Style: Winter Warmer
I tend to not be a fan of over-spiced, over-malted, heavy winter ales, which renders winter my least favorite beer season. Enter Deschutes Jubelale to fix all of that.
I have yet to have a lackluster beer from Deschutes, an incredibly consistent brewery located in Bend, Oregon that churns out quintessentially west coast beers in a variety of styles — all of which are absolutely worth trying. Their Red Chair Northwest Pale Ale (available January through early March) becomes my favorite beer every year, and I would trade my dog and maybe even one of my sisters in order to get that thing year round.
Their late fall/early winter seasonal — a lightly spiced winter warmer — is no exception. It’s a fantastic beer that packs dense layers of complexity and flavors, yet remains mild and subtle throughout.
The beer pours a rich amber that becomes burnt orange and lightly transparent when held up to light, and produces a thick tan head and plenty of lacing. I’m not sure if it’s weird to call a beer beautiful or not, but that’s exactly what it is. It’s a visual announcement of the holiday season.
The nose brings out an array of dark fruits — plums, raisins, dark cherries, jam — alongside some nuttiness and holiday spices — some cinnamon, some dark brown sugar. It’s as if someone put some cinnamon rolls in the oven, except these cinnamon rolls will impair your ability to operate heavy machinery but will increase your ability to make bad decisions via text message.
Everything about the taste is wonderfully subtle. And with so much going on in the palate, that’s the only way this beer could work. The malt is sweet and warm, but dissipates from the palate relatively quickly, allowing for floral and fruit notes to come to the forefront. That fruitiness gives way to some more caramel and almost toffee like malt finishes, and finally gives way to a subtle hoppy bitterness. The beer is incredibly balanced, incredibly subtle, and incredibly easy to drink — especially for the style. There is no heaviness, no overwhelming spiciness, and absolutely no sign of alcohol. But that’s a different story like twenty minutes later.
This beer is highly sessionable — especially on a cold night — which is not something I’ve ever said of any kind of winter ale. And at 6.7 ABV, it shouldn’t prompt too many arguments with your uncle about why immigrants are ruining this country. But it should make watching A Christmas Story for the six thousandth time a little more bearable. (Actually that’s unnecessary, A Christmas Story is awesome no matter how many times its jammed down your throat).
This is a cold, rainy day beer, and needs some cold, rainy day music to go with it. Any track from The National’s 2013 masterpiece Trouble Will Find Me will work just fine.
The National have been one of the most consistently engaging indie acts of the past decade, but, on their sixth release, they seem to have perfected their craft and made a nearly flawless 53 music of music. They didn’t do anything new or revolutionary, but instead fully realized their strengths and put together an absolute beast of an album.
The arrangements are always dense and complex, creating vast soundscapes filled with echoes and reverb to spare. Yet the album never once feels muddled or over-crowded, and the dynamics feel nearly perfect.
Matt Berninger provides his most direct and visceral lyrics to date, elevating the album far beyond anything the National has put out in the past. The melancholic musings on everyone’s struggles with everyday life are still there like they always have been, but this time they seem more profound — and maybe even accompanied with a glimmer of hope. No one else can write such universal and relatable yet specific and personal as he can.
There are so many incredible moments on the record, that it’s hard to pick the best one. From the breakdown in “Sea of Love” where chaotic snare drums and overdriven guitars suddenly give way to a sparse and plodding baseline underneath Berninger’s baritone crooning “If I stay here, trouble will find me,” or him lamenting and coming to terms with the fact that “I’ll never be what you want me to be” on “Slipped,” to the conceded contentedness of “Hard to Find,” as if Berninger has decided that, sure, life is hard but maybe that’s okay — Trouble Will Find Me is absolutely packed with cinematic excellence.
But the first track, “I Should Live in Salt,” is probably the album’s high mark. Through repetition, Berninger obsesses over perceived bad decisions, constantly rehashing over his what ifs, painting a devastating picture of a life derailed by rumination. It’s unsure of itself, it’s stark, it’s visceral, and it’s undeniably captivating.
It’s one of the greatest albums of the past 10 years, and it goes great with this beer.