I can definitely live with these two Left Hands. Two new Left Hand brews have made their way to Athens, and I've got the word on both of them...and the word is good.
The first one I picked up is Left Hand's new seasonal, Fade to Black. First, let me say that you should realize this beer is a one time deal. The actual recipe will change each winter, yet the name and bottle, much like the song, remain the same. I found the Colorado brewery's newest creation, which as a warning will replace their Snowbound Ale for all you fans, in a beautiful black and white 6-pack at Five Points Bottle Shop. This foreign export stout pours as dark as I'd expect, but the head leaves a little bit to be desired. Any qualms I had with the appearance were forgotten when I dove in...or faded out if we want to extend this metaphor. This isn't your typical winter seasonal. This stout produces hints of licorice and dark molasses, providing a much enjoyed escape from the sometimes monotnonous pumpkin ales followed by spiced winter warmers. I found this stout a little watery compared to other offerings within the same style, but the flavor really made the consistency and mouthfeel more than forgivable. After all, the experience isn't unpleasant in any way, just a little different than what the powers-that-be say it should be. That said, Fade to Black is a seasonal and an ever changing one-time release for a good reason. This deep, dark seductive brew is like a good booty call: something I can thoroughly enjoy and then not revisit for a while without any major reperscussuions.
Up next was the most recent release from Left Hand's Big Mo' series, an Oak-Aged Widdershins Barleywine. I grabbed this limited edition treat at Trappeze Pub in downtown Athens after a long day of work. It seems I've found yet another beer that's oak-aged to perfection. I've previously declared, and even voted so, that Sweetwater's Donkey Punch Barleywine was my favorite of the category. The local boys at Sweetwater still have a place in my heart with their scandolously named barleywine, but I have to give credit to this well-aged creation from the guys in Longmont. This is the first oaked barleywine I've tasted, and I really appreciate what the aging does for this style. Barleywines are something I drink eagerly, but slowly and cautiously. At times, the sweet maltiness derived from the style's namesake grain is almost too much for me. The oak in which this brew was aged both tames and accentuates the sweetness of the barleywine, much like a fine...ahem, wine. At the same time, the sweetness cuts the oak quality which, in my opinion, can easily overwhelm the rest of a beer's flavor. The careful balance of oak and malt make Widdershins Barleywine incredibly drinkable, despite it's 10% ABV.
Overall, both beers were quite enjoyable and very appropriate seasonal offerings. While Widdershins is not a one shot deal, it's oaked form along with the foreign stout edition of Fade to Black won't be around long. So as the weather becomes a little chilly, enjoy all of your favorite holiday spiced winter seasonals along with a few new ones, but should you grow a bit weary of the sameness, reach no further than your Left Hand.