Beer: Rail Slide Imperial Spiced Ale Brewery: SanTan Brewing Co. Style: English Strong Ale ABV: 7.1 percent
The problem with seasonals is that they're just that -- seasonal. Here for a short time, then gone for another year, your cravings be damned. Feeling like a Pumpkin Porter in the springtime? Too damn bad, buddy. Suck it up until next October. But as the snowbirds well know, we do not tolerate changing seasons in Arizona. Give people the power to take home their limited-release ales and drink them whenever they please, and they'll love you for it.
This is why SanTan's new series of seasonal canned brews is so brilliant. Starting in November, the brewery will release a new seasonal in cans every three months for all to enjoy. Since many of the beers -- including Sex Panther, Count Hopula and the award-winning Mr. Pineapple -- have until now only been available at the tap, this is a big deal.
The first canned seasonal to hit shelves is Rail Slide, an English strong ale brewed with spices of the chilly season. While the name is new, the brew isn't entirely original -- it's a descendant of 12 Daze, last year's collaboration with Liberty Market that contained a chai tea mix of ginger, cinnamon, cloves, pepper, cardamom and nutmeg. For Rail Slide, SanTan once again collaborated with Liberty, but created a slightly new blend, adding licorice to the other wintry spices.
Brewed with two-row, caramel, Munich. roasted and chocolate malts as well as a little wheat, Rail Slide has the color and clarity of a garnet gemstone. when poured into one of SanTan's curvy glasses, it gains a fuzzy head of sandy tan that slowly descends to fleece-like ring.
The aroma is like walking into grandma's place after a day in the snow. Sweet, warm caramel and toffee mingle with touches of apple, roasted walnut and coffee. Close you eyes and you'll detect the spice blend of cinnamon, ginger, apple and licorice wafting about the room.
The flavor is far less impressive than the aroma, but still hits the notes it needs to. Ginger is the main contributor here, with cinnamon and licorice playing supporting roles. American ale yeast lends apple and alcohol to the malt's nuts and caramel, while Summit hops contribute a little bitterness (about 35 IBUs worth). A major complain would be the beer's water-thin body, which is just too ephemeral to support the myriad flavors within. almost-not-there carbonation does nothing to help the situation. the wave of toasty nut bread that appears at the finish, however, does.
Rail Slide became available November 1 and will last most of the winter season. You can find it on draft at SanTan, at the brewery's many draft accounts across the Valley, or in six-packs in bars and bottle shops. Take them home and enjoy them whenever you feel like. You can now.
Zach Fowle is a Certified Cicerone, an accredited guide to beer. He works at World of Beer in Tempe.