Saturday, December 25, 2010

12 Beers of Christmas: Shiner Holiday Cheer and Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale

Texas governor Rick Perry recently said that he'd support his state's secession from the Union and turn Texas back into an independent republic. While this treasonous outlook is cast off as little more than political rhetoric, the idea that some of the Lone Star State's finest products would only be available as "imports" frightens the hell out of me. For one thing, I don't want to have to show a passport just to be able to eat some of the world's best BBQ brisket. For another, if my access to Shiner Bock is cut off, I'll have to drink Michelob Amber Bock, which gives me nasty nightmares and hellacious hangovers.

I'm a big fan of the Spoetzl Brewery, makers of Shiner beers. When choosing my 12 Beers of Christmas, this was a no-brainer. I've never been disappointed by any Shiner product, not even their Smokehaus lager (though it may have been the single strangest beer I've ever tasted). The only disappointing part of this beer, to me, was that I had to wait so long to finally review it.

Shiner Holiday Cheer is based on the Dunkelweizen style - literally a "dark wheat" - but has its own special character. The pour reveals a clear beer with a deep mahogany color, the "dunkel" in "dunkelweizen." It has a tan frothy head with minimal lacing.

One of the first thing that strikes me about this beer is the strong aroma of peaches that it puts off. There are also traces of brown sugar and lightly toasted pecans, but the fruit is the major player here.

The taste follows the aroma as expected with something unique like this. The peach and pecan flavors are dominant, with some Belgian-like wheat notes filling out the body. The sweetness and nuttiness play off each other perfectly, and while there are no obvious hop tastes to speak of, the other flavors are very well balanced.

Holiday Cheer is a crisp drink, medium thin body, with a very pleasant toasted nut finish. I was already craving another one of these before I even finished the first one. At 5.4%, it's not going to kill you to knock a few of these back. I'm sure since it's fruity and without a prevalent hops flavor, a lot of of beer purists are going to knock this. Too bad for them: orthodoxy often leads to killing your enjoyment of anything new. I'll bet Rick Perry still eats hot dogs with ketchup and PBJ sandwiches with the crusts cut off.

Beer Advocate readers: B
Justin: A-

I feel the need to come out and say that I am not a hop-head, not even a little bit. I generally avoid pale ales and IPAs like the plague; I just don't dig on all that bitterness. Don't get me wrong, I've had some wonderful hop-heavy brews, but it's not my cup of tea, er, beer.

That said, I've never really been a huge fan of the Sierra Nevada offerings. Their pale ale is almost a standard in the style and is so popular that you can find it at even the least reputable watering holes. I realize that it is a really good beer, but it's never my first choice, probably not even in my top 50. So when I read the label and it said that Celebration Ale's primary job is to show off the first batch of hops from the growing season, I figured I was in for a tongue punisher.

Celebration Ale pours a coppery amber, and it's cloudy, probably because of it's hop concentration. It's got a thick off-white head that laces to the glass and doesn't let go.

Not surprisingly, the aroma is primarily hops. I get a lot of grapefruit and a little bit of pine. I don't necessarily associate grapefruit with a winter beer, but I'm keeping an open mind on this one.

The taste is a surprise. Yes, it's very hoppy, as an American IPA should be, but it's luscious. Strong hop bitterness, but rounded out by a citrus sweetness complimented by earthiness and florals. It's got a medium body with crisp effervescence. The finish is hoppy dryness, another IPA trademark.

Even with my general avoidance of hoppy beers, the Celebration Ale really impressed me. It's well-rounded character was a pleasant surprise after the aroma led me to believe this was going to bruise my taste buds. This beer is getting high praise and it definitely deserves it.

Beer Advocate readers: A-
Justin: A-


Jon said...

despite being a hop-lover, the first time i tried celebration i found it overwhelming and couldn't finish it (i chalk this up mainly to the fact that we had just helped killa keg of glbc x-mas). it's since become one of my favorites and something i look forward to every year, almost as much as glbc and cbc

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