by Jamie Flathers
Season’s greetings, beer drinkers. Now that the temperature has dipped into the teens and there’s a dusting of snow on the Palouse, I’d like to talk about winter brews. You may already be familiar with the genre. Standouts include Deschutes Brewery’s Jubelale, Ninkasi’s Sleigh’r Winter Ale and Iron Horse’s Cozy Sweater. These beers, sometimes called winter warmers, tend to be darker, malty and flavored with spices like cardamom and cinnamon. Exceptions exist — Widmer Brothers puts out a hoppy red called Brrr every year, and Blue Moon’s winter seasonals also are pale — but generally, winter equals malt, and that’s what I went looking for at Pullman’s Paradise Creek Brewery this past weekend.
Paradise Creek is a pretty great place. If you’ve never been, it’s in the former post office building at the corner of Southeast Paradise and Northeast Kamiaken streets downtown. You walk in through a graceful anteroom with marble floors into the dining area — a large, open, high-ceilinged room with a bar in its southwest corner. As per usual, I went with my buddy Madison and my husband Edward, and we sat at said bar while I asked the friendly server about seasonal beers. I’d seen several listed on their website, including a British-style old ale called Stocking Stuffer, but the only winter offering they had on tap was Peppermint Porter, which was the one I was most excited to try. I also ordered samples of Tangerine Dream Saison, since oranges are a traditional Christmas fruit, and Palouse Wit Belgian witbier, whose tasting notes included cloves and coriander.
I’m sad to report that I didn’t get along with the Peppermint Porter. I wanted to, and I’m sure plenty of you would love it — Edward certainly did — but I couldn’t help wishing there were some kind of connecting flavor between the malt and the mint, like chocolate or coffee. I had a great time with Tangerine Dream, whose juicy hoppiness made my tongue all sparkly, but it wasn’t quite the holiday beer I was searching for.
That’s when I met the Palouse Wit. It’s not actually a seasonal offering, but its flavor profile, with oranges, cloves and coriander, is so Christmas-y that one imagines jolly old Saint Nick kicking back with one while he congratulates himself on another job well done. Like most Belgian witbiers, the Palouse Wit is creamy and cloudy, and its spicy nose and refreshing paleness make for a beautiful contradiction. It’s like being transported to the southern hemisphere, where Christmas arrives in high summer. Imagine stringing tinsel on a palm tree or making pumpkin pie a tradition at Fourth of July parties. It shouldn’t work but it does, and I loved it.
The irony of this not-holiday-holiday-beer is not lost on me. I was most pleased to meet this deliciously contradictory beer, and I’m sure you will be, too. If you serve it at an upcoming holiday party, I guarantee guests will be like, “Wait, what?” and then exclaim over your beer-selection genius. Filling up a growler at Paradise Creek runs about $11. I also recommend signing up for their brewsletter, which you can do on their website, paradisecreekbrewery.com. Thanks for reading, and have a happy and safe holiday, friends.
Flathers is a Moscow resident and University of Idaho alum. She does a killer impression of a corkscrew. She’s a Ravenclaw with Hufflepuff leanings and is usually reading two or three books at a time. Questions or glad tidings can be sent to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.