My game with Winter Warmers (the Oktoberfest of the Holiday Season) is to see how close each variety comes to living up to the awesomeness that is the Sam Smith version of the style. You can bet that I’ll be reviewing the Sam Smith the instant I get ahold of some. Until then, I’ll be playing with every other Winter Warmer I can get my hands on in an attempt to review them for you before it’s truly the season to drink them. Here’s the first:
Name: Nutcracker Ale
Origin: Boulevard Brewing Co., Kansas City, MO
Style: Winter Warmer
I drank this: on tap at Old Chicago, OP, KS
I’m never entirely sure what to do with the Boulevard Nutcracker. It has fresh hops as part of the ingredient list, and I’m pretty much 100% a fan of fresh hops always and forever. So that’s good. On the other hand, I’m not really sure what to do with this level of hops in what is an otherwise very malty, slightly fruity-spicy malty ale.
This beer very good head retention – there was foam present for almost the entire time I nursed my way through it. It has a slightly fruity/spicy malt scent. Color-wise, it’s browner than the Boulevard Pale Ale and maybe a hair darker.
The flavor of this beer splits two ways, as I alluded to earlier. It starts off with a really major hop hit from the fresh hops they pour in – it has a really bright, herbal/piney quality. I like the flavor quite a bit, but it’s brief.
The hops are replaced by a very strong, sweet, kind of fruity/spicy malt hit, like they took a bunch of really sweet, sugary malts, added some molasses, and then threw in some nutmeg for good measure. I looked at the ingredients and they don’t list spices as being added to this ale so I think I’m making the nutmeg flavor up, but it’s a pretty prominant note to my palate. What I can say for sure is that the malts are super-fruity-molasses sweet.
I like both the hop hit and the malt hit, but they never quite blend into a cohesive beer to me. It’s not bad (and definitely better than I remember it being a few years ago, when I had one and really didn’t like it), but it’s not my all-time favorite beer either. This is a popular beer, though, so this is one of those where I think I’m mostly alone in my lack of fandom. It *is* a very well-made beer. It’s just not perfect for my particular palate.