If you lamented the retirement of the limited-edition Shiner 99, the Munich-style Helles lager, you're in luck: If my tastebud memory is correct, this is essentially the same beer. It's not what I expected from a winter beer: fairly clean and crisp in comparison to most of the rock-heavy, high-alcohol things we often expect to give us a fuzzy blanket against the chill. But then, the freeze of last week notwithstanding, we don't really have winter in Texas, do we?
Instead, this is a Dortmunder style beer, according to the folks at Spoetzl Brewery:
[It] has the malt profile of a Helles, the hop character of a Pils, but is slightly stronger than both. First brewed in Dortmund, Germany for the hardworking coal miners of the town, this distinctive blend has something you might not expect– a touch of sweetness that quickly fades to a crisp hoppy flavor. Shiner Fröst uses Two-Row Malted Barley, Malted Wheat and Munich Malt for a full bodied flavor. Hallertau Tradition and Spalter Select Hops contribute to the noble aroma.My own impression: It has that same syrupy sweetness that 99 had, which I didn't consider a bad thing. I suppose the malt profile is a bit higher than a summer beer, but honestly, I think I could drink this any time of year; I'm a little surprised it's being marketed as a winter beer.
5.5 ABV, 25 IBU
Real Ale Phoenixx Double ESB
I didn't have high expectations for this, as ESBs don't usually get me too excited. But I'm really liking this. Much more flavorful than I expected. The first thing that hits you is the heavy malts (giving "toffee and caramel notes," as their website notes), but it's no dopplebock — very quickly, you start to notice strong, floral hop notes cutting their way through the thick malt jungle, clearing a path that you'll want to explore again and again.
The Real Ale website still says "draught only," so maybe this beer is not new, but it's definitely the first time I've had it or noticed it in bottles. (Bonus points: Snaps to the label designer for the homage to the old black-and-gold Pontiac Trans Am Firebird logo.)
7.2 ABV, 50 IBU
Neither of these beers made my head spin (in the taste sense, not the alcohol sense), but they're solid enough that I'll buy more, especially the Phoenixx. I'd grade both a high B, and worth your money.