I stopped in to Roots last night for a pint of Festivus. It is a member of one of my favorite styles of beer--the Northwest winter warmer. While winter warmer isn't itself a category--more a state of mind--in the NW, we're starting to develop something that looks like a more coherent style. It is a red-to-brown strong ale (just north or south of 6.5% alcohol) fairly hoppy, but with a nutty malt base. Enough alcohol to warm you up, enough body to chew on and enough bitterness to keep you interested.
But here's the problem: the hops and alcohol have sharp edges when the beer is green. They need a chance to mellow and combine--to stew like a winter soup. Inevitably, the beers are released before they've had a chance to go through this alchemical process, and the result is a prickly, cold, occasionally harsh beer. I've been told by people I know would love this style that they don't, and I think it's the aging issue.
Last night, I sipped the deep orange, luciously-scented Festivus, about to proclaim it a beer for the rest of us, when it caught in my throat like a frozen burr. Dammit: too green. It will be delightful, this I can divine from the components. In a month.
Ah well, I should know better--it's too early for winter warmers anyway. Now it's still ESB weather.