Twelve Beers of Christmas #12: Waredaca Brewing Blizzard Spiced Winter Ale, Laytonsville, Md.
Date: January 5, 2019
The Story— We’re presenting our list of 12 great beers for the season. Some are relatively easy to find, others are from our archives and beer vault. Follow these posts for other beers in the series: first, second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth, tenth, eleventh,
If you’re disappointed in the less spicy, mellower direction that Anchor has taken in recent years, hop an Uber and head to Waredaca Beer Farm for a beer that evokes the spirit of Anchor at its best.
Waredaca started as a boys camp during the depression — in “rural Maryland” at the corner of Democracy and Old Georgetown Road where a busy shopping center — and a heck of a good beer store (Down Town Crown, Bethesda) stand today.
They moved the operation in the 1950s to a 230 acre farm in outer Laytonsville, which is even now authentically rural Montgomery county. Eventually it shifted from a camp to an equestrian center, which it is today. An in-law convinced the family to put in a state-of-the-art brewery several years ago and now the place is better known for its beers than its horses.
It’s an idyllic place to spend an afternoon in good weather– even when its crowded, which it often is, there’s tons of space outside and much of that space is kid friendly. A pizza oven labors to meet the demand, but you can augment your beer tasting with some first rate local cheeses. In lesser weather the tap room can get crowded, but patience will get you a seat and a good selection of beers.
It’s a farm brewery and you should be prepared to sample beers with farm ingredients. We’ve always found a few more or less standard beers, though, that make us happy we’re there. On a February visit a couple of years ago, they still poured the winter ale Blizzard. It was one of their best. This week we had a chance to taste the 2018 version at the Pour House in Gaithersburg. It was especially interesting since we had recently tasted the Anchor Christmas ale from three vintages. (see our report here) Ellie thought the spices were over the top, which they are, but I thought they came pretty close to nailing the richness of spicing from the classic years of Anchor’s version.
They use four spices and they tell you what they are: ginger, cinnamon, clove and allspice. Anchor, at its height, used a myriad of spices and have carefully kept each recipe secret. The Blizzard is crisper and a bit more in your face, but it melds very well with the rich full bodied malt.
The Beer—All of the spices are identifiable and do a jazz quartet series of solos, but before it’s over, the rich deep malt has them playing together almost like a string quartet. Spices subsume into a full bodied creamy malt. A hint of black pepper late may actually be from the hops. We think the spices are clearer here and the fruit may be a bit less prominent than in the 2016 version. Our comment then: “if you pasted an Anchor label on it everyone would think it was great.” We don’t need the label to respect it.
Value — Excellent at the brewery. Good at Pour House. the nice thing about the Pour House, of course, is that you can visit several breweries without moving your car.
Values: “fair” is a good beer at an above market price, “good” is worth the money, “very good” is a bargain, and “excellent” is a steal.