Deschutes Brewery‘s seasonal Winter Warmer, Jubelale, is one of my all-time favorite seasonal beers, and most years I wax rhapsodic about it and this year is no different. Yes, I know it’s only mid-September and this (and other such seasonals) should really be making their appearance in November, but unfortunately the market dictates when these types of beers come out by buying (and drinking) up all the prior seasonals and demanding the next ones right away. Hence Deschutes sent me samples of the beer, so I get an early taste.
Which I am happy to do. And subsequently I will wax rhapsodic about it again.
One of the most interesting things about Jubelale in recent years was something Jeff blogged about last year:
This year’s, by contrast, has a much pricklier hide. It’s got some roast roughness and what I perceived as a dry tannic note. In fact, it was so dry I suspected that some wood-aged, brettanomyces-soured portion had been blended in. It is a startling departure from the Jubel of my memory. I shot Deschutes owner Gary Fish an email to get the lowdown, and he described the changes:
The original motivation for Jubelale that John Harris formulated was an English Old or Strong Ale…. I had been noticing for several years as our brewing techniques have gotten better and the equipment we were using became more sophisticated, a “drift” of our Jubelale flavoring to becoming, essentially, cleaner and drier (less estery). My comment to the brewers a couple years ago resulted in a project to, essentially, engineer back in the flavors or characteristics our processes were removing, but to do it deliberately, not by accident the way we, and most small brewers, have done things. The result is what you perceive as a change, whereas, from my perspective, we have simply returned to the way Jubelale used to taste, before these “improvements.” It is interesting you perceive wood aging. There is no wood aging in Jubelale, no brett, no oak.
So there you have it.
The fact that Deschutes went “backward” with the beer to restore some of what they perceived as “lost character” (something I’ve noticed in breweries that grow very large) speaks a lot to the commitment Deschutes has towards its beers, even potentially flying in the face of popularity (Jeff didn’t care for these changes, for instance).
As far as I’m concerned, Jubelale is (still) a classic example of the Winter Warmer/Old Ale style: a nut brown color in the body topped by a light tan head with great legs apparent on the lacing of the glass. To my eye it has a hazier look to it than the usual clarity of Deschutes beers due to that re-tooling, but it’s dark enough that this could be my imagination tweaked by that same story.
It has a mouth-watering, appetizing aroma, malty with hints of spice along with molasses and leather, something very “Old Ale” to my way of thinking and is the perfect beery aroma when the colder winter months roll around. It’s delicious as always, with a toffee malt body and solid spicy-earthy hop bitterness running through it: each year it reaffirms itself as one of my favorite Winter Warmers and it’s definitely one I look forward to every year.
Jubelale will be generally available and on the shelves starting in October.