Everytime I go grocery shopping I have the same routine, I start in the bakery section and work my way through the store ending up in the beer aisle, although I tend to end up there even if I just ran in to pick up one quick item. While I’m browsing the beer section I always look at the seasonal variety packs that are available, they work well for me because I rarely want to buy twelve of the same beer, but not everyone is as adventurous as I am, and I can imagine it would be hard to commit to a 12 pack of beer that might contain one that you like and three mystery beers. So here’s the first variety pack review, I picked up Magic Hat’s Winterland, I’m a fan of their beer and I wanted a bottle of the stout.
Style: Fruit Beer
#9 is light amber to gold in color; the beer is slightly hazy but has steady visible carbonation. The pour raised a short white head that left lacing down the glass.
The smell of this beer has a slight bready malt smell that is an undertone; the fruit aroma is strong, apricots, pears, maybe some apple. Not picking up any distinct hop aroma.
Taste is dominated by the apricot flavor. The malt flavor is very light, just a touch of grains in the background. Again no distinct hops flavor but there is a slight bitterness. Mouthfeel is watery; this is a very light bodied beer.
Overall I would call this a good hot weather beer, not something I would expect to find in a winter variety pack. #9 is what I would describe as juicy, the fruit flavors and light body make it a thirst quencher. This isn’t a beer I’m reaching for on a cold winter evening while sitting by the fire, this is a beer I pop in July when I’m Lakeside.
Wooly is an ESB (extra special bitter) brewed with spruce. The label on the neck of the bottle calls it “a coniferous concoction.”
Wooly is very hazy in the glass, a light amber color with golden highlights and a short white head.
The smell is malty, smells of bread and grains. There is a slight fruity smell as well but I am not picking up spruce or hops. The smell of this beer reminds me a lot of Magic Hat #9.
Wooly tastes of bread, toasted grains and some caramel sweetness. There is subtle bitterness and the hops have an earthy flavor that works well with the spruce that develops about halfway through the taste. The spruce is mild and adds a pleasant flavor to the beer and the aroma is detectable as you exhale after the taste. This beer is light to medium in body and finishes clean and dry.
Overall I would say this is a very drinkable beer. The spruce is a nice touch, giving this beer a very fresh, piney flavor. I have to say I’m not sure this beer is what I would consider an ESB though, it looks, smells and tastes very similar to a #9 with spruce added instead of apricot for flavor. This one is worth a try, especially if you are already a fan of Magic Hat, you’ll enjoy it.
Style: American Wheat IPA
Encore is Magic Hat’s limited release IPA offering in their winter variety pack.
Encore pours a murky orange color with a thick off-white head that just won’t fall.
Smells hoppy, there is a citrusy aroma, grapefruit and some notes of pine and fresh cut grass. I’m not picking up any malt in this one.
Encore has a very hop forward taste. There is a distinct grapefruit flavor and some faint grassy notes, as the beer warmed up it developed more of a pine flavor. The malt flavor is very light in this beer, not overly sweet, some bready notes. Encore finishes dry with a nice bitterness, this beer is medium bodied with a steady carbonation.
Overall a tasty beer, I found it to be a bit hop dominate but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Encore is definitely worth giving a try while it’s available, I’m glad there are two more in the winter sampler pack.
Style: Oatmeal Stout
The name makes sense when you see this one in the glass, its pitch black. The pour raised a thick milk chocolate head that stayed for the whole glass.
The beer smells of dark roasted coffee and bitter chocolate.
Taste’s heavy with dark roasted malts, there is almost a smoky quality but not quite, reminds me of slightly burnt coffee. There is bitterness in this beer but not a hoppy bitterness, more of a bittersweet flavor similar to baker’s chocolate. This stout is medium to full bodied with a slightly creamy Mouthfeel, the finish is dry and slightly bitter.
Overall I would say Heart of Darkness is a pretty solid stout, I really enjoy the roasted coffee and dark bitter chocolate flavors. If that flavor combination doesn’t sound appealing this might not be the best choice of stouts for you. I think this beer fits well in a winter variety pack and I’m happy to have it.