This week, thousands of people will converge on Highland Brewing’s tap house on the outskirts of Asheville for the annual Cold Mountain Release Party. Cold Mountain is Highland’s most coveted brew—a winter ale doused with holiday spices. The tap house will be a zoo of beer geeks stocking up on their rationed allotment of the beer. It’s a scene that’s being repeated all over the country as breweries release their much anticipated winter brews—big ales loaded with holiday spices like frankincense and myrrh. Avery’s Old Jubilation Ale is not one of those beers. Winter beer? Yes. Overly spiced festival ale? Absolutely not. Old Jubilation is a balanced take on the English strong ale that hits the winter beer high notes without jumping the shark with all of the holiday additives.
The beer pours dark, just a few shades shy of black, and has a slightly sweet, but mostly nutty aroma. Avery built this strong ale with Bullion hops and a healthy malt bill full of two-row barley, special roast, black, chocolate and victory malts. The result is vaguely sweet and rich with layers of dark roast coffee, cherry and hazelnut—like those cream sweeteners that make gas station coffee palatable. There’s also a pleasant level of booziness that plays a bit heavier than the “mild” 8.3% would suggest.
Like I said earlier, this ale is balanced, but that balance comes at you in distinct waves—the malty sweetness hits, then the booze washes over the sip, then hazelnut, then coffee bitterness…all of which is delivered via a slick, almost slimy mouthfeel. It’s delicious, but subtle, and stands in stark contrast to some of the other overtly spiced winter beers. No cinnamon or ginger cookies here. Oh, and this year, Avery is putting Old Jubilation in a can, which is awesome.
We’re in the midst of a massive holiday beer blind tasting (keep an eye out for results soon) and Old Jubilation is in the mix. It will be interesting to see how such a subdued take on the style will fare in the lineup that’s sure to be stacked with sweet, holiday cookie brews.
Brewery: Avery Brewing
City: Boulder, Colorado
Style: English Strong Ale
Availability: Seasonal, cans