Tag Archives: Christmas Beer

Reflections on a Christmas Beer Bender

Bottle Caps

It is now a few days past Christmas and I have had some (beer free) time to reflect back on my Christmas Beer Advent Calendar.

So what have a learned during this period of sober retrospection?

Well, the term Christmas beer really means very little aside from any beer that comes out in the fall to winter season, sports a holiday themed label and (usually) a beer name incorporating a cheesy Christmas pun.

During my twenty-four day chug-a-lug I had hoppy beer and malty beer, strong beer and weak beer, dark beer and light beer but if I had to try and place what I consider a Christmas seasonal I think it is something a little stronger, bigger bodied, maltier and incorporates some sort of seasonal ingredient like spice or chicory or vanilla.

Personally, I like winter warmers, stronger liqoury beer, something to be sipped and savoured while you are snuggled up indoors.

During my reviews I found myself hauling out the candy canes for big caramel malts and rich heavy stouts though one or two beers really surprised me with their creative take on Christmas, Southern Tier Krampus for one, while others redeemed themselves being beers I did not like on previous tastings, Cannery Brewing Maple Stout and Lagunita’s Brown Shugga come to mind. Some of my go-to brewers did not fail to deliver, Evil Twin Soft Xmas and Oakshire Ill Tempered Gnome, and a few breweries really surprised me either as completely new to me or ones not normally on my radar, Great Divide Hibernation Ale and Samuel Adams Merry Mischief. The Canadian Christmas veterans, Mt. Begbie Bob’s your Dunkel and Howe Sound Father John’s Winter Ale, delivered reliable entries in the calendar.

To those few Christmas beers lingering in the fridge I promise I will get to you as soon as my liver indicates its willingness to get back on board.

Finally, I would like to say a huge thank-you and Merry Christmas to the generous Canadian breweries who assisted me with my Christmas Beer Advent Calendar by providing me with a seasonal beer for review. Please know how much I appreciate your willingness to donate a beer, your timely and considered responses to my request and your amazing people who often brought beer right to my house sometimes in Christmas bags and once with cookies!

I hope everyone enjoyed following along with my Christmas beer advent calendar and I hope you discovered a wonderful new beer to help you through the holiday season. Stay tuned for my Beer Egg Hunt where I countdown the best of the best Easter themed brews (just kidding).

Slainte,

Sara

Candy Cane

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Through the Beer we all will be together

Christmas Eve is finally here and we get to open the final door to our Christmas Beer Advent Calendar…

When, what to my wondering eyes should appear but Howe Sound Brewing‘s Father John’s Christmas Beer (Winter Ale actually but Christmas beer fit the poem better).

 

What do snowmen eat for breakfast? 
Snowflakes.

Howe Sound Father John's Winter Ale

 

 

Father John’s Winter Ale pours a clear reddish chestnut clour with lots of cream coloured head on the initial pour; head eases off to a light ring around the glass and a skim across the top. There is a big nutmeg and ginger nose, which is sweet, hot and spicy at the same time. First sip is pretty complex; honeyed sweetness, rich caramel malts, Christmas spices, vanilla and a touch of hop all going on at the same time. As you drink this one feels medium bodied, a touch syrupy and there is a winter warmer quality. Not a lot on the finish to this one. Overall this one really makes me think Christmas, the combination of spices, malt forward flavour, touch of alcohol-ness, with nice graphics on the label and a bottle made for sharing.

 

As such I am giving Father John’s Winter Ale seven candy canes.

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The Bottles are Flowing…

It’s December 23th so lets open our second to last door…

It’s Abominable Winter Ale an organic offering from Hopworks Brewery.

Hopworks Abominable Winter Ale

Abominable Winter Ale is housed in an amazing yeti adorned bottle; perhaps my favourite artwork of the season. Abominable pours a very clear amber orange with just a little white head and some lacing. Lots of citrus hops on the nose and a bit of malt. First sip is a mix of hops, spicy and citrus, at the front of the palate then the caramel malt flavour comes through at the finish. As you drink the bitterness becomes more prominent making this one pretty typical for a Northwest Coast ale. Mouthfeel is clean, medium bodied and there is some strength to this ale giving it a bit of a warmer quality; however, setting aside the winter-eque bottle nothing else really seems that Christmas like to me it just seems like a good Hopworks ale.

 

I am giving Abominable seven candy canes (six for the beer and one for the bottle) out of the possible ten.

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Fast away the Old Beer Glasses

Calvin and Hobbes Snowmen 4

 

Welcome to the last (possibly frenetic) weekend before Christmas so let us take a look behind door number twenty-two to see what libation will ease us into the final stretch…

It’s Auld Nick from R&B Brewing, “a strong dark ale brewed with specialty malted grains and the traditional hops of Kent, England”.

R&B Auld Nick

Auld Nick pours a very dark reddish brown with good clarity and just a little cream coloured head that quickly forms a light skin on top of the beer. Lots of roasted maltiness on the nose with a little bit of a herbal aroma. A big smooth mouthfeel with lots of body and that oh so essential winter warmer quality. Still get an herbal element as I drink but I can’t quite place what it is. Up front you get  rich sweet malt while the finish introduces burnt and bitter to the palate. Overall a great example of a dark ale that tastes like a Christmas beer to me; a good balance of rich roasted malt, bittered finish and enough strength to warm you up on a cold evening.

 

Auld Nick is saddled with seven candy canes out of a possible ten.

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O Little Brown of Bethlehem

Welcome to the 21st of December aka the much anticipated end of the world so let’s throw open the door to our twenty-first (and potentially last) beer…

 

We have Maple Stout from Cannery Brewing, which is described as “stout, dark and handsome” …sounds a bit like an online dating profile.

Cannery Maple Stout

 

Maple Stout, as its very plain spoken name suggests, is a deep black brown beer with mocha coloured head and a very syrupy sweet nose. First sip, is cold coffee meets, well, maple syrup. Medium bodied but definitely on the lighter side of the stout family with lots of roasted malt and chocolate flavours and a subtly bittered finish. The cloying maple syrup eases off as you drink this one. If you like your stouts a little more sweet and a little less bitter this is the beer for you. Overall a very nice and accessible seasonal though I have to say maple syrup makes me think early spring and not Christmas but what the heck.

 

I am giving this one seven candy canes out of the possible ten.

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Hark! The Barreled Angels Sing

It is December 20th and therefore 5 days until Christmas! Did you ever notice that when you are little there seems to be twelve months between December 1st and 20th and when you are old there seems to be 12 hours between December 1st and 20th? But I digress so let’s open door twenty and find our daily beer…

Hark! It’s Winter Welcome from Samuel Smith’s Brewery.

 

Samuel Smith Winter Welcome

 

Winter Welcome pours a very clear amber gold colour with tons of cream coloured head on the initial pour; the head dies off to some lacing a little head. It is yeasty and a bit malty on the nose. First couple of sips are light bodied, malty and a bit funky from the yeast taste. As you drink the hops come into play making this a nicely balanced ale. Very clean tasting with not much happening on the finish perhaps a slight bitter taste. The character of this beer changes as it warms at times letting different flavours (malt or hops)come to to the forefront. At 6% Winter Welcome is a nice counter point to some of the bigger holiday brews out there but for me this one was a little to thin for a Christmas offering.

 

I am giving Winter Welcome sis candy canes.

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Next beer I could be oh so good…

Snowman The Triumph of Perseverance

 

Welcome to day 19 and let’s take a look at our beery treat for today…

It’s Brown Shugga’ from Lagunitas Brewing Company, a sweet release at 9.9%.

 

Lagunitas Brown Shugga'

Brown Shugga’ pours a very clear amber copper colour with tons of airy cream coloured head. This ale has a citrus hoppy nose and first sip is pretty assertive hops followed by some big sweet malt flavour. As it warms up a bit the sugary-ness really comes to the front of the palate and hops settle down. Medium bodied this is a real winter warmer with a slightly cloying mouthfeel. The finish leaves a sweet taste in the back of the throat coupled with a dry bitterness. Brown Shugga’ is one of those beers that grows on you the more you sip (or it could be the high ABV messing with my perceptions) but I quite like the in-your-face flavours happening in the this beer. Overall a sweet Christmas treat.

 

Lagunintas Brown Shugga’ is awarded eight candy canes.

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Steep in Heavenly Yeast

It is just one week until Christmas and we open door eighteen to find…

Krampus Imperial Helles Lager from Southern Tier Brewing a behemoth 9% blend of hops, dark malts and lager yeast.

 

How many deer would a reindeer reign if a reindeer could reign deer?

Southern Tier Krampus

Okay first things first, brilliant beer name. The bottle depicts Krampus the Christmas Devil who, according to European tradition, beats the naughty children with chains and sticks – I am guessing there are fewer naughty European children since Krampus seems far far worse than the threat of coal!

Krampus pours a clear deep gold with bright white head that reduces to some lacing and a light skim. Big hop nose and first sip is floral and resiny hops at the front of the palate, then dark caramel malts at the back of the throat followed by a deep warming quality. Medium bodied and somewhat viscous this lager sure packs a wallop. The finish is surprisingly not that bitter but instead a little on the sweet side. Krampus is a sipping lager though lager may be a bit of a misnomer for this beer. Overall it is like a Christmas gift to hop heads everywhere; IPA meets Lager meets Winter Warmer, devilish indeed.

 

Krampus is getting eight candy canes out of a possible ten …I hope this does not make him angry.

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Better not Stout, I’m telling you why

Onward and upward we are now delving into door number seventeen to uncover…

Eight Malty Nights, a Chanukah themed chocolate rye porter from Lompoc Brewing.

 

What did Adam say on the day before Christmas?
It’s Christmas, Eve.

Lompoc 8 Malty Nights

Eight Malty Nights pours deepest black brown with just a little mocha coloured head that dies down to a light skim on the top of the glass. Lots of chocolate on the nose. First sip is sweet chocolate, malty with some roasted grains. As you drink the flavour stays pretty true to the first sip focusing on chocolate and malt tastes. A lighter bodied beer with a bit of chewiness imparted from the rich flavours. There is a slightly bitter roast coffee kind of finish. Overall a really nice porter and the incorporation of rye makes this one a good fit for Chanukah (thanks to Chris for pointing out my erroneous Christmas reference!).

 

I am giving Eight Malty Nights eight malty candy canes.

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O Flight Divine

It’s December 16th and that means we get to look behind the door to find our sixteenth Christmas beer…

And we find Full Sail Brewing‘s Wassail a 7.2% winter ale.

 

Full Sail Wassail

 

Wassail pours a dark chestnut-brown with just a small amount of off-white head that turns to subtle lacing pretty quickly. Initially I get lots of malt on the nose giving way to a roasted bitterness. The first few sips are a good balance between the sweet malts and the burnt tastes but as you drink the roasted bitter notes seem to take over the beer. There is a pretty decent amount of body to this ale and enough strength to give it a warming quality.  The finish comes through quite bittered. Overall this is not my favourite take on the winter ale as I find it a bit too far on the hoppy bitter side for my palate and my own belief on what a Christmas beer should be; however, I have to say I love the beer name and they have a great winter label on the bottle neck.

 

I am giving Wassail a six candy cane rating.

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