Beer and Pavement

Best Beers of 2012

Posted in Beer by Zac on December 30, 2012

Like making a year-end list of best records, creating a list of one’s favorite is a silly yet necessary exercise. Silly because who really cares? Necessary because everybody’s doing it. In no particular order, here are beers that were either released this year, discovered by me this year, or finally made sense to me this year. I apologize upfront for the IPA-heavy list. I’m a hop head and have trouble remembering what I thought about most sours, stouts, Saisons, etc.

Trappist Westvleteren 12
I’ve had Westy before, but it was a small sample at the end of an evening of craft beer debauchery. My bother “won” one of those lottos just to get a chance to buy and $85 six pack. He shared as family is wont to do over the holiday. Half a bottle was more than enough for me to fully appreciate what many consider to be the best beer in the world. I don’t know about all of that or even if it’s the best Belgian quad, but it’s very very good.

Goose Island King Henry
This may have been released in 2011, but we never saw it locally. One evening in Lincoln, Nebraska at an excellent pizza joint offered me the opportunity to try this magnificent beast.

Bells Black Note Stout
I should not have had a glass of this beer, but I did. A sample was sneaked to me as I had to leave a Bells dinner. Imagine the molasses-fueled deliciousness of Expedition, mixed with the sweetness of a milk stout, and brewed in bourbon barrels. Even then, you can’t imagine how glorious this beer tasted.

Three Floyds Zombie Dust
I love me some APA’s but this one is on another level. So much Citra. So good.

Stone Ruination Tenth Anniversary IPA
Specially released IPA’s from Stone are all over my list. This one featured an amped-up version of what was my epiphany beer, if that was even possible… Of course it was! This was as good a tribute as any brewery has ever brewed.

Stone Enjoy By 12.21.12 IPA
I actually preferred this one to the September version. It’s possible this one was fresher, but both were consumed well before their best by dates. The idea of a ridiculously fresh IPA is nothing new, but this release made it a priority. There’s no way one of these will ever sit on shelves too long. I hope they continue to brew Best By IPA’s.

Cantillon Lou Pepe Kriek (2008)
Obviously, this beer was not from this year, but I finally opened it and was glad I did. No one does lambics and sours like Cantillon. Probably no other more obvious sentence has ever been uttered regarding beer. Lou Pepe was no exception. I suspect the aging altered the beer, but I doubt I wouldn’t have loved it a couple of years ago.

Boulevard Rye-On-Rye
This one is on the brain as I just picked up the latest release of this great Smokestack Series brew. I always liked this beer but never really got it until this year. I don’t know whether that’s trying so many inferior rye beers or just the ongoing development of my palate, but it’s so rich and so good. Aside from Boulevard’s Saison Brett (another all-time favorite that could make this list every year), this is one of the true Missouri craft beer treasures.

The Bruery 5 Golden Rings
I stumbled upon one of these at a Whole Paycheck the day before Xmas Eve and figured it would make the perfect Xmas dinner drink. And it did. No one outside of these guys and Stillwater consistently make beers that go better with food. I was lucky I paced myself of this one would have put me under the table.

Broadway Brewery Columbus Single Hop IPA
Never in my wildest dreams would I have figured a beer brewed here in Columbia, MO would make a list like this, but this one stacks up. I’m sure the freshness factor comes into play here, but I dragged a growler nine hours to Ohio, another three to Cleveland – all of it in a cooler that was probably not properly chilled and a growler that was not properly filled to the top – and the beer survived. Hell, it did better than survive. It was downright delicious.

Odell The Meddler Oud Bruin
I had nearly given up on Odell’s special releases, but this one was decently priced and I like to try anything new in this style. The beer was beautiful from appearance to aroma to the all-important flavors within. It paired well with whatever I was eating that night. This beer renewed my faith in Odell.

Schlafly Tasmanian IPA (TIPA)
Schlafly has been experimenting with different varieties of hops, mostly through special keg-only releases and cask ale. Still, this one was a nice little surprise. It’s one of those beers that nails the hoppiness hop heads are always after, causing us to want to drink one after the other.

Millstream Great Pumpkin Imperial Stout
This is how pumpkin ale should be done. Screw the pumpkin pie and sour varieties. Put your pumpkin in an imperial stout or Baltic porter! As an imperial stout, it’s not my favorite. However, it made me rethink pumpkin beers just as I was writing them off.

Treble Kicker Beer New Slang Saison
My own Saison is easily one of my favorites. I upped the ante with this year’s version for my partner’s tenure celebration. More lemon zest and rosemary = a punch in the face Saison that is not playing around. Add in some dry-hopped Sorachi Ace hops and you have a lemon bomb/balm that needs to brewed again and soon.

Stone 16th Anniversary IPA
This one was met with many mixed reviews, but I loved the twist this one offered some lemon verbena and rye-induced spice that made for one of the more interesting/surprising beers this year.

Deschutes Chainbreaker White IPA
Why isn’t the white/wheat IPA more popular? Because no one wants to take on Deschutes’ hold on hoppy beers. No one hops a beer like Deschutes. No one.

Tallgrass 8-Bit Pale Ale
This was my beer of the summer. Refreshingly hoppy goodness in a can carried me through record-setting heat, including a 30-mile bike ride.

Green Flash Rayon Vert
I’m not sure how long this beer has been around, but it made its first appearances in middle-Missouri earlier this year and I’m sure glad it did. Another twist on the IPA (this time with Belgian love), Rayon Vert became the “heavy” beer of summer.

Stillwater Debutante
What can I say that hasn’t already been said before about Stillwater’s excellence. I could put any of their beers on this list every year. Still, this one made its debut in 2012 and I for one welcome it to the best lineup of Saisons this side of Belgium.

Firestone Walker Wookey Jack
The Black IPA/Cascadian Dark Ale continues to dig out a niche in craft beer and Firestone’s entry is no different than the best of the style.

Deschutes Chasin’ Freshies
Did I mention Deschutes’ mastery of the hop. This fresh-hopped IPA and its fresh-hopped APA cousin (Hop Trip) do what fresh/wet-hopped beers are supposed to: capture the essence of Dionysus’ underwear… or something like that.

Mikkeller Royal Rye Wine
Most of the Mikkeller releases I enjoyed this year were not all that new to me. However, the experience surrounding the Royal Rye Wine made this possibly the most memorable beer of the year. Read more about it here.

What did I forget? What would you add? Disagree or agree with any of these?

Mikkeller Royal Rye Wine: The Review

Posted in Beer, Beer Thousand, Intersections, Mikkeller, Records, Review by Zac on January 30, 2012

Royal Rye Wine

Maybe I’ve over-extended myself, but this special occasion was reason enough to take this blog where it’s never been before. The Mikkeller collab Royal Rye Wine arrived a couple of weeks ago. I’ve been sitting on it, waiting for a brief moment in my schedule to review it properly. I don’t know that the video below does it justice, but we tried record the event and maybe we’ll get better with each episode.

My disclaimer is that this video beer review thing is not easy. The Hopry is the gold standard and now I understand why he doesn’t do it anymore. It’s a lot of work. Then there are those who consistently do professional-looking videos at New Brew Thursdays and 100 Beers in 30 Days… We’re just not at that standard just yet. I made the valiant effort of editing out a large portion of my “ums”, but you’ll notice I’m loaded with them. This is why I, um, blog.

Anyways, here’s the video. Below that, I’ll add some thoughts, what we did with the rest of the afternoon, and maybe even some additional media. Comment freely, but be constructive.

So, the beer was good and completely caught us off guard (in case you couldn’t tell). Normally, the three of us can talk forever on such things, but this beer left us speechless - something only Mikkeller can typically do. The rye was pronounced. The grape/wine flavors came and went as our palate was challenged by the rye and the beer warmed. There was a slight amount of carbonation, but as we drank, that dissipated quickly. However, the body of the beer did not suffer. This truly is a wine drinker’s beer. Typically, I think of sour beers as being the closest thing to wine a brewery can accomplish, but this beer actually attains a wine-like feel without wine barrels and the infections they carry. We weren’t just blowing steam up Mikkeller’s ass. This beer is both interesting and a lot of fun to drink.

Now, as far as the video, I’m hoping we’ll get better. You all should provide plenty of suggestions to make it better. I’m pretty happy with the opening and closing. Jeff and Jarrett were great. (Be sure to check out any out-takes I’ll post below. There’s good stuff there.) However, my stumbling, bumbling dialogue needs work. Maybe I’ll prepare a little better next time. Maybe we’ll do it live and you can see how it really goes down.

Anyway, there are some credits I forgot to include or didn’t make clear enough. Jeff took the pictures. You can find them here. Jarrett is a certified cicerone. So, he knows about which he’s talking. The opening credits song is “Hardcore UFO’s” from the Guided By Voices record Bee Thousand. If I missed something, let me know in the comments.

Oh look; beer.

We consumed the three beers above, plus one a homebrew Jeff contributed. The Allagash Interlude was a beer I found in Richmond, VA this past summer. It’s a 2009 vintage and contained tons of tartness with a touch of oak, another wine-worthy brew. Really, it was a delicious beer. I had had a 4 Calling Birds from The Bruery once before, but it was lost in a tasting. My palate was relatively fresh this time around and I found the nutmeg to be almost toxically good. Jeff’s homebrew was called Hop Heaven after Avery’s Hog Heaven Barley Wine. It was a hop-forward barley wine that could use some time to age, but that probably won’t happen. There’s noting wrong with that either.

Before I close, below you’ll find a video of out-takes, the two videos from Mikkeller dealing with the contest, and a Russian video about the Royal Rye Wine release. Enjoy!

Pics in this post are also courtesy of Jeff.

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Mikkeller Royal Rye Wine is here!

Posted in Beer, Mikkeller by Zac on January 17, 2012

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Placeholder: MLK Day

Posted in Mikkeller, Uncategorized by Zac on January 16, 2012

No post or list today. The Mikkeller Royal Rye Wine arrived Saturday, but we were out. I can’t pick it up today since it’s MLK Day. So, the beer will sit in the USPS beer cellar for one more day.

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Session #59 – I Almost Always Drink Beer, But When I Don’t, I Drink Żubrówka

Posted in Beer, Life, Mikkeller, The Session by Zac on January 6, 2012

This month’s session almost threw me for a loop. Here’s the premise from session curator Mario Rubio of Brewed for Thought:

With the New Year looming and a month of Christmas and Holiday parties to enjoy there are plenty of opportunities to get into a different beverage besides beer, alcoholic or otherwise. It was with this in mind that I was reminded of a conversation I had one day with Jay Brooks. Looking for advice on how to squeeze some blood from this stone of beer blogging, Jay told me a lot of writers have to look outside of beer to help make a complete income. Upon bringing this up as a Session topic he even offered up a much better title than I would have thought up.

So as we are all incredibly interesting people, and almost always drink beer, let’s talk about what we drink when not drinking beer. Maybe your passion for coffee rivals that of craft beer, or it could be another alcoholic beverage such as scotch. My daughter being a root beer fan would appreciate her dad reviewing a few fizzy sodas. Maybe you have a drink that takes the edge off the beer, be it hair of the dog or a palate cleanser during the evening.

Beer cocktails, wines, ciders, meads, you name it as long as it’s not beer. Try to tie it in with craft beer in some way for extra credit. Be creative and I’ll see you guys in the new year.

Why would this throw me for a loop? Well, aside from my morning (and sometimes afternoon) coffee and water, I’ve cut out just about all other drinks. I feel that I can have a beer that will satisfy me better than any cocktail or glass of wine could ever do. So, why would I want to wast my liver and bladder on another drink?

Then, I considered the past holiday season. Every Christmas Eve, we have a Polish dinner. It’s tradition to toast each course with a shot of Polish vodka. We’ve always preferred Żubrówka or Bison Grass Vodka. However, the Eastern European market here in town was out. To add insult to injury, all the liquor stores in town don’t carry it. Our dinner guest supplied a nice Polish vodka, but it was absent the bison grass and just didn’t taste the same.

What exactly is Żubrówka and why is it so good?

Well, the Żubrówka one buys here in the States is different than what can be had in Poland. The original contains a blade of grass that grows from bison pastures. We’re all adults with a decent amount of education. So, I’ll let you figure out the connection from there. Anyway, said grass contains a carcinogen, making it extra “effective”. The US government looks down upon such ingredients. The American version shares the same green tint, herbal flavor, and even a blade of grass. However, there are no carcinogens. Still, my wife who’s had the Polish version, says it’s pretty close to the original. This means that a certain amount of herbal goodness, akin to an apple pie, exists in this green-tinted treat.

The spirit is an integral part of our family’s history. My wife’s family has a Polish background and she spent some time in Poland while her brother served in the Peace Corps there. Żubrówka was plentiful. Even the children were served their share, mixed with apple juice for a drink called a “szarlotka”. When we were married, we concluded the ceremony (and started the party) with a shot of Żubrówka for all. It’s tradition for our liquor cabinet to be stocked with the grassy booze, but our supply ran out and was left empty somehow.

After the Christmas Eve without our favorite accoutrement, we were determined to not let another holiday pass us by without some Bison Grass Vodka. Thankfully, Wine & Cheese Place in St. Louis (or in Clayton to be more specific) exists. I normally go there for beer, but this was a vodka emergency and a bottle of the green stuff was to be secured. W&C pulled through and we had vodka shots for New Year’s Eve!

Of course, I also consumed some Mikkeller Nelson Sauvin Brut (an awesome “New Year beer…fermented with ale yeast, brettanomyces and enzymes…aged three months in Austrian white wine casks”), Life & Limb 2 (Dogfish Head/Sierra Nevada-collaborated imperial stout with distinctive notes of chocolate and maple syrup), and Schalfly Reserve Barley Wine-style Ale (a 2008 vintage where the only thing I could taste was oak and no malt after 3+ years in the bottle). So, I didn’t drink just vodka harvested from the grass of buffalo dung, but the vodka certainly helped to ring in the new year the right way even if leaving me a bit hungover.

Cheers to Mario for forcing me out of my comfort zone and to reflect on and appreciate what is a rather enjoyable spirit, Żubrówka.

The Red Rye Wine Is Mine!

Posted in Beer, Mikkeller by Zac on January 4, 2012

In case you weren’t following my Twitter feed or were watching my original post for updates, I actually won the Mikkeller Red Rye Wine giveaway! Check it.

So, now I have some work to do as I prepare for the arrival of this extremely rare beer from my favorite brewery. The promises I made for being rewarded the beer are as follows…

  1. I will dedicate a page on this blog with it’s own Mikkeller-inspired emblem for all things Mikkeller, including the running list of posts.
  2. I will review the Royal Rye Wine complete with a playlist that pairs perfectly with the awarded beer. I’ll make the playlist available to my readers via Spotify and even send a copy to Mikkel Borg Bjergsø.
  3. I will write a post reviewing every Mikkeller beer I’ve ever had, even the ones I’ve completely forgotten about.

#1 will take some work, at least as far as the emblem/logo is concerned. I’ve already gathered the rundown of posts. That part’s done.

#2 will have to wait for the actual beer to arrive. However, I’m already sorting out some ideas for a playlist and people to help me drink the beer. Unfortunately, one bottle will only go so far. If I want to have a decent enough of a sample in order to give the beer a reasonable review, I’ll have to limit the tasting team. 3-4 people total is probably the way to go. The hardest part is picking those people without upsetting anyone.

#3 will take some work. I’ll start with reviews I’ve actually written online, but I’ve had some Mikkeller beers I have noted elsewhere that will need to be considered.

Whatever. These are great problems to have. Things are looking up for the Coalition. It seems we now have a strong following in Denmark. So, to my new Danish readers, I say, “Hej, venner!”

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Royal Rye Wine

Posted in Beer, Challenge by Zac on December 30, 2011

So, I figured I’d enter the contest. I mean, Mikkeller is easily one of my favorite breweries and I’d do just about anything to try this beer. But what sets me apart from other beer geeks who will enter this contest for such a beer?

Well, for one, I have written a ton here about Mikkeller beers despite the relative difficulty we have just scoring any in the middle of Missouri. Just look at the tag cloud to the right. No other brewery is listed as large as Mikkeller. I may have to consider changing the “beer” portion of this blog’s title to “Mikkeller”. Here’s a rundown of Mikkeller mentions over the last two years of posting…

So, to say that I am a huge fan of Mikkeller brews and support them every step of the way is an understatement. I just wish I had more access to more of their beer. Still, winning this prize of a bottle of Royal Rye Wine would cause me to make some promises I will surely keep:

  1. I will dedicate a page on this blog with it’s own Mikkeller-inspired emblem for all things Mikkeller, including the running list of posts.
  2. I will review the Royal Rye Wine complete with a playlist that pairs perfectly with the awarded beer. I’ll make the playlist available to my readers via Spotify and even send a copy to Mikkel Borg Bjergsø.
  3. I will write a post reviewing every Mikkeller beer I’ve ever had, even the ones I’ve completely forgotten about.

There. If this post doesn’t win me a bottle of Royal Rye Wine, I don’t know what will. Or maybe it’s just too difficult to ship a beer like that all the way to Columbia, Missouri.

Please give nothing but support for my quest and for Mikkeller’s beer in the comments. No comments about the cost of said beers. They’re totally worth it and I won’t have you disparage them.

Update: Tomorrow the winner of a bottle of Royal Rye Wine will be announced on mikkeller.dk on Facebook and on Twitter.

Double update: I won! Details to come.

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Top 10 Beers of 2011

Posted in Beer, MoL by Zac on December 27, 2011

In no particular order, here are my ten favorite beers of the year. A few are new for 2011 and some were just new to the market in which I live (Missouri). What did I miss? Are there better examples from the following breweries or of the following styles? Discuss in the comments. Warning: There’s a whole lotta Miekkeller and Stillwater in this list.

Mikkeller Black Imperial Stout – I love the ultra-boozy, thick imperial stout. You know, the kind that is sold in 12 oz. (or Euro equvialent 11.2 oz.) that costs more than many six-packs and bombers. The ABV is obscene and they’re good now or after a couple of years in the cellar. This entry into the sub-style from Mikkeller is astoundingly good. It’s all I can do to keep myself from cleaning the shelves around town of the monster in a bottle. My bank account appreciates it, but my stomach and tongue glare at me with resentment.

Founders Canadian Breakfast Stout – Another huge imperial stout that is maybe the most hyped beer of all-time. Hyperbole aside, this beer lived up to the hype. It’s a mouthful as the maple syrup, coffee, oak, and all the things one would expect from a Founders imperial stout are there. I feel lucky to have tried CBS on tap and still have a bottle to save for later.

The Bruery Black Tuesday – A glass of this fantastic beer crossed my lips at the same event that provided my portion of CBS. More in the vein of Mikkeller’s Black, Black Tuesday is a gigantic imperial stout. Howevern, unlike Black that comes in a bottle more appropriate for a single serving, this Goliath comes in 750 mL bottles, meant to be shared with a group. Still, I lucked out by being in the right place at the right time and got to try this beast next to the one above. Life’s good for the beer geek.

Anchorage Bitter Monk – Moving on from imperial stouts, a surprising arrival showed up in stores this year. Anchorage makes what is one of the more complexly interesting beers I’ve had in a long time. The huge hop presence of a DIPA is balanced with chardonnay barrel-aging and even Brettanomyces… basically a dream beer. Despite its relatively high price point, I’ve noticed this beer doesn’t hang out on shelves for long.

Stillwater/Mikkeller Two Gypsies Our Side – Another beer that finds a way to bring piney hops to the farmhouse, making this hybrid style a sure thing to be cloned over and over in the coming year. Where Bitter Monk relies more heavily on the barrel aging and Brett, this beer keeps it simple but still strikes a chord with the beer nerd in search of a complex, challenging experience.

New Belgium La Terroir – A third, less-intense version of the IPA/Saison hybrid is New Belgium’s La Terroir. Technically, none of these beers really fits a style, but they highlight the best of the Saison/Farmhouse/wild end as well as capitalizing on the resinous hoppiness we all love in our IPA’s. This third in the hybrid group of beers on my list is more of a barrel-aged wild ale with the peachy presence of an Amarillo and Cascade dry-hop.

Stillwater/Mikkeller Rauchstar – Second Stillwater/Mikkeller brew on my list is also another hybrid beer. This beer also happened to just slide into the top-10 as it was consumed the day after Xmas. Yes, it’s a smoked beer, but it’s also highly hopped and there’s that Stillwater tang that’s unmistakable. Really, this was a shockingly good beer that I wished I had more of. Plus, the label is pretty wicked.

Odell Friek – I’ve really learned to appreciate Kriek Lambics and the like over the last year, especially when paired with chocolate. This one delivered and has made a brief return to our market right at the end of the year. It’s very welcome. My previous experience with Odell’s Woodcut series did not end well and I have another of their beers I’ve been advised to wait out. Still, when they do it right, I still have to give them credit. Friek is a freak of a good beer.

Firestone Walker Double Jack DIPA – I realize that this is far from a new beer for most beer enthusiasts, but it was new to our little market this year and very welcome. While some will go more for the bigger, richer, oakier varieties of beer, but this DIPA is exceptional. The only thing that may challenge it is their Union Jack IPA which just arrived.

Stone 15th Anniversary Escondidian Imperial Black IPA – Another welcomed sight on the shelves and coolers here was Stone. Then, they came correct with their 15th anniversary ale, a big, hoppy double black IPA. Really, this beer was phenomenal and has extended the legend of the black IPA.

Comment freely…

Top 5 Stout Franchises

Posted in Beer, Top 5, Uncategorized by Zac on December 19, 2011

Breweries brew all kinds of beer, but only a few produce exceptional imperial stouts time and time again. Often, they use one base imperial stout in their aging and barreling programs, but other times they add ingredients to alter the flavor one way or another. These are the five best breweries at producing series of imperial stouts.

(Note – I considered including non-imperial stouts, but the list became too unwieldy and I tend to prefer imperial stouts this time of year. Had I gone with all stouts, Bells would have surely deserved a mention. Their imperial is excellent and their lineup of non-imp stouts is impressive.)

5. Mikkeller – Between the Black Hole series and all those Beer Geek Breakfast/Brunch beers, it’s hard to find a more intriguing set of imperial stouts. Add to that one of the better big beers I’ve had this year in Black, Mikkeller holds the title of best Danish/Gypsy brewer of imperial stouts all by himself.

4. Great Divide – Sometimes, it becomes easy to overlook the great beers that do regularly ship to one’s market. We get Great Divide here in Missouri which is a treat. Their Yeti series of imperial stouts is pretty impressive. They add chocolate, oak, Belgian yeast, etc. for a nice lineup of tasty imp stouts.

3. Three Floyds – I have had one Dark Lord in my lifetime and it was pretty great. If you look at any beer rating site, the top imperial stouts list is littered with variations of this one beer. This fact makes it hard to not rate it in my top-5, but the fact I’ve only personally had one bottle makes it even more difficult to rate it higher than the next two breweries.

2. Goose Island – GI is famous for a couple of things. One is the fact that they were bought out by ABI. The second is that they brew Bourbon County Stout. On it’s own, BCS is an incredible beer. However, GI does several versions that are hard to get, but if you do, it’s totally worth it. On top of that, they sell the base imperial stout used to age in those bourbon barrels known as Big John. Let’s hope the first fact mentioned here doesn’t interfere with the second.

1. Founders – Even beyond all the hype built for the release of Canadian Breakfast Stout in bottles this year, Founders brews a mean lineup of imperial stouts. The breakfast stout is the only beer with coffee (aside from some of the Mikkeller beers) that I will regularly buy. Then, there’s Kentucky Bourbon Stout and their “regular” imperial stout. Plus, there are periodically versions of these beers popping up here and there in kegs all over the Midwest. All of this make Founders the king of the imperial stout, IMO.

Also…

Southern Tier – The Darkwater Series is hard to deny. Check out Chokolat, Creme Brullee, Mocha, and Java for four of the tastiest dessert beers you’ll ever find.

Hoppin’ Frog – I haven’t gotten far into the Frog’s BORIS series, but what I’ve had is pretty good. It would help if they had a wider distribution in Missouri, but I can wait for periodic shipments from Ohio now and again. Rumor has it that a DORIS is coming my way.

Alesmith – Alesmith’s Speedway stout is a pretty grand imperial, but I just haven’t had enough of it or any of its variations to be able to report on it. Plus, although well-hyped in its own right, it just doesn’t hold the cachet of a Three Floyds yet.

Top 5: Xmas Beers

Posted in Beer, Top 5 by Zac on December 12, 2011

OK. So, I don’t actually like seasonal beers. The only exception are those beers that happen to always come out at certain times of the year, but aren’t necessarily tied to the season. There are other exceptions, but I find fall and winter seasonals to be particularly dreadful as it becomes the time of year to overload mediocre brews with spices. This is something homebrewers do, not quality craft brewers.

Still, there are a few holiday ales which I like to try every year. I typically only drink holiday ales that are available here in Missouri. So, the list is a bit limited that way as well. Here are five of the better holiday ales I enjoy…

5. Avery Old Jubilation – Sweet, malty old ales should be on every brewery’s holiday lineup. This one is a favorite and almost criminally available everywhere, sitting beside their spiced brethren. The Christmas-y and seemingly pedestrian presentation make me think 1995 micro-brewed concoction of frankincense and myrrh.

4. Boulevard Nutcracker Ale / Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale – I couldn’t decide between these two as they are the same beers in my mind (not really even close). Sure, Celebration is…well… more celebrated, but they are very similar beers. Instead of coming with spice, they hit you with hops, lots of them… Actually, the point is that that both beers contain a surprising amount of hoppiness in two rather different beers. Are you confused yet? I am. The hoppiness contained in the winter warmer and IPA are of the crisp variety, how I’ve been liking my hops as of late.

3. Mikkeller Red White / Santa’s Little Helper / To From / Hoppy Lovin’ Christmas – Some of these are better than others, but it’s the fact that Mikkeller puts out a full lineup of holiday ales that strikes me. All are uniquely Mikkeller and all are worth the holiday bonus you may fork over for some. I’m particularly interested in the Hoppy Lovin’ Christmas, an IPA brewed with ginger and pine needles, as it’s new to me this year.

2. Samichlaus – This beer has an enormous reputation in these parts, almost as large as its 14% ABV. The rep is much deserved and the beer is a Christmastime necessity. I don’t know that it actually has anything to do with Christmas other than the fact that it sounds like “Santa Claus,” but it’s a giant lager with which you should not trifle.

1. Jolly Pumpkin Noel de Calabaza – JP is one of those breweries at the top of my favorites list that just does it for me every time. Sure, they’re all variations of the same beer, but they’re all delicious.Tartness galore as always but this time in the form or a Belgian strong dark ale. I would have even accepted spice, but JP didn’t stoop to those levels and kept it on the real. In other words, it’s your typical Jolly Pumpkin but in super-awesome Christmas form.

Special Mention: Stone/Nøgne Ø/Jolly Pumpkin Special Holiday Ale – From what I understand, this beer has long been retired. All three breweries can be found in this beer. It’s a bit of a mangled mess, but it was my mangled mess at one time. I’ve had versions bottled by the first two breweries and each brought with them something different. I feel like the JP version has been around, possibly passing my lips at a tasting, but I have no proof and could be totally mistaken.

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