

The line-up, just before trying the HopSlam

The line-up, after the HopSlam!

Me, Nathan, and Kelly

Gina, my lovely (and patient) wife

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