Total Score: 83.5
My seventh beer of Christmas is Lost Coast Brewery’s Winterbraun, which I picked up because I’ve never seen or heard of it before. Located in Eureka, California, Lost Coast opened its doors in 1990 as one of the few female-owned breweries, led by former pharmacist Barbara Groom and former family counselor Wendy Pound. Lost Coast’s psychedelic website and trippy label art make me wonder exactly what kind of pharmaceuticals Barbara was peddling. But I digress. The brewery was originally located in a former Pythian Castle (the Knights of Pythias are some sort of secret society) but has since become too large for the facility and has moved down the street. In 2009 they produced over 50,000 barrels of beer to become the 33rd largest brewery in the US. Their beers are widely distributed, finding their way to 22 states, Canada, and Puerto Rice. Their beers are based on extensive “research” from years of visiting pubs throughout the UK.
Winterbraun is Lost Coast’s winter seasonal and is brewed with pale, caramel, and chocolate malts and Czech Saaz hops. It won a silver medal at the 2008 World Beer Championship. Classified as a English Brown Ale, you shouldn’t expect this to be your traditional spiced winter ale.
The label on the stubby bottle features one of the weirder illustrations I’ve ever seen: what appears to be an Indian guy with an extra set of lips sticking out of the side of his face riding into a chasm to certain death. Date stamped on neck reads 9/20/11, which I take to be the bottling date. The beer is deep dark amber, maybe even chocolate brown, with a thick, rocky 2-finger vanilla colored head that leaves heavy lacing as it slowly recedes and traces the beer’s entire path to the bottom of the glass. Smell is balanced between rye bread, chocolate and caramel malts, a bit of bitter coffee, and hops. Taste starts as primarily chocolate with hints of coffee, bread, and roasted malts sneaking in. Hops are very noticeable as well and grapple with chocolate for center stage on the palate. A spicy hoppiness seems to become even more prominent as the beer warms. A bit of a sting comes through on the tongue, which I’m attributing to generous carbonation. Good creamy medium body. Slides off the tongue and down the throat leaving the mouth surprisingly dry for a brown ale. Alcohol, which is not especially high at 6.8%, is hidden in the taste but leaves the stomach nicely warmed.
This is definitely a good winter beer, but again not what I would call a Christmas beer. A good balanced beer that strikes a somewhat unique chord with the chocolate maltiness/spicy hops combo. Give it a try.
Look: 9/10 Smell: 8/10 Taste: 8.5/10 All-Around: 8/10