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Friday night we were invited over to Dustin's for a winter beer blind tasting; this is a totally normal and really fun way to spend a Friday, schedule yours soon. The lineup consisted of 12 winter seasonals and one oatmeal stout - I don't know why only 11 made it into this photo...it was taken after the tasting...

From left to right, the contestants - along with their RateBeer score:

  1. Ninkasi 'Sleigh'r' (85) - Dark Double Altbier
  2. Bridgeport 'Ebenezer' (79) - English Strong Ale
  3. 10 Barrel 'Pray For Snow' (not rated) - American Strong Ale
  4. Great Divide 'Hibernation' (98) - English Old Ale
  5. 21st Amendment 'Fireside Chat' (48) - Spiced English Strong Ale
  6. Hopworks 'Abominable' (95) - American Strong Ale
  7. Nogne 'Winter Ale' (99) - American Strong Ale
  8. Pyramid 'Snowcap' (85 {really?}) - English Strong Ale
  9. Full Sail 'Wassail' (92) - English Strong Ale
  10. Sierra Nevada 'Celebration' (98) - Winter IPA?
  11. Widmer 'Brrr' (92) - Winter Red Ale
  12. Firestone Walker 'Velvet Merlin' (98) - Oatmeal Stout (not pictured)
  13. Schooner Exact 'Hoppy Holidays' (81) - American Strong Ale (not pictured)

Each taster had a scoresheet, and rated each beer on 5 basic categories: appearance, aroma, taste, palate/mouthfeel, finish. I regret that I only scored the beers tasted, I didn't take notes - which makes a recap 2 days later difficult. The overall winner among the group was the widely available Widmer Brrr. It really is a solid beer, and I would wager it won because it is essentially an India Red Ale with flavors everyone is familiar with.

My top 3 were: Nogne Winter Ale, 10 Barrel 'Pray for Snow', and the HUB 'Abominale'. I tried to stay objective and rate based on the category of winter ale or winter warmer, though it seems I favor American Strong Ales to the English style...blind taste tests always reveal interesting things.

 

I am pleased that I was bearish all along on the Pyramid Snowcap, and I ended up rating it the lowest among the 13 - street cred. Also receiving low marks was the 21st Amendment Fireside Chat, though it gets best artwork on the logo design which is certainly worth something. If you want anothers' view on the tasting, Dustin's post is here for your enjoyment.

So go do your own tasting or use my recommendations to choose a winner - winter is coming, time to embrace it.