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Tasting Notes with Jim Beauregard: Sam's holiday selection brightens the season

Well, it’s not all about darkness, you know. The low sun, the long nights, another month to go before the days start getting longer again. Pretty dismal if you just look at it that way.

A much better approach is to look for things to brighten up the dark season, and Samuel Adams manages to do that every year.

Let’s take a look at what they have on offer this time around:

Samuel Adams Sparkling Ale, 4.8% alcohol by volume. Combination of noble hops and pale malt designed to give a floral aroma. Pale gold in the class under a just off-white head with a mild hops nose. It’s dry, light bodied, with citrus and floral hints on the palate, and a light, pleasing finish. For those who want to continue drinking lighter beers during the darker months, this one’s for you.

Samuel Adams Old Fezziwig Ale, 5.49% ABV. The name of young Scrooge’s first boss in Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” adorns this brown-red ale made with specialty malts, roasted caramel and chocolate flavors, spiced with cinnamon, ginger and orange. OK, now things get darker. A brilliant amber ale under a light tan head with a nose of light malt. The caramel is right there up front on the palate, which is dry, bright, with medium acidity, medium body and a beautiful blend of components. The malt brings some grain notes in the background, but it’s really the caramel that predominates. Hearty without being heavy, and delicious to boot.

Samuel Adams White Christmas, 5.8% ABV. We are back to the lighter end of the spectrum now pale gold, cloudy with some yellow hints in the glass, white head, frothy and lasting. The nose brings a light hops sense, with a little bit of citrus, while the spice — hints of coriander and cinnamon — comes through more strongly on the palate. Well integrated, with some flavors of orange. This would make for a delightful after dinner drink on a cold might by the fire.

Samuel Adams Merry Maker Gingerbread Stout, 9% ABV. Well, the title pretty much says it. Unlike the other bottles we’ve looked at, this one is a pint, with gingerbread coming to the fore as one of the spices. The beer is black in the glass, impervious to light, with a huge dark tan head, clearly in the stout ballpark. The nose is rich in malt, and the gingerbread makes its appearance early. A full-bodied, rich, creamy palate that continues the themes of gingerbread and malt, bringing along with it flavors of bread, molasses, and brown bread. Rich and filling, a meal in itself.

Samuel Adams Holiday Porter, 5.8% ABV. As it says on the bottle, “inspired by the famous drink of London’s Victorian-era luggage porters.” Caramel, Munich and chocolate malts are part of the blend. This is a deep amber/brown beer through which you can see just a bit of light. The head is huge and light tan. The malt jumps out of the glass, with aromas of grain, nuttiness, bread, some coffee flavors on the medium-plus bodied beer. This one is actually a little bit lighter in terms of weight than a traditional Porter, but good nonetheless.

So, there you have it. You will find them on store shelves to get ready for the holidays. Enjoy!

Contact local beer and wine writer Jim Beauregard at