For many years,
Christmas seasonal brews have been a given in Europe, where the history of
beer goes back much further than history period here in America. In England,
a hearty Christmas Ale (perhaps in the slightly stronger Winter Warmer
style) is just the thing with which to celebrate the holidays. In Germany, a
Weihnachtsbier, usually a strong bock or doppelbock, is a given.
Here in America, Christmas beers are a more recent phenomenon, dating back
to the late seventies when Anchor Brewing started to release their annual
Our Special Ale . True, some regional breweries released special beers
at holiday time decades ago, but for the most part the rise of the
megabrewers sounded the death knell for the practice for all intents and
purposes until Anchor revived the tradition.
Today, it seems, the big guys are back at it again, with Anheuser-Busch,
Miller, and Coors all releasing winter beers. Even some of the smaller
regional brewers are bringing back Christmas ale. Regionals like the
Highfalls Brewing Company of Rochester, New York. You probably know them
best for their JW
Dundee’s Honey Brown Lager. But this year for the holidays they’ve also
released JW Dundee’s Special Edition Festive Ale
A little over a week ago I spied a six-pack while beer shopping, and of
course I snapped it right up. Highfalls has a habit of releasing beers like
this with little fanfare, so I hadn’t heard about it before picking it up.
Still, they recently released a credible
pale ale and
pale bock, so I
had high hopes for this one.
I was not disappointed. JW Dundee’s Special Edition Festive Ale pours
to a beautiful reddish chestnut color with a thick and creamy tan head
formation and a deliciously spicy, fruity nose. Then I sip. Wow! This is no
Christmas ale wannabe we’re taking about here, but a bonafide, honest to
goodness decent holiday brew. The label may say macrobrew, but the taste is
sating microbrew (in spirit, if not brewery size).
As soon as I sip, I get a delicious mouthful of rich chocolate, toasted
nuts, and soft subtle fruit. A hint of raisin is present, too. The beer has
plenty of body to stand up to the holiday spices, with hints of nutmeg,
cinnamon, and perhaps ginger intensifying in the finish. I don’t get a lot
of hops but the spices serve to balance the brew nicely, the nutmeg flavor
really coming out on the palate after swallowing.
All in all, I am very impressed with this beer, and give it 4 and one
quarter stars. In many ways, it reminds me of a fruitier version of
Samuel Adams Winter Lager, another great holiday seasonal. And for just
$6 a six-pack, it’s easy on the wallet as well.
And remember, try a new beer today, and drink outside the box.
*Pricing data accurate at time of review or latest update.
For reference only, based on actual price paid by reviewer.