Holiday Beer Cheer 2007

Gordon Biersch Winter Bock
Given its “chocolatey” color and “soft, pillowy head,” this smooth, malty, German-style lager from California brewery Gordon Biersch was the polar opposite of the hop-heavy Sierra Celebration. The flavor was nutty and a bit sweet (“overbearing,” some felt), with an aftertaste “like a fruitcake” and almost “no bite” at all (except maybe from the alcohol, as it soars in at over 7 percent).

Alaskan Winter Ale
Opened in 1986, Alaskan Brewing Company was the state’s first brewery since Prohibition, and it initially released this malty ale in 2000. The Winter Ale’s brewed with spruce tips as well as hops, which gives it a flavor that’s “fruity sweet” (“Santa would drink this”) and a touch spicy (“hints of a wreath”). Fear not, though, as it doesn’t taste like pine trees: The spruce adds a subtle, spicy bite to a warm, caramely flavor.

Pyramid Snow Cap Ale
A dark, roasty ale from Washington brewery Pyramid, Snow Cap trailed in our survey. The tasters didn’t like its “brown, murky” appearance, “bitter” and unbalanced flavor, and “light and fleeting” body. Some were intrigued by an aroma of “fresh rubber shoes” (which was meant “in a good way”), while others just found there was “not enough kick.”