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January 01, 2004

Old Jubilation Ale

Beer of the night.

Old Jubilation is one a class of assorted seasonal beer types called "Winter Warmers". They tend to be richer, darker and spicier than beers brewed for sunnier times, and as a class are becoming more and more a part of the American beer drinkers winter.

Of course in other countries, England in particular, winter warmers have been around for ages.

Traditionally, winter warmers have been hearty, slow-sipping English-style ales; guzzling them would be a travesty.

They are released for a limited time during the winter months, primarily to celebrate the spirit of Christmas. But the style has expanded, and today lagers as well as ales qualify as winter warmers.

A Winter Warmer can range from a German double bock to an American barleywine and everything in between, but the most frequent distinguishing characteristics include a combination of the following: brown to deep copper to black opaque in color; increased alcohol content resulting in a more warming effect; and a myriad of fruits, spices or other ingredients added during production.

The recipes and flavor of some seasonal beers change from year to year but retain the same name, such as Anchor Brewing Co.'s trend-setting Our Special Ale. Adored by beer lovers since its introduction in 1975, Our Special Ale is released exclusively during the week of Thanksgiving and remains available only through mid-January.

Holiday beers are usually available during a narrow window of time because most beer drinkers, though not most connoisseurs, consider the style outdated after New Year's, when holiday gift giving and celebrating wind down.

Nevertheless, these beers are often good candidates for laying down for future tastings because of their high alcohol content. Some veteran beer collectors lay down holiday beers for vertical tastings to compare, in one sitting, variations of the same beer from several years past.

It's not unusual to find fruit flavors in winter warmers. Some popular fruits that brewers add are cranberries, oranges, raspberries and cherries. Adding to the warm glow of the Christmas spirit, some beers have one or two spices in them while others may include a wide array of holiday or pumpkin spices such as nutmeg, cinnamon, clove and even coriander.

Old Jubilation is produced by Boulder Colorado's Avery Brewery, whose North Carolina legal (under 6% abv) beers have just started appearing in NC. There's a fair variety available here, but any North Carolinian desiring a taste of the legendary Reverend or Hog Heaven brew will have to purchase them online.

The biggest seller of the Avery line in NC at the moment, and thus the place where you have the best chance of finding them at, is Brawley's Beverage in Charlotte. Mike had at least 4 cases of the Jubilation available when I left yesterday--he's planning on cellaring whatever doesn't get sold during the season.

I don't really have a cellaring capacity here at House Hraka, though I suppose I could stick a bottle or two into the crawlspace under the house. Then I could drive the wife nuts by offering to give visitors a tour of "the beer cellar"

"You'd love to see it? Great! Let me just go get the kneepads and miner's light."

According to what I've read, cellaring the Old Jubilation does go quite a ways towards mellowing the strong hop note found in a younger bottle. The hops do have a way of overpowering the more subtle flavors present in the beer, which included (for me) brown sugar and orange peel, with a little butter toffee thrown in for good measure.

As for the other qualities, the head is a whitish gray, while the body of the brew is mahogany in nature, as damn near every review of the Old Jubilation takes great pains to point out.

Clear dark mahogany body...
Dark ruby mahogany color....
Dark mahogany color....
Deep mahogany brew...
some mahogany highlights...
a gorgeous mahogany hue...
deep rich red mahogany hue...
with the kind of deep mahogany hues usually seen only in wood-paneled offices of top-dollar law firms...

Why, a man would have to be a fool to challenge that weight of opinion with a simple "Dark Brown."

The Old Jube mouthfeel to me is somewhat on the thin side, though of all the qualities one is supposed to judge a beer by, I am most suspicious of the one called "mouthfeel."* I've had many a beer with a supposedly "thick" mouthfeel, and they have yet to reproduce the consistency of Elmer's glue.

Now there's a thick mouthfeel.

*What I need to do is set up a tasting for myself, and compare a known thick beer with a known thin, and perhaps a known medium. Of course, to do it right, I'd really need two of each type.

And some peanuts, company and a pack of smokes. Which means that it would end like all my other taste tests, with me saying "The hell with it" three beers into the test.

Posted by Bigwig at January 1, 2004 11:51 PM | TrackBack
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