My beer drinking gets eclectic at this time of year. Since I started writing this column in spring 2010, I seldom buy beer unless I can think of a way that I can incorporate it into this column. But at this time of year, with gifts and a lot of company, beer just keeps showing up in our household.

So my solution for this week is the themeless column about beer that has been consumed in or near our house recently.

One of the absolute winners was Boatswain Heavy Lift Vessel, a 7 percent alcohol ale from Rhinelander Brewing Co. in Monroe, Wis. It was sweet, rich and dominated by malt, and went well with the appetizers before son Zachary’s birthday dinner on Dec. 23. I bought it at Trader Joe’s when we were getting flowers and cheese for the holidays, and it cost about $2 for a 22-ounce bottle.

Zachary gave us a four-pack of Righteous Ale as a thank-you for keeping granddaughter Alana for two days while preschool was closed. This is a rye beer from Sixpoint Brewery in Brooklyn, N.Y., and it was fantastic. Nancy and I had it with lunch on New Year’s Eve day.

It had a good off-white head over a hazy deep-brown liquid, and a wonderful grainy flavor with some hops and citrus aroma. It comes in 16-ounce cans, so — if I can find it locally — it will join the beers from Baxter and Narragansett when I go on camping and fishing trips.

Speaking of ‘Gansett, when we were at Trader Joe’s, I bought a six-pack of Old Yankee Ale from Cottrell Brewing in Pawcatuck, Conn. I bought this because it is where some of ‘Gansett’s craft beers are created, and I wanted to see what they did for their own beers. This was a good beer, richly flavored and well-balanced, and it might have scored better because of the beer it followed.

The Cottrell was sitting right beside the Winter Session Ale from Portland’s Peak Organic Brewing, and I raved about this beer last year. It was just as good as I remembered.

While going through Oak Hill Beverage to research my pre-New Year’s Eve column on corked beers, I saw a 16.9-ounce bottle of Weihenstephaner Original Premium Bavaricum for about $2.50, so I bought a bottle. Weihenstephaner is the world’s oldest brewery, the company that Jim Kock of Boston Beer Co. partnered with in creating Infinium, his Champagne-like holiday beer.

This was an absolutely wonderful lager, coming in at 5.1 percent alcohol, and while I did not taste them side-by-side, I recall that it tasted an awful lot like Portland Lager, the offering from the new brewery Bull Jagger.

Ommegang’s Biere de Mars, which I mentioned in my New Year’s column but had not tasted, had definitely mixed reviews. Zach and I were the only ones who liked it, but we liked it a lot. It had the flavor of sour cherries with malt, but cherries were not part of the mix. 

Two beers without honey came from the Honey Exchange on Stevens Avenue in Portland. Tusker Fine Quality Lager from Kenya was pretty good, but paled in comparison with the Weihenstephaner. LaChouffe, which cost $10.50 for a 750-millileter bottle, was a beer that I had missed during our trip to Belgium, and had a wonderfully spicy and yeasty flavor.

Son-in-law Christian bought two minikegs of beer from Gritty McDuff’s for Christmas Eve, and both were excellent. The Christmas Ale is an Extra Special Bitter at 6.2 percent alcohol, with no spices and no adjuncts but just a superb beer. The other was Pub Style, the Gritty’s original that Zach declared his favorite beer in the world well before I started writing this column.

I find I don’t write often about Gritty’s, because they almost never introduce new beers. They just keep on doing what they do, and they are excellent at it. I’m not complaining, mind you, but I probably would drink more Gritty’s if I did not have to come up with something new to write about each week.

Tom Atwell is a freelance writer and can be contacted at 767-2297 or at:

[email protected]


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