Jim Beauregard's Tasting Notes: Winter has two flavors, thanks to Sam

JIM BEAUREGARD December 11. 2012 10:32PM

Sam Adams continues to be inventive, this time with two winter beers to add to the stash.

Samuel Adams Winter Lager is a dark wheat-based bock beer that's brewed with ginger and Southeast Asian cinnamon for a spicy palate. In the malt department, five are employe: a pale malt blend, Caramel 60, malted wheat, Carafa and Munich 10. Lastly, at the lighter end of the spectrum - noble hops - comes Hallertau Mittelfreuh.

Sam recommends pairing Winter Lager with roasted meats like duck and turkey (good timing, eh?). The brewers also raise the possibility of seasonal desserts like apple pie and carrot cake, as well as the obvious gingerbread.

Suggested retail is $7.99 per six-pack. It's also included in the Sam Adams Winter Classic Variety 12 Pack, with suggested price of $13.99.

The tasting notes: Tan head, creamy at the edges, frothy in the middle, lasting. Sweet spices on the nose, and the hops begin to come through too, with citrus leaning toward orange. It's on the palate that the malt bursts, with caramel coming to the fore, some cereal notes, and molasses in the back. The palate's off-dry, with hints of sweetness form the spices and malt, of medium bitterness, medium acidity, well-integrated alcohol at 5.6% abv, medium texture, and a long pleasing finish. Very good.

Next comes the Sam Adams White Christmas, which moves us to an unfiltered white ale that's brewed with cinnamon and nutmeg, as well as orange peel for a spicy character. German Pilsner malts are employed, and it weighs in at 5.6% abv. Sam recommends pairing with lighter seafood dishes (any one for a seven fishes dinner?), but also duck, baked ham, or risotto (I didn't know that last one was traditional Christmas fare, but what the heck).

As for the tasting: White, frothy head, with a light spice nose, very light, giving hints of the spice that it's brewed with. Pale gold, unfiltered beer underneath, the hops and spice come through right away on the palate with cinnamon, nutmeg, citrus. Light body, light bitterness, medium texture, medium-plus flavor intensity, with the spices lingering along the finish.

White Christmas is definitely the lighter of the two - perhaps a his and hers combination? "It's got zip to it, it's zingy," Wendy said. I'll have to look those up and let you know if they're official beer terms.

Lastly for our beer tasting, Sam Adams has paired up with TCHO Chocolates to make a "Beer Lover's Chocolate Box" to accompany their winter selections. We tried it. It works. The Milk Chocolate with caramel notes was our favorite.

From the vine

Now let's switch to the wine part of the column and look at a limited release Zinfandel that's available here in New Hampshire, while supplies last: Jelly Jar 2010 Old Vine Zinfandel, (about $23, this one from Harvest Market, Bedford).

Nova Vineyard in Lake County, Calif., had 1,650 cases produced, which isn't a lot. The "Jelly Jar" refers to the recycled jars out of which old Italian families used to drink their wine, often on Sunday mornings after church (I am an eyewitness to this practice, by the way, along with 6-ounce juice glasses).

Still young-looking in the glass, purple, with some ruby heading out to the rim, clean nose, medium-plus intensity, developing with clear flavors of blackberry, bramble. The palate is dry, with medium acidity, medium tannin, soft but noticeable, giving it some heft.

Alcohol is 14.2% and well-integrated. (I would have thought it lower, in fact, having tasted it before I looked. But then this is a California Zin, though not as outrageous as some.) Medium-plus flavor intensity with flavors of blackberry, spice, hints of pepper, but very well balanced, bramble fruit, hints of vanilla. Soft in terms of structure, medium-plus finish, very good balance of components, good concentration of flavors, fairly complex in terms of flavor profile, ready to drink now. 91 points. There's not much of this around, so get it while you can.

Contact local beer and wine writer Jim Beauregard at tastingnotesnh@aol.com.

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