Sunday, December 2, 2007

2007 Winter Beer Tasting

This weekend saw the third annual SOBER Winter Beer Tasting, a gathering of good friends, food and the newest round of Winter beers on the shelves. The tasting featured 14 beers for competition, and a few beers from years past we have been holding on to. The event is pretty well organized, I suppose the fact that many of us judge at competitions throughout the year helps with that, and all beers are judged blind. This is not a sanctioned event by any means, but we do take notes and keep score, awarding 1st, 2nd and 3rd place awards for top finishers.

The Beers:
Frambozen, by New Belgium
Santa's Butt, by Ridgeway
Jubelale, by Deschutes
Noel, by Scaldis
Winter Solstice, by Anderson Valley
Vintage 2007, by Gulden Drak
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, by Anchor
2 Degrees, by New Belgium
Doppelbock, by Sudwerk
Celebration, by Sierra Nevada
Noel, by Affligem
Winter Ale, by Alaskan
Bad Elf, by Ridgeway
Brown Shugga, by Lagunitas

The Results
I won't get into a blow by blow account of the beers, but there were many surprises - beers that did well in the past that just weren't up to snuff, the winners the new look at beers we thought we knew. On that last point, we do a few blind tastings a year as a group and there is simply no better why to be honest about the beers you know best, no devotion to a product based on a label. I, for one, have enjoyed a few pints of one particular brand this season - to my surprise because I didn't like it last year. Well, when I had it blind, with only a number, it just wasn't what I remembered - and that was the general consensus.

So, in an attempt to keep this a bit short (I'm a bit tired tonight), I'll just pass on the results.
Affligem Noel - Honorable Mention
Scaldis Noel - Honorable Mention
Sierra Nevada Celebration - Third Place
Anchor Christmas - Second Place
Sudwerk Doppelbock - Best of Show
The scores for the final round were pretty freaking tight, meaning all the beers listed above were very good. There was a bit of debate in our BOS round about the number 2 and 3 order, because we found the Celebration to be a beer we could drink more of, but Anchor's offering was just so... Christmasy, which earned it a couple points to edge out Celebration. The Doppelbock by Sudwerk was just a treat. It wasn't everyone's 'favorite' beer, but when the scores were all averaged out, it was clear that everyone thought it was a top three beer - everyone.

I was more than a little disappointed in the showing by last year's winners, specifically Alaskan Winter Ale, Anderson Valley's Winter Solstice and Lagunitas' Brown Shugga. These beers just didn't do it for anyone in attendance. Luckily, we had a few bottles of the 2006 Brown Shugga to sip on when things were all done, a welcomed treat for all of us.

If you're so inclined, or if you'd like to hear the reactions from the tasting, check out the audio from the day - at under an hour this is heavily condensed and fairly manageable to get through.

Special Thanks
A big thanks to the SOBER crew there in attendance: Mike and Terri, Mark (beer geek), Jeff (radio personality and owner/host of Wild West Radio), Jose, Bob, Amy, Jay and Linda, Brian (owner/brewer at Auburn Ale House) my lovely wife Tracy - I can't wait for our Barleywine tasting in February.