Saturday, January 5, 2008

Clipper City Winter Storm "Category 5" Ale

Every now and then one rediscovers a beer that had been forgotten. On the quest to try new and different beers, the ones that are easy to find are often easy to over look. Clipper City Winter Storm "Category 5" Ale is one such beer, but one that I've been enjoying quite a lot recently. Not too long ago I mentioned finding a bottle of Winter Storm in the refrigerator that had been left from last Winter and longing for yet another. I recently had the pleasure of trying a cask conditioned version at a Winter Beer Tasting. For the past couple of weeks, this Winter release has been my go to beer. On a number of occasions I've gone to the fridge to grab something else, saw the Winter Storm and grabbed it instead.

Clipper City Winter Storm "Category 5" Ale is an Imperial ESB which pours a dark, orange-tinted brown color with a moderately thick head that soon fades to a thin ring. The aroma is very pleasant and stronger than you might expect to find in an ESB, but the beer does bear the "Imperial" designation. The crisp hops in the aroma are backed by a bit of caramel maltiness. There are plenty of hops in the flavor as well. The malt backbone is substantial but both pine and citrus hops hold their own. Some dark fruits come in to play too. There's a nice flavor that stays with you in the aftertaste and the mouth feel is very smooth. It seems to me the cask smooths out the hop flavors in the beer, though I think I prefer the bottled product. It's quite quaffable either on cask or bottled. This is a very enjoyable beer and the 7.50% ABV is well masked. It's not a session beer but I could easily drink several of these. Winter Storm is a well-balanced beer that gives you the pleasure of the piney and floral hops without burning out your taste buds. According to brewer Hugh Sisson, the recipe is tweaked a bit each year.

As can be deduced from previous posts, we're as much fans of food around here as we are of beer. It's always a treat when we run into a nice food and beer pairing. Last night I enjoyed a bit of panettone with my Winter Storm. We usually have this traditional Italian Christmas bread on hand around the holidays. The light, sweet bread with various fruits and nuts practically melts in your mouth. Colleen says if cotton candy were bread, it would be panettone. The hoppiness along with the sweet malt flavors in the beer was a nice match to the fruits and sweetness of the bread. As usual with a good pairings, I finished both too quickly. I'm sure I'll be enjoying more of each before the Winter is over.

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