Seasonal ales made to take the chill off
For beer enthusiasts, staying warm during the holidays means taking a break from cooking and shopping to bask in the comfort of a winter...
Seattle Times business reporters
Favorite holiday brewsHalf of the top 10 craft beers sold at grocery stores in the Seattle-Tacoma area last November and December were holiday beers. Here are last year's favorites:
1. Pyramid Snow Cap*
2. Redhook ESB
3. New Belgium Fat Tire Amber Ale
4. Alaskan Amber
5. Redhook Winter Hook*
6. Pyramid Hefeweizen
7. Deschutes Jubelale*
8. New Belgium 2º Below Winter Ale*
9. Sierra Nevada Pale Ale
10. Alaskan Winter Ale*
* Seasonal beer
Source: Information Resources Inc.
For beer enthusiasts, staying warm during the holidays means taking a break from cooking and shopping to bask in the comfort of a winter ale.
They can be spicy, sweet or pumpkin flavored, but winter brews almost always have more alcohol than the average beer because, baby, it's cold outside, as entertainers from Louis Armstrong to Liz Phair have sung.
Small brewers let loose this time of year to create something special, which means more ingredients, more fermentation and therefore more alcohol, said Stephen Beaumont, a beer expert in Toronto who has written five books about beer.
"When you give free rein to brewers, they tend to use a lot of ingredients, and that makes for big beers," Beaumont said. The higher alcohol usually means a slightly higher price.
The widely acknowledged granddaddy of holiday beers comes from Anchor Brewing in San Francisco. Best known as "Our Special Ale," it's has been around since 1975. The ingredients change every year and remain one of the industry's best-kept secrets.
Seattle's biggest breweries have old holiday standbys.
Redhook's Winter Hook, which represents about 5 percent of annual sales, celebrates its 20th year this season. Redhook's soon-to-be sibling, Widmer Brothers in Portland, sells a winter seasonal beer called Snowplow Milk Stout.
Pyramid Breweries' Snow Cap turns 21 this year and was the Seattle-Tacoma area's top-selling beer in grocery stores last holiday season, according to the market research firm Information Resources.
It is Pyramid's No. 3 seller, after Hefe Weizen and Apricot Weizen Ale, said chief executive Scott Barnum. Snow Cap is a "spicier beer," he said, even though it has no spices. "There are super-secret ingredients that make its magical taste."
Other breweries are less protective of their recipes. J Kipling, the head brewer at Hale's Ales Brewery in Seattle, said he stopped using cinnamon in its Wee Heavy Winter Ale in the late 1990s. "Fruit beers, spice beers, these things come and go. That kind of went away, and I personally like it better without it," he said.
He and other craft brewers often sell their seasonal ales well into the new year.
"We've probably had it on tap through July at our own pub," Kipling said. "It holds up to a little bit of age. Lighter beers don't do well with age."
Charles Finkel at Pike Brewing is reintroducing Auld Acquaintance this month after a long hiatus. Seasoned with orange peel, coriander, nutmeg and cinnamon, Auld Acquaintance was a Pike Brewing standby before Charles and his wife, Rose Ann, sold the brewery in 1997.
The couple bought it back last year, and they've gotten commitments for all of the Auld Acquaintance they plan to brew, including 3,600 bottles plus kegs on tap at their brewery, Nordstrom Grill and elsewhere.
Elysian Brewing is known for brewing a stunning array of pumpkin ales — eight of them this year — that become available in October. Its official holiday beers come a little later. Last Thanksgiving, the Seattle brewery made wild rice ale and chestnut brown ale.
November also marks the annual debut of Elysian's Bifrost, named for the bridge that in Norse mythology connects earth to Asgard, the realm of the gods, according to Dick Cantwell, Elysian's exceedingly well-read co-owner.
The Washington Beer Commission will showcase winter beers by more than 30 Washington breweries during a Winter Beer Festival at Hale's Ales Brewery on Nov. 30 and Dec. 1. More information is at www.washingtonbeer.com.
— Melissa AllisonTidbits
Aritzia , a women's fashion retailer based in Vancouver, B.C., opens Saturday at Bellevue Square. It's the 24th store for Aritzia in North America, and the second outside Canada. The first U.S. store opened last week in San Jose, Calif. Aritzia targets women 15 to 35 years old. Prices range from $20 for a tank top to $500 for a wool coat. — AM
Dry Fly Distillery of Spokane, one of Washington's only distilleries since Prohibition, is selling its first bottles of vodka and gin. In Seattle, they're available at two state liquor stores in Seattle — 1702 Fourth Ave. S. and 1605 12th Ave. — and will soon be sold at Canlis Restaurant and The Frontier Room. — MA
REI opens a 26,000-square-foot store today in Issaquah at the Commons shopping center on Gilman Boulevard near Interstate 90. Kent-based REI now has six stores in the Puget Sound area and nine in Washington state. — AM
Fonte Coffee Roaster in Seattle has developed a new blend called Bin 16, which is available through March. Fonte officials say it might be the most difficult blend they've ever produced, with coffee beans from Guatemala, Kenya, Latin America and Indonesia. It costs $16.49 a pound at www.fontecoffee.com. — MA
Restaurants Unlimited of Seattle has received a $50 million credit facility from Cratos Capital and GE Capital, the financiers said in a release. Restaurants Unlimited, which owns Palomino, Palisade and other restaurants, is owned by the private investment firm Sun Capital Partners. — MA
Sturtevant's , the Bellevue ski shop, has new owners. Longtime owners Duncan and Janet Campbell sold the shop's parent company, Dual Sports, to employees Jeff Campbell, Tracy Gibbons and Stacey Weichbrodt. Jeff Campbell is Duncan Campbell's son; Weichbrodt is his niece. Gibbons graduated from Bellevue High School with the other two and was a member of the U.S. Ski Team. — AM
More than half of U.S. consumers bought organic food in the past year, and 26 percent bought organic beverages, according to the research firm Mintel. Nearly a third of adults say they buy organic products as often as possible. The organic food and beverage industry is worth nearly $6 billion a year. — MA
Bellevue-based Expedia , an online travel agency, has teamed with the National Football League to offer travel deals and NFL-focused destination information, as well as vacation packages that include tickets to the 2008 Pro Bowl and other league events. "Of the 170 million self-classified NFL fans, 60 percent do not live in the same city as their favorite teams," Expedia.com President Paul Brown said. "They're traveling to see their teams when they play out of town, and even when their teams play at home." — AM
Retail Report appears Fridays. Melissa Allison covers the food and beverage industry. She can be reached at 206-464-3312 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Amy Martinez covers goods, services and online retail. She can be reached at 206-464-2923 or email@example.com
Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company
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