Wednesday, January 4, 2012 at 2 p.m.
Brewery: Deschutes Brewery
Style: Winter Warmer
ABV: 6.7 percent
At my last check, the temperature outside was in the 70s. But the calendar still says it's winter, dammit, which means it's still a great time of year to crack open a dark, malty winter warmer. Deschutes Jubelale is one of the most available -- and tasty -- iterations of the style around.
Now, for a long time I've been an unapologetic fan of extreme beers. Massively roasty stouts; tongue-rippingly bitter IPAs; boozy barleywines aged in every type of liquor barrel imaginable. Rarely will I try the same beer twice -- there's just too much out there to enjoy. But there's a short list of brews I'll buy a six-pack of every season they appear on the shelves, and Deschutes Jubelale is unquestionably on it.
Reasons for this abound, but we'll start with the bottle art. For the past 17 years, Deschutes has selected a local Oregon artist to create an image for the label to capture of the season's festive atmosphere. For 2011, Central Oregon artists Cara Thayer and Louie Van Patten (who create a plethora of beer-inspired paintings that you can see at beerpaintings.blogspot.com) drew up the snowball fight waiting to happen you see above.
With its 7 percent alcohol content, Jubelale isn't boozy by any means, but it's also not a slouch. There's a reason this style is called winter warmer -- it was created by English brewers to keep you cozy during the coldest part of the year through higher-than-average ABVs. Jubelale also achieves this by evoking the holidays and the things we associate with warmth: baking bread, warm fruit pie, sitting around a glowing fireplace with family and friends.
Crimson-tinged mahogany in color, Jubelale nonetheless displays good clarity for how dark it is. The layer of bubbles sitting atop the brew has the color and texture of caramelizing sugar. The sweetness suggested here is made manifest in the aroma -- the nose is full of raisins, dates, caramel, toffee, molasses and cinnamon. You may think, with this combination of foods, the aroma sounds sweet and rather intense, but here again is why Jubelale is great. The nose is actually fairly delicate and balanced while maintaining complexity.
Brewers combine four different malts in the process of creating Jubelale, which translates in the flavor to biscuits. The tongue picks up far more lightly toasted bread than the nose would imply. Other ingredients include Cascade, Galena, East Kent Goldings and Willamette hops along with an English ale yeast, which all combine to make the brew a lightly sweet melange of raisins, maple, earth and toffee. Medium-light in body, subtly bitter the beer has a high carbonation prickles the tongue and only adds to its drinkability.
Jubelale is the taste of winter. It's not heavy intense or rare, but what it is is balanced, extremely sessionable and great on a night when it's cold -- or when you just want to pretend it is.
Food pairing suggestions:
Try Jubelale alongside a classic canolli. The sweet, sugared dough of the pastry will work well with the biscuity malts of the beer while Jubelale's mild bitterness cuts the sweet, creamy filling.
Zach Fowle is a Certified Cicerone, an accredited guide to beer.
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