This last bracket was one of the toughest of all. A venerable contender – Great Lakes Christmas Ale – goes up against a hometown favorite – Columbus Brewing Company’s Winter Warmer.
Copper-colored and very clear, with a small, off-white head.
Ginger and cinnamon in the nose, maybe some honey. All quite restrained, though. Otherwise, there’s some caramel maltiness and maybe a touch of chocolate that comes out as the beer warms.
Similar taste to the smell, with more spice coming through. Moderate sweetness early, but ending nice and dry. Nice maltiness
Medium-bodied, with medium or medium-light carbonation. No astringency. Lightly warming. Very drinkable.
[Erin’s Note: I think we need to do future rounds blind. This beer has long been a favorite of Josh’s. When we lived out of state, his mom saved him Christmas Ale for when we came for holiday visits. I agree this is a fantastic beer for the style, but I’m not sure either of us can be impartial about it. Impartiality wasn’t a ground rule for the tournament, but it would be good to work toward it for future rounds.]
J: 9/10 E: 8/10
Copper-colored, somewhat cloudy, with a small, off-white head. Very similar in color to the Great Lakes, though cloudier.
Moderately strong Christmas spice in the nose. Smells like cinnamon-spice cookies–mmmm. Cinnamon stands out the most–a touch too much, for Josh’s taste–with maybe some nutmeg and ginger as well? The ginger comes out more as the beer warms. The spices are strong enough to crowd out most of the malt.
Stronger spicing in the mouth than the Great Lakes. Again, more cinnamon-focused. Fairly restrained for a Christmas ale. Moderate sweetness, but moderate bitterness too. The finish dries out somewhat but not entirely, though either hops or spices seem to add some late bitterness that the Great Lakes doesn’t have.
Medium body, with somewhat higher than medium carbonation. No astringency. Lightly warming.
All in all, a very nice Christmas ale. I suspect this would have won at least one of the other brackets. Unfortunately, it’s got some stiff competition here, and this one isn’t quite as polished as as GLBC. The flavors don’t meld quite as well, it’s rather cloudy, and I’d like a slightly drier finish. Ultimately, these are just quibbles. Nice job, CBC.
J: 8/10 E: 8/10
Great Lakes wins by a nose! Or maybe it was appearance?
Our goal is to run the semi-finals over the weekend and take a few bottles of the finalists to the family Christmas party and get votes for the winner, so I’m keeping the two remaining Ohio beers in separate contests and stacking up the more established breweries against each other.