Friday, November 22, 2013

Coming Home 2013 Holiday Ale – Grand Teton Brewing

I have wanted to try a fresh Coming Home Holiday Ale release from Grand Teton Brewing for a while now, but only seem to find them on the shelves in mid-February.  The beers in the Cellar Reserve Series age very well, so there is nothing wrong with the 3 month old bottles that I have been finding, but beers change in the bottle, and the older they are the less they resemble the intended release from the brewery.  Many styles get better over time, in my opinion, but many people don’t agree with that opinion and want to drink a beer that is as fresh as possible.  Heck, that is the opinion of most breweries, and that is the correct position to take for most styles.

                The 2013 Coming Home Holiday Ale is a Belgian-style Dubbel, and I would fill you out more on the style, but there is a strong explanation of Belgian Dubbels, and the difference between the different connotations that denote different Belgian beers in the “They Say” section below.  With that said, on to the review.  There aren’t any reviews of 2013 Coming Home Holiday Ale on the major ratings sites, or anywhere else for that matter, although I am sure the reviews will start coming in from everyone else soon.

They Say:

                Our intent for our annual Holiday Ale series is to release a special beer each November to be enjoyed with special friends on special occasion.  Coming Home 2013 boasts aromas of dark cherries, mincemeat pie and celebratory flavors of dark sugar and raisins along with a spicy dry finish.  It was brewed with Idaho pale and Belgian specialty malts plus dark candi sugar from Belgium.  The sugar addition provides rich amber color, a sweet aroma and dark fruit flavors.

                Coming Home 2013 was fermented with yeast from a Belgian Trappist monastery to add hints of nutmeg, clove and other holiday spices.  At 7.5% ABV this is an ale to be savored, enjoyed with friends and family over a holiday meal or paired with flavorful cheeses.  Brewed in the Belgian Bubbel tradition, this year’s Coming Home Holiday Ale is boldly flavorful yet imminently drinkable.

                The monastic brewing tradition goes back centuries.  The sixth century Italian Saint Benedict is said to have laid down the rules of monastic life with an emphasis on obedience and self-sufficiency.  As monasteries spread to the north it was natural that they include breweries within their walls, as beer was often a safer alternative to water.  In the 17th century, monk Rancé established the strict Trappist order at the Abbaye de la Trappe in Normandy.

                As the order spread across northern Europe, each Trappist monastery brewed beer for its own sustenance and for sale.  Today, only beer produced under the strict supervision of one of eight Trappist monasteries-sic in Belgium, one in the Netherland and Austria- may officially be called a Trappist beer.  All Trappist beers are bottle-conditioned ales, but otherwise they can vary widely in style.

                Beer brewed at other monasteries, at commercial breweries under contract to a religious order, or just named with a religious connotation, are usually called Abbey beers.  As with the Trappist ales, Abbey beers can vary considerably, though there are two well defined sub styles: Dubbel and Tripel.  Contrary to popular belief, these names do not signify ales whicyh double and triple our “regular strength” beers.  Rather, brewers in the past often produced very light “table beers” or Singles in the 3-3.5% alcohol by weight range that could safely be consumed all day as alternatives to questionable water.  Seen relative to those, the names Dubbel (6-7.5%) and Tripel (7-10%) , make much more sense.

                Coming Homer 2013 will be available November 1st, 2013 in ½ and 1/6 bbl kegs and bottle-conditioned 750mL cases.

The web page for the release adds:

Brewed in the Belgian Dubbel tradition, this year’s Coming Home Holiday Ale is big and bold yet imminently drinkable. Coming Home 2013 features celebratory flavors of dark sugar and raisins and a spicy, dry finish. It was brewed with pale and brown malts plus special dark candi sugar. The sugar addition provides a sweet aroma and dark fruit flavors without the cloying thickness typical of all-malt brews. Coming Home 2013 was fermented with ale yeast from a Belgian Trappist monastery to add hints of nutmeg, clove and other holiday spices. At 7.5% ABV this is an ale to be savored, enjoyed with friends over a holiday meal or paired with flavorful cheeses.

Original Gravity (Plato): 18 ̊
International Bitterness Units: 20
 Alcohol by Volume: 7.5%
Color (Lovibond): 20 

I Say:

                Coming Home 2013 pours a very clear amber with a thick, creamy, yellow-tinged, off-white head that holds excellent retention, and leaves moderately heavy lacing in the glass.  It is a very good looking beer, although it is a couple shades lighter than I was expecting it to be, but it’s still well within the allowable range.  The aroma is moderately complex for a Belgian Dubbel.  The front end is dominated by caramel, raisin esters, and hints of dark cherry which blend into a more complex caramelized sugar aroma with notes of plum and fig with very enjoyable clove phenols, with a touch of nutmeg.  There is no discernable alcohol in the aroma when the beer is cold, but as it warms there is a slight note of soft, sweet alcohol.

                The flavor, similar to the aroma, moderately complex, rich, and malty.  It begins with notes of raisins and complex caramelized sugars before transitioning into plum, and figs, with mellow clove phenols.  The finish is dry and moderately spicy, with hints of figs, nutmeg, and cloves.  There are notes of sweet, and slightly spicy alcohols throughout that serve to enhance the complexity.  Coming Home 2013 is medium-light bodied with a moderate level of carbonation.

                This is an excellent Belgian Dubbel that is sweet and malty with complex fruity esters, and pleasant, mellow phenols.  I am confident that it will continue to evolve in the bottle, and should become more complex as it ages.  I have enjoyed every Grand Teton beer that I have had so far and this is definitely no exception.  This is likely a very limited release, so if you see it in stock somewhere pick up a bottle, it likely won’t last long on the liquor store shelf.  If by any chance you find any bottles from a previous Cellar Reserve release, then pick them up too while you are at it, I just saw a couple bottles of Oud Bruin on my last  beer run, and yes I did pick up a few more!  For more info on Grand Teton Brewing, click the Grand Teton brewing label at the bottom of this post!

                That’s all for today, have a great weekend!

                Happy Drinking!!

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