By Michael Sears
President, Forest City Brewers
Season’s greetings to all.
This week, I would like to offer a different take on Christmas beer, known as an Old Ale. Old Ale is probably closest to what the English brewed for the holiday season as a “right strong Christmas beer.”
Old Ales of 100-plus years ago were often transferred into vats to mature, hence the name. Because of their higher alcohol by volume (ABV) and generous use of malts, these beers are great candidates for cellaring.
The particular beer I would like to highlight is Old Jubilation, brewed by Avery Brewing Co. of Boulder, Colorado.
The Avery Brewing Company was founded in 1993, by President and Head Brewmaster Adam Avery, at a time when craft breweries were just starting to increase in popularity. The brewery utilized a seven-barrel tank to ferment its beers. Since then, the brewery has steadily expanded to several 80-barrel tanks, two 120-barrel unitanks, and two outdoor fermentation tanks that can hold 240 barrels. This capacity allows the brewery to produce more than 8,000 barrels per year.
Avery’s lineup of beers is quite extensive to include eight year-round, six seasonal, three barrel-aged and a number of special and limited releases. Old Jubilation Ale is one of the seasonal offerings that is available starting in the late fall. Avery was available in the Rockford market for some time, and then inexplicably disappeared from the shelves. It is nice to see this brewery being distributed here in the Rockford area once again.
For this tasting, I will use my tulip glass, and the recommended temperature to be served is 50 to 55 degrees Fahrenheit. As this warms, the characteristics will change to bring out the malty, sweet goodness of this beer.
The pour is a dark, clear and beautiful mahogany, with off-white one-finger depth head of fair retention, which dissipates into thin and spotty foam. A nice, clingy lacing adheres to the glass.
As I poured, the aroma filled my nostrils with roasty malt that was very appealing. As I inhale deeper, I can pick up hazelnut, some toffee, chocolate and some very faint earthiness. No spices present here.
The taste is much like the nose, initially starting out sweet with the roasty malt and chocolate. The toffee mingles well, as hazelnut is stronger toward the finish, with an earthy, nutty aftertaste. The aftertaste has more than a little alcohol presence … which is understandable, at 8.3 percent ABV.
The mouth feel is medium to full in body, with a light, prickly carbonation on the tongue. There is a texture to this that makes this go down a bit too easy.
Overall, this is enjoyable and laid back, as a solid winter seasonal brew. The robust flavors balance well. If you are looking for a beer that is similar to comfort food, then this rich, sweet, malty beer with a cleansing aftertaste is what ails ya. So, pull up a comfortable chair near the fireplace and grab a glass. This is going to warm your belly on a cold winter’s night.
May the Christmas light shine always in your heart and life.
Michael Sears is president of the Forest City Brewers. The Forest City Brewers is a homebrewing club dedicated to the art of finely crafted beer. The club meets the first Wednesday of each month at Rockford Brewing Company, 200 Prairie St., on the Rock River. For more about Forest City Brewers, go to http://forestcitybrewers.org. If you have comments or recommendations, contact Mike at email@example.com.
From the Dec. 17-23, 2014, issue