Full Moon Winter Ale, Blue Moon Brewing Co., Coors-Molson, Toronto, Canada
Although the term abbey ale, used to describe this beer is a bit of a stretch; as a winter seasonal, this is far superior to the hazelnut Blue Moon winter of last year. This brew has a gentle doughy palate with a relaxed malty profile. The addition of dark candy sugar (hence the use of the term abbey) gives the ale a flavorful extended finish. Very nicely done.



For some strange reason, the popular Shiner beers from the Spoetzl Brewery in Shiner Texas, are enjoyed by many people completely unaware of their ANNIVERSARY series of beers, created to celebrate their upcoming 100th anniversary as a brewery. This year’s SHINER 98 is a Bavarian amber, a very tasty beer indeed. Last year’s SHINER 97 was an incredible bohemian take on black (schwartz) beer. So popular in fact it will soon be available as part of their regular porfolio: SHINER BLACK LAGER. What makes the Anniversary recipes note worthy is their German-Czech heritage. Living proof that beer is also culture. A tasty brew is a form of happiness.


Samuel Smith’s Winter Welcome 2007-2008, Samuel Smith Old Brewery. Tadcaster, England
A deep copper coloured pour with a rich malty-vinous nose. A very lively fresh sample that… but wait! I don’t want this to be yet another dry clinical beer tasting study. Instead I think it is time for a little Christmas Story:
       Once upon a time in a town called Cincinnati there was a deli shop owner named Joey. It was known that Joey ran a very good food shop with a nice selection of wine and beer. But it was the beers that made Joey famous. Long before the terms microbrewery and craft beer became part of the common language, Joey stocked beer from all over the world.
I remember the first Holiday beer I ever tasted. It was none other than Wurzburger Holiday Bier, a Christmas dopplebock recipe hundreds of years old. Mind you, I knew none of this at the time. All I did know was that the beer I was drinking tasted very good. This discovery was only made possible by Joey’s. Joey knew what holiday beer was when most folks in Cincinnati did not have a clue. That was why he would purchase many many cases of Samuel Smith’s Winter Welcome in late October, and sell it out of his store until April of the following year.
People from the entire tri-state area would travel to his modestly sized shop. And no wonder, for it was from Joey’s I first tried Anchor’s Christmas Special Ale. The first Sierra-Nevada Celebration Ale, the first Saranac Season’s best… Alas, all of this now is just history, for Joey’s has been out of business for quite a few years. But that reminds me, sipping this wonderful Samuel Smith’s Winter Welcome 2007-2008 that once there was a deli that was for The Beer Doctor, the absolute center of the brew universe.
“Blessing of your heart, you brew good ale.” Shakespeare

In Praise Of The Matt Brewing Company, Utica, New York

It was twenty five years ago that I first tasted a beer from what was then called The F.X. Matt Brewing Company. It was simply called Matt’s. It was a clean tasting American lager, bottled in clear glass but packaged in a light-proof carton. Well now that recipe is called Saranac Traditional, and now it is stored in brown coloured glass. The evolution of Matt’s into Saranac is a remarkable transition. It’s an outstanding example of how the so-called craft brewers helped to revitalize the entire brewing industry.
I remember the first Saranac I ever tasted. In those years it was simply called Saranac (later known as their Amber Lager). I will never forget the first time experiencing the signature cascade hops combined with the finest malts. An outstanding beer, down to this very day.
Matt Brewing is famous for brewing many different beer styles. This is partially due to their expertise as a contract brewer; work that includes producing Brooklyn’s Black Chocolate Stout and Post Road Pumpkin Ale. Access to the finest ingredients has prompted The Matt Brewing Co. to create some incredible in-house brands, such as their winter lager, Saranac Season’s Best. Their Saranac Pumpkin Ale is a delicious tribute to all things autumn including Halloween. Early into the new year they release what could arguably be considered one the very best bock beers in the United States: Saranac Black Diamond Bock. Add to all of this their High Peak series edition called Saranac Imperial India Pale Ale, an 8.5% abv ale which employs ten different malts with ten different hops!
Saranac beers have always been reasonably priced, which only makes them more remarkable. If you never had a Saranac beer, try one and see what you think.


Obtaining beer in the Ohio valley is always hit and miss. So it is with the Mendocino Brewing Company beers: some years they are suddenly available, and then, just as suddenly they disappear. Their Eye of the Hawk select ale is an original take on a traditional English style strong ale. Malty with susbstantial hop support, this is one of those one beer at a time type beers (in other words: a sipper), where flavor complexity becomes an avenue of discovery. And rightfully so! Brewed at Mendocino’s east coast operation in Saratoga Springs, New York, at the Olde Saratoga Brewing Company. An 8% abv ale, this is the kind of brew trappist monks would say to enjoy the way it was made: peacefully.
There is no such thing as too much beer.


As The Beer Doctor, I am always sampling new brews, time permitting. I also sample the annual return of seasonals, such as autumn, oktoberfest, holiday and spring bock.
This leads to other discoveries. For example, Blue Moon Brewing Company, the craft-style subsidiary of Coors-Molson, has released their winter ale for this year. But it is
not the hazelnut recipe of last year. It is said to be an abbey-style ale brewed with dark candy sugar. What does it taste like? I do not know yet. I just didn’t have the time.