This week is the official Deschutes Brewery release of their annual Winter Warmer, Jubelale (the release party at the Portland Pub was yesterday, and the Bend Pub is hold their release party today at 5:30), so to coincide with that I opened up one of the bottles they had sent me last month to enjoy and review.
Okay, maybe less of a review and more of waxing rhapsodic about the beer—because frankly, I’ve written a review of Jubelale every year since 2004 (except for 2007 for some reason) and even did a vertical tasting last year (which included the 2007), and I don’t need to rehash the tasting notes in the usual format.
More and more I’m coming to think of Jubelale as the “prototypical” Winter Warmer, at least as American beers go. Even though they tweak the recipe each year (this year there’s talk of molasses and vanilla bean in there), Deschutes always nails it and there’s no mistaking this beer for anything else. It’s that distinctive. At 6.7% alcohol by volume, it’s strong but not too strong—but it doesn’t have to be, there’s nothing to prove by pushing any boundaries.
This year’s version pours a nice tawny brown color, and you can really pick out the molasses in the aroma—to me it comes across as a leathery-sweet, warming note. It rich and malty and a touch spicy, much of which comes from the hops (East Kent Goldings, I believe), though I won’t swear there isn’t anything else in there too. The alcohol makes itself known with a drying finish but at the same time it doesn’t cut through the sweetness and nutty roastiness of the malt.
Jubelale is by far my favorite Deschutes Brewery seasonal (as if you couldn’t tell) and I rank it up there with other “iconic” (to my mind) American seasonals: Celebration from Sierra Nevada and Our Special Ale from Anchor are two that immediately come to mind.
It’s out—it’s on the shelves this week. Yes, it’s a little early. But go pick some up anyway.