Reigning champion Pfreim Winter Ale proved to be as good in 2016 as it was in 2015, walking away with the title at the 16th Annual LeMonds Family Christmas Beer Tasting at the Pub at 465.
In what was once again a photo finish, Pfreim edged out Liquid Sweater from Ex Novo Brewing and Abominable Winter Ale from Hopworks.
With 14 contenders in the mix, the 11 judges started by tasting every beer. The confusion was similar to attempting to select a nominee from the list of GOP presidential hopefuls, but in this case the candidates were far more qualified.
The first to fall were Arctos from Baeric Brewing, Snowy Plover from Coronado Brewing, Wreathin Havoc from 3 Magnets Brewing, and Winter Coat from Stormbreaker Brewing.
Arctos and Snowy Plover were both considered thin and watery by judges. Stormbreaker is know for its big winter beers, and we were all disappointed that Winter Coat lacked the deep flavor we expected. I thought Wreathin’ Havoc – an Imperial Red Rye IPA – deserved a better fate. It was big, sweet, and smooth. Carley’s assessment – Tastes like acetone – seemed like something Bristol Palin might say. Then again, life in the Palouse can twist you.
Dave insisted we eliminate five beers in the contentious second round. FaLaLaLa (bitter and carbonated) from Double Mountain, which barely escaped the first round, was the first to fall, followed by Frosty Leo (poorly balanced) from Ecliptic. It was a surprise to see perennial contender Brown Sugga from Lagunitas go down so early, but I agreed with several other judges that it was too sweet.
There was a tie between C-Sons Greetings from Lompoc and Permafrost from Burnside Brewing. A top-three finisher in past years, C-Sons just doesn’t have the hop hit and full flavor it once packed, and voters gave it the boot in the tie-breaker.
That left Permafrost, Pfriem, Liquid Sweater, A-Bomb, and Imaginary Friend – a late entrant from Everybody’s Brewing – as the last five standing.
The judges were on the edge of losing their sensibilities, so Dave quickly moved us to a vote to eliminate two beers. Although Imaginary Friend and Permafrost had survived against the lesser brews, they were the clear choices for elimination. Both were very drinkable – and I would definitely recommend them – but they weren’t as flavorful as the top three.
I was a little worried that the Russians might hack the final vote but decided that even Putin would have trouble interfering with Lipton’s use of the abacus. It was time to decide.
Liquid Sweater – a big, dark, malty brew – was the wild card in a world dominated by winter IPA’s. Pfreim and the Sweater both received five first-place votes, with perennial contender A-Bomb garnering just one. But Pfreim picked up two second-place ballots to just one for the Sweater to claim the title. Meanwhile, A-Bomb tallied eight second-place votes to edge the Sweater for the runner-up spot.
While the adults were engaged in the beer tasting, Sher set up a sparkling cider event for the grandsons. I believe Welches White Grape came away as the winner. Their comments – magnificent aroma, bland, tastes like bark dust, smells like ice cream – were clear evidence that they are destined for inclusion in the big tasting in just a few more years.
Thanks to Dave and Diane for selecting the beers.