JUST AS ANCHOR has Christmas Ale and its perennially renewed label, Deschutes has Jubelale. As the brewery’s original winter seasonal first brewed in 1988, Jubelale has a 25-year-old history and nearly as many labels to show for it. 2013’s, drawn by local artist Avlis Leumas, is surely one of the most enticing. Nor is the beer half bad, either.
A winter warmer/English-style strong ale, this year’s Jubelale is 6.7% ABV and 60 IBUs. Darkly brown but not quite black (SRM around 28?), it pours with a dense cap of slightly yellow head with substantial retention and lacing. Its aromas are reassuringly wintry but entirely unspiced: toffee, cherry, some raisins, and the dose of roasted barley can all be picked out with ease. None is especially heavy on the nose, though, implying the lesser role of caramel malts compared to the strong foundation in 2-Row and Pale. The beer’s entry to the palate is correspondingly crisp, allowing the roasted notes to latch easily onto the malt base without too thick a body getting in the way; thus the flavors execute a tasteful turnaround, being less sweet overall than the aroma implied (especially the dark fruitiness of Extra Special). A touch of cherry remains, though fruitiness is overall subordinate to the likes of marshmallow and cocoa. The body is medium-plus, with enough substance and a nice lasting slide of molasses to balance the roast that rides into the finish. Carbonation is steadily moderate throughout, allowing the mouthfeel to stay creamy without becoming dense.
Hops, meanwhile, seem quite subdued at first, such that one might first mistake Jubelale for a doppelbock. But those 60 IBUs do eventually catch up—though Jubelale uses a mélange of mostly European-style hops, its American provenance is revealed through their cumulative effect. Slow-creeping bitterness in the aftertaste builds from the back of the tongue forward, developing piney and earthy flavors from later-kettle additions and eventually burbling up in the aroma as well. Jubelale is not a revelation of winter seasonals, but it’s clean and deep and hearty. Tasteful, somewhat akin to a more robust Black Butte, albeit not quite as poised. Still it’s one of the superior winter seasonals around—and that includes Anchor’s.
Served: 12 oz bottle best by 3/2/14