I’ve had Bull Jagger’s Portland Lager several times in the almost two months that it has been out, but always in the midst of other brews or talking about subjects other than beer – though that may sound out of character.

My tasting crew got to it on the Sunday after Thanksgiving, when we were having pasta primavera as a break from all the turkey. And the Portland lager paired with it perfectly.

The beer poured a light copper color with just a little bit of haze, and was quite heavily carbonated. It had a clean white head that lasted quite a while. The initial taste was a sweetness, with the malt coming in a little bit after that. It has a floral hops aroma that brings just a little bit of spiciness to the beer.

The lager is meant to replicate a Helles lager from Bavaria, said Allan Jagger, half of the Bull Jagger partnership. It’s just a bit bigger than Pilseners, but has the same lively crispness.

Portland Lager is a beer that will please serious beer drinkers with its subtle complexity, but could also help get your friends who drink mass-market beers to move up to something a bit better. It is subtly complex and easy-drinking at the same time.

We bought the beer at RSVP in Portland while on a Thanksgiving wine-buying trip.  The price was about $4.79 for a 16.9-ounce bottle. The bottle does not give the alcohol content, but I am guessing it is in the ballpark of 5 percent.

MEAN OLD TOM from Maine Beer Co. was another beer that we had over the Thanksgiving weekend.

I reviewed this beer, a complex stout with vanilla and chocolate, last year. But it is a winter seasonal, and it was nice to have it back – and not just because I like the name.

AMBER ROAD is another winner from Baxter Brewing Co. in Lewiston. This is the company’s third offering, following its Pamola Xtra Pale Ale, which I absolutely love, and the Stowaway IPA, which I like but not quite as much.

Amber Road pours a wonderfully rich amber with depth and clarity, and has a decent amount of carbonation and a nice head. This beer is dominated by the malt without a lot of bitterness, but it has a dry finish and just a little bit of a hop bite. It costs about $8 a six-pack and comes in 12-ounce cans, as do all of Baxter’s beers.

THE SAMUEL ADAMS Winter Classics 12-pack has come out with a new beer called Black and Brew, a coffee stout.

This has an intriguing mix of flavors and reminds me of the Founders Breakfast Stout I often order before going to early afternoon Red Sox games. It reminded son Zachary of a really good mix of Redhook Ale with Starbucks coffee that he had sometime in the mid-’90s.

Basically, I liked the flavor of this beer as an oddity. It had a rich mouthfeel, and the coffee and malt balanced well, with only a little bit of hop bitterness. But this is not a beer that would be my first choice on most occasions.

The Winter Classics 12-pack, which was on sale at $12.99 at Shaw’s but is regularly $14.99, also brings back Old Fezziwig, an old favorite of mine; Holiday Porter; Chocolate Bock; Winter Lager and Samuel Adams Lager. The Cranberry Lambic, one of son-in-law Christian’s favorites, has disappeared.

SHIPYARD BREWING CO. will soon be bringing out Applehead Ale, a new winter seasonal designed along the same lines of its wildly popular Pumpkinhead Ale.

Tami Kennedy, who does publicity for Shipyard, tried to warn me off the Applehead because she knows I am not a fan of Pumpkinhead, though I know that a lot of people love it. So I will be tasting the beer when it is available locally. And I think, maybe, that the cidery taste of apples with apple-pie spices might go better with ale than the taste of pumpkin and pumpkin-pie spices.

Nonetheless, I am pretty sure that I will be sticking with Prelude, Shipyard’s other winter seasonal, most of the time when I am drinking Shipyard this winter – if I don’t go with Old Thumper.

Tom Atwell is a freelance writer based in Cape Elizabeth. He can be contacted at 767-2297 or at:

[email protected]

filed under: