It could be argued that winter itself doesn’t technically begin until December 21st, but I don’t like arguing. So, from where I stand, the first day of winter is Dec. 1. This is a good thing, though, as it’s the perfect excuse to start digging into the winter and Christmas ales during the first weekend of December rather than waiting another three weeks.
That’s why Boulevard Brewing Company’s Nutcracker Ale began pouring into my glass last night, which makes this our first official beer of the winter season. It happens to be the best one so far, but I supposed there’s not much to compare it to just yet. Last year the Nutcracker Ale was one of the best winter beers of the season, though, so I have a feeling it’ll stand up just as well this season. Mind you, I may be somewhat biased simply because Boulevard is a local brewery, but it truly is a genuinely great seasonal beer.
As much as I like the fall and harvest ales, winter is the time of year I look forward to most from a beer standpoint. There’s something to be said for the scent and flavor of a hearty winter brew when the temperatures outside are near the freezing point, even if the outside temperature has to be in your imagination (an ode to all of my West coast friends).
Nutcracker Ale is a very nice balance of being hearty yet not-too heavy . It’s packed with all the good flavors that make a good winter beer. There’s just enough holiday spice and a rare blend of sweetness from the molasses to with the perfect amount of hoppiness. I’d call it smooth… And delicious. The absolute best thing about it, however, is how fresh it tastes. The fresh Chinook hops really make the beer as far as I’m concerned. Nutcracker Ale has a unique blending of spice, sweetness and freshness that make it a thirst-quenching and refreshing winter warmer.
It’s actually so smooth and refreshing that you don’t even notice that it’s got a 7.8% ABV. It tastes like it would be around 6%, so it really is smooth. Plus, as much as I try not to judge a beer by its label, it has a very cool and semi-retro looking label that kicks me into the holiday spirit… Or maybe that’s jut the ABV talking? Whatever the reason, I like it!
I gave it a 4.5 out of 5 on the Beeradvocate scale, and many of the recent reviews there seem to be similar to my impressions, although a few people had it graded quite a bit lower. Who knew people had different tastes? Go figure and bah humbug to them. I like it enough that this certainly won’t be my last Nutcracker of the season.