Nick Carr on November 22, 2016 0 Comments Quick Characteristics Brewery Full Sail Brewing Company Location Hood River, OR Style Winter Ale ABV 7.2% IBU 56 Hops Blend of Pacific Northwest Hops Malts Caramel, Dark chocolate, ? Shelf Life At least a year, if not longer Suggested Glass Tulip Glass Serving Temp 50-55°F Availability Seasonal – October-December Food Pairings Toasted and Spiced Nuts, Pepper-Crusted Ahi Tuna, Venison, Baked Brie, Gingerbread Alright, I know it’s not even December yet, but it’s coming up fast and, just in case anyone out there has an early hankering for a winter warmer/Christmas beer, I’ve got you covered. With a release date of October, you can’t find a Christmas beer out on the shelves much earlier than Full Sail’s Wassail Winter Ale. Not only that, but you’d be hard pressed to find one with a more ingenious name. The word, wassail comes from an Anglo-Saxon greeting, hál wes þú, which meant “be in good health” and it also is used to mean caroling or singing joyfully, as in “let’s go wassailing.” There is also an old English mulled drink of ale, cider, or mead often enjoyed around Yuletide called wassail. So, there’s the obvious link to Christmas, but, it also has the word “sail” embedded in there, which you have to admit, is pretty cool considering the name of the brewery. Here are a couple verses of an old carol called the Gloucestershire Wassail which sings of all things Wassail: Wassail! Wassail! all over the town, Our toast it is white and our ale it is brown; Our bowl it is made of the white maple tree; With the wassailing bowl, we’ll drink to thee. Here’s to our horse, and to his right ear, God send our master a happy new year; A happy new year as e’er he did see, With my wassailing bowl I drink to thee. Full Sail’s Wassail was first brewed back in 1988; only one year after Full Sail was founded. Since then, it has racked up quite the medal count. It won its first World Beer Championship medal, a silver, in 1995. It went on to clean house winning a couple more silvers over the years, plus thirteen gold, and in 2005 a platinum medal and “superlative” rating with a score of 96 points. Not bad. THE TASTING Below are the tasting notes I took while drinking Full Sail’s Wassail Winter Ale. If you tasted this beer before, please share your opinions or tasting notes with everyone down in the comments below. Pour and Aroma: Wassail pours a deep mahogany. It is fairly dark but not quite opaque; held up to light its orange glowing depths are revealed along with a couple stray lines of light carbonation. Clarity is superb. A fingers-worth of frothy tawny colored head forms. Retention is minimal. Aroma brings all the signs of a deeply fortified malt backbone; caramel, light roast, brown sugar, nuttiness, low molasses. There is a soft piney touch of hops and some trailing esters of dark fruit. Mouthfeel and Taste: It has a round, medium-full body and a smooth, warming mouthfeel. Alcohol brings a nice slight but even warmth, while hops add some drying astringency. Malt brings a nice roasty-sweet presence at the front of the palate. There’s notes of nutty bread, brown sugar, and a hint of molasses. Hop bitterness is assertive but not overplayed, bringing pine resin and earthy qualities with just the barest hint of orange mid-palate. The hops play their hand smooth and easy, like the best card-shark, all the way into a somewhat dry finish. Aftertaste leaves very light roast and cocoa to vie for position against the hop presence. FINISHING THOUGHTS I have to say this is a pretty awesome start to the march of the Christmas seasonals. It reminds me most of an American Strong Ale or maybe an Old Ale with its rich malty backbone and the bite of bitter American hops through the middle. The hops are not overly intense, though they play the other side of the malt sweetness, bringing the sweet/bitter scale close to a perfect balance. I think both the hop heads and the connoisseur of the more malty traditions will find something to appreciate with Wassail Winter Ale. The alcohol isn’t too high, and a search for something with a little more warmth might be in the cards when the snow starts to pile, but for the first crisp air, that first whispering of Old Man winter’s arrival, this will do just fine. So, raise your bottle of Wassail and sing a line or two of the Gloucestershire Wassail to a good beer and your fellow man. Hál Wes þú!