Three Winter Ales, Tasted Blindly

In prep for my media appearance next week (you like how I'm trying to pique interest here?), I blind-tasted three winter warmers last night. I figure we need to do one pretty traditional NW winter warmer. This was really one of the first sophisticated beer styles to achieve fruition, and I have always loved the season's beers as a result.

For my tasting, I chose three I know I like and which are available in the bottle: Deschutes Jubelale, Full Sail Wassail, and Laurelwood's Vinter Varmer. I figure rather than just pick one at random, I should taste them and let the winner emerge. I had Sally pour them out and I tasted them blind. Below are my notes:
All beers are roughly the same color—dark, amber highlights, off-white heads. Of the three, beer one is more straight brown, beer two redder but lighter, beer three red but darker.

Beer one
Mild aroma, tiny yeast quality, tiny hops. Flavor—extremely creamy and rich. Lovely. On the sweet side, but the hops keep it in balance, perhaps fading just a touch green and sharp at the end. Could use a bit more age. Frothy. Malt is candyish. Quaffable, comforting.

Beer two
Frothy head with batter-like head of mixed size bubbles. Sweet, cola-like aroma with just a bit of orange zest. Another very creamy beer, but with a lush hop character--though without bitterness. Earthy, and the cola in the aroma comes across in the palate as a beguiling rooty note. As the beer warms, it strengthens as the hops open up.

Beer three
Tight head of slightly darker color. Again, sweet malt in the nose, but roasty. Palate is likewise roasty. A malty beer with character nodding in the direction of a dry stout. Has a more substantial body. Very nicely balanced; the roast doesn’t overwhelm. At the end you arrive at a tripartite malty sweet, hop bitter, and roastyharmony.
All three beers were great. I was able to guess pretty easily that beer three was Vinter Varmer, a beer characterized by its roastiness. Jubelale and Wassail have always been brothers from another mother--so close, so lovely, two of my very favorite beers of all time. I guessed that beer two, with its lush hop character and sweet body was Deschutes, while the more assertively hopped, sharper beer one was Wassail, from hop-loving Full Sail. Turns out I was correct.

Although I like all three, as they warmed up, the Jubel really began to sing. It has always been a crowd-pleaser, and it's because the profile is so approachable. There's nary a hard edge here--it's like a hot chocolate on a cold day. But for the beer geeks, the layered quality of malt and hop, especially later-boil hops, give it quite a high "beer IQ." So for Tuesday, Jubel it is.