This is as tough a week as any you're likely to face in 2013. The long holiday run is behind us, and the next time your office is scheduled for a day off is in May - five months from now. Plus, it's still cold out there (not "normal people" cold but, c'mon, it's L.A.), and spring has yet to sprung. Thankfully, there's a beer for that.
Well, many beers in fact. The idea of brewing special beers to commemorate holidays, anniversaries and cold-weather seasons is as old as the brewing tradition itself, and over the years an array of seasonal ales have come to be defined in their own sub-genre. While not entirely inclusive, terms like "winter warmers" and "old ales" generally contain the sort of malty, bready caramel and spice notes that do more than just quench your thirst during the winter months. These are beers that warm you from the inside out, with higher alcohol levels than summertime lagers and simpler ales. Plus, they often evoke the aromas of the season, with yeasts, dried fruits and smooth, sometimes syrupy flavors emanating from their dark and heady pours.
One such spiced old ale is the Jubilee from Eagle Rock Brewery. The three-year old brewery has a pretty solid lineup of year-round bottled beers, but their Jubilee is a stronger seasonal that's meant to remind local drinkers just what wintertime smells (and often tastes) like elsewhere. The 8% ale doesn't force its alcohol on you; rather, it's a slow, smooth drinking beer with a full body, light carbonation and a foamy head that quickly disappears. It pours a dark reddish-brown, and the first aromas to hit your nose are from the yeast. This is a bready beer with plenty to chew on, although it's not the sort of full supper that fans of porters and stouts might be seeking.
One or two sips in, you might be overtaken by the first wave of Christmas-themed fruits and spices. There is plenty of cinnamon and the funky earthiness of potpourri, with a thin sweetness of apples and a touch of cherries. Jubilee isn't a stunt Christmas beer that pushes hard for fruit cake flavors, but the banana bread undertones and lingering gingerbread tastes certainly do their part to remind you of the season. Add in toasted malts and a roasted caramel finish and it becomes abundantly clear that Eagle Rock Brewery hasn't lost sight of the season.
It's warming to see a winter warmer from a local brewery that remains effortlessly drinkable. Rather than bogging down your stockings with too much syrupy sweetness or sending you off for a long winter's nap with the staggering alcohol percentage, Eagle Rock Brewery's Jubilee is a totally drinkable addition to the cool weather beer landscape. With a balanced mix of malts and sweetness, you may find yourself searching for Jubilee year round, but waiting for winter with a beer like this is sure to be your best bet. With more dark and blustery days ahead in 2013, Jubilee is the kind of beer that you can look forward to.