It ’tisn’t exactly the season for a winter seasonal. Still, when I got a bottle of Alesmith’s winter Yulesmith from a friend in exchange for a bottle of Allagash Gargamel, I couldn’t wait half a year to try it.
San Diego-based Alesmith Brewing Company, self-described as an artisan microbrewery, has been around since 1995. The brewery can back up the artisan claim; they use no additives or preservatives, use all-natural local and imported hops and malt, and all the company’s employees are award-winning homebrewers. The brewery’s beers, especially the Speedway Stout, have gained a devoted following among better-beer lovers.
Although the name Yulesmith implies a winter beer, Alesmith brews a summer seasonal with the same name. The brewery describes the two thusly;
During the summer, YuleSmith is transformed into a big, hoppy, Double IPA. The enormous load of hops requires a substantial malt background to create just the right balance for a Double IPA. Lighter in color, summer YuleSmith is available around the 4th of July and is packaged in a red, white, and blue bottle.
For the winter season, YuleSmith is brewed as an Imperial Red Ale. This version is maltier, more balanced, and darker in color than the summer version. Although quite malty, big hop flavors and aromas are abundant making this an unforgettable winter warmer. Winter YuleSmith is packaged in traditional holiday red and green.
After sharing a bit of the Marshall Wharf Big Twitch IPA with Jon, Jake and Meredith, we moved on to the rubicund (great word, look it up) winter Yulesmith. Even though the style is an imperial red, it looks more like an imperial orange after a pour, filling the glass with a brilliant copper beer. Nice soap-bubbly off-white head, and enough gentle carbonation to keep things moving. Probably because I’m drinking the brew out of season, the first smells to hit me are cinnamon and allspice. Behind that I get the caramel malt of an american red, plus lots of sticky, piney hops.
At first sip, the taste is straight up caramel malt. The sweetness is countered well by hops, both of the piney and citrusy variety. The bitterness carries through to a finish that shows off the yule nature of the beer – cinnamon, nutmeg and other holiday spices round out a tangy finish. The carbonation isn’t too in your face, and a slightly-sticky-but-mostly-creamy mouthfeel makes for one easy drinker. The 9.5% ABV is really well hidden, and I could have gone for another one of these without a second thought.
Probably because of the spices and alcohol, the Alesmith Yulesmith runs a bit warm for the June weather. Even then, the beer is freakin’ tasty. As a winter warmer, I could see slipping a bottle or two in my ski bag for the condo. If the winter Yulesmith is any indication of the quality of the summer version, Alesmith has two beers that should keep you in the holiday spirit year-round.