Winter beers for the fall, plus the Yellowjackets play the Sheraton.
Fall is in the air, but during the past week, it's been winter in my pint glass.
Last weekend, friends from Washington brought us a 24-pack of Deschutes Jubelale, one of my favorite Christmas beers. It's pretty typical of the winter seasonals--in so much as it is Deschutes, one of the best microbreweries in the country--although less spicy than some of the bolder holiday recipes. Chocolate notes and roasted malts dominate the flavor pallet, with underlying hints of cloves, cinnamon and black licorice. All of the flavors are subtle, and the sweetness is not overwhelming. Yes, it's a heavy beer, but during the winter months that's what people like.
This week, I've also sampled a couple of other winter beers. During a trip to the Bayou Monday, I ordered the McTarnahan's porter without realizing it was the Hum'Bugr holiday porter. I've only had Mac's brews a few times, and have generally been underwhelmed. The Hum'Bugr is a good porter, with an upfront sweetness that is closer to a milk stout. It finishes smooth, with the roasted malt flavors and hints of coffee coating the tongue nicely. Overall, it's not the best porter around, and as far as being a "holiday" beer, it's really more of a cold-weather beer because it lacks the expected spiciness.
Finally, at both The Beer Hive and Bayou the 2009 Anchor Christmas Ale is being sold at a reduced price ($3 and $4, respectively). This is also not overly spicy, although there are definite cinnamon and cloves flavor. It is a beer defined by deep, roasted malts, especially chocolate malts. It's not especially sweet, although it does have a lingering sweetness in the finish. These beers are limited in stock, because both places are expecting a delivery of the 2010 Anchor Christmas Ale in the next couple of weeks. So get them while you can, especially at those prices.
The Yellowjackets, who played at the Sheraton Saturday night, is a quartet of two personalities. First, there is the smooth jazz side, heavy on the smooth, with sax, piano and keyboard. Then there is the funk-bop side, driven by the exceptional drumming and bouncing bass.
Really, it's the funk-bop side that made the show Saturday memorable. Drummer William Kennedy is a dervish who pounded out many insane rhythms when the songs seemed to be built for a steady back-beat. But in every case, those rhythms elevated the songs and kept the band safely out of Kenny G territory.
And really, this band bordered on sappy-smooth a lot of the time. More than once, the songs had my mind crafting the opening scene of a 1980s/90s love story in New York City. You know, panoramic shots of Manhattan zooming into street shots, where crowds of people are going every direction. Music that tells the viewer that the movie is going to be a little bit heartbreaking, somewhat sad, but in the end, everything will be fine.
Overall, this isn't a band I will ever seek out, live or on CD. But if I happen to see them again, I certainly wouldn't be disappointed.