For the longest time, I was not much of a follower of seasonal releases. I was more the one who was disappointed when the season was up and the beer I had grown to love was gone. Magic Hat's Roxy Rolles was just that for me last year.
I think I am starting to get it now. For example, last night I had a Victory Pilsner, and it just seemed sort of out of place on a cold Connecticut night. It was still good, but I was wondering why I passed over a darker brew.
I just the other day picked up a sixer of Ipswich Winter Ale and one of Dogfish Head Indian Brown Ale. OK maybe the DFH isn't exactly "seasonal" but hey it is dark and hearty. I posted complete tasting notes over at BeerAdvocate, but here's the rundown:
Ipswich is solid. It has a nice dark malt and fruit aroma, with a hint of chocolate and caramel. The flavor is right in line, with a nice dose of hops and even evident alcohol. It was a very enjoyable drink. The only thing that I would really change is the alcohol presence. It is only around 6.4%, but drank more like a 7%'er. But lucky for them I like the alcohol taste. To me it is sort of like the caffeine in coffee - without it, the drink is just lacking substance.
Dogfish Head is a thing of beauty. I nearly shed a tear as I took the last sip from the glass. It also has a nice dark malt and fruit aroma, but the chocolate and caramel are more pronounced. The flavor was in line, with extra help from hops and alcohol, but it was more intense, yet smooth and balanced. The only thing I wasn't impressed with was the head. I understand a brown ale should be lightly carbonated, but I still like to see some head, and have it last while I drink it.
Both are highly recommended, and both are cheaper (at least here at my local A&P liquor store) than Sam Adams. Maybe next I'll have to bite the bullet and try the Sam Adams Winter Ale (or is it a lager?) this year.