Wassail is an old
English holiday tradition. It is ale served hot with spices added; a clove
stick, some cinnamon perhaps. Not many people today are in the habit of
drinking their beer hot off the stove (though don't knock it until you've
tried it. Hot Gluhkriek, a thick syrupy cherry beer, is fantastic on an icy
winter's night). The idea of spices in your beer is not an attractive
prospect to many people either, even though almost all beers are spiced with
hops. I, however, love spiced beers. Samuel Adams Old Fezziwig was a
particularly memorable one, albeit one that is no longer produced.
Saranac included Winter Wassail, their version of a spiced English ale, in
their 12-pack holiday samplers back in 1997 and 1998. It wasn't included in
the 1999 sampler, and won't be in the 2000 release either, which will hit
stores in mid-October. This year's release will bring back Scotch ale,
Belgian White, IPA and stout in addition to the six year-round beers. Two
new beers, a caramel porter and ESB, will be introduced. Saranac does rotate
seasonals in and out of the samplers however, so with luck we'll see the
Winter Wassail return in 2001.
In the past, I've described this beer as "liquid French toast", and as I sip
it I can see why I said that. Wassail is burnt orange in color with a light
creamy head and very spicy nose packed with nutmeg and cinnamon. The rich
mouthfeel and syrupy malt body combine with the cinnamon to give you that
French Toast character. Many brewers make you guess at their "secret"
spices; Saranac tells you exactly what's in here: cinnamon, nutmeg, orange,
and allspice. This beer alone is worth the price of the sampler.
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.