BREW HO-HO: Locally produced seasonal ales add flavor to the holiday season

  • By Andy Rathbun Herald Writer
  • Friday, December 5, 2008 3:56pm
  • Life

You can’t quite cram a bottle of beer into an Advent calendar, but you may want to pick up some winter seasonal brews this Christmas nonetheless.

If you do, you won’t be alone.

On the whole, seasonals are booming, with a growth rate of about 20 percent each year for the past four years, according to the Brewers Association, a Colorado-based trade organization that counts both Everett’s Scuttlebutt Brewery and Lazy Boy Brewing among its 1,200 members.

“People are looking for something new, something different, something changing,” Brewers Association director Paul Gatza said.

Ergo, seasonals, the flavorful variations that find nimble breweries experimenting.

This winter, it seems like most local breweries decided to use chocolate in their concoctions. Fine by us. We sampled five now available from Snohomish and King counties. Read on for our findings.

10 Degrees Below Ale

From: Scuttlebutt Brewing Co., Everett

Flavor: Touted for its citrus aroma and chocolate finish, Scuttlebutt’s seasonal might sound a bit strong. But we found this deep brown ale to be all about hints: A hint of molasses, a hint of hops, and no more than a quick wink of an aftertaste.

Alcohol by volume: 7.4 percent

Grade: Four stars

Avalanche Winter Ale

From: Snoqualmie Falls Brewing Co., Snoqualmie

Flavor: The Snoqualmie brewer bills this uniquely red ale as a heavy hitter. Still, it goes down smoothly, with a subtle high note that set it apart from many of its peers.

Alcohol by volume: 6.8 percent

Grade: Four stars

Mistletoe Bliss

From: Lazy Boy Brewing, Everett

Flavor: This deep brown-red beer also counts chocolate as a flavor, but that wouldn’t entirely the bittersweet nip that reminded us a little of caramelized sugar. While the full-bodied taste was satisfying, the heavy beer made the 22-ounce bottle look a little imposing.

Alcohol by volume: 7.8 percent

Grade: Three stars

Winterhook Winter Ale

From: Redhook Ale Brewery, Woodinville

Flavor: Nine malts and four hops give this beer its caramel and chocolate undertones, according to the brewer. We suspect they also imbued the mellow ale with a crisp flavor that improved with each drink.

Alcohol by volume: 5.9 percent

Grade: Three stars

Snow Cap Seasonal Ale

From: Pyramid Breweries, Seattle

Flavor: This potent mahogany-colored ale didn’t fare well against the other brews we tried. While the sharp ale also draws on chocolate and caramel flavors, it simply fell short.

Alcohol by volume: 7 percent

Grade: Two stars

Andy Rathbun,, 425-339-3455

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