I debated waiting to post this until the 19th, but I thought you’d all like a chance to set up your Spotify play lists or go record shopping. Know that the following albums should fill your Xmas with happiness and joy and they won’t suck too badly. Also, I tried to focus on only those albums that have a decidedly indie slant to them. All the artists may or may not be currently on indie labels or even considered indie, but the sentiment is pure indie and the execution is all craft.
Also, I considered compilations, but that just seemed too easy. These are full albums by indie artists that contain nothing but Christmas songs. An interesting fact about me is that I love Christmas music. I don’t necessarily get into most holiday traditions, but I love interesting Christmas music. I used to give mixed tapes as gifts.
Anyway, here’s a list of the five best indie Christmas albums. I may do one of my favorite songs next week or the week after. Also, be on the lookout for a beer post thematically similar…
5. Aimee Mann – One More Drifter in the Snow
Aimee Mann does mopey, sad music better than anyone. This is the type of thing I enjoy when countering all the happy joy joy that runs rampant this time of year. Sadly, her best Christmas song , “Christmastime,” is not even the best version of the song. You’ll have to hunt down the track with Michael Penn, appearing on the holiday compilation album, Just Say Noël.
4. She & Him – A Very She and Him Christmas
Some may be on Zooey Deschanel overload, but She and Him partner M Ward do some nice stripped-down versions of Christmas classics old and new. Plus, your indie cred will go up when you put on a record from Merge.
3. Bright Eyes – A Christmas Album
I know folks have their issues with Conor Oberst, but this album released to raise money for a Nebraska AIDS charity (They have AIDS in Nebraska?) is valuable find if you can locate it. Other than the strange reading of the “A Night Before Christmas,” Oberst and friends put a rather stark and desolate holiday season. You’ll notice this trend in the odd-numbered albums on this list.
2. Sufjan Stevens – Songs for Christmas
I have the free download of this album, as that’s how it was originally released. Since then, the Saint of Hipster Christians has released a 4-disc album of a pretty complete collection of Christmas tunes. This album was recorded during the manic, hyper-productive period for Sufjan Stevens when it seemed possible he’d actually write and record an album for every state. Oh well.
1. Low – Christmas
This EP just barely qualifies for the list, but for what it lacks in quantity, it more than makes up in quality. Low somehow captures the dark, lonely side of Christmas while creating a record of both old favorites and original soon-to-be-classics. You may not care for all of the artists above, but you have to own this record.
This month’s session idea comes to us from Ed Hardy at Beersay and here’s what he had to…er…say:
The idea for me was based loosely around the visits of three ghosts to Ebenezer Scrooge, but relayed in a post about the beers of Christmas past, present and future.
What did you drink during Christmas holidays of old, have you plans for anything exciting this year and is there something you’d really like to do one day, perhaps when the kids have flown the nest?
So, we’re going all holiday up in this joint. I do love a good holiday ale loaded with frankincense and myrrh. Or something like that.
For a beery memory to share, I’m going to go all the way back to last year. It’s not as much about what beer I drank, but rather about the silliness that resulted in my consumption. After a beer or two and a glass of homemade egg nog, we sat down for Xmas Eve dinner with friends and family. My wife makes the greatest Polish feast imaginable every Xmas Eve. It is easily my favorite meal of the year. I prefer to celebrate said meal with a nice beer. For last year’s feast, I chose Mikkeller’s Santa’s Little Helper.
Then, things got a bit weird…
For whatever reason, our guests that evening were not into drinking beer with this particular dinner. So, I had the entire 750 mL bottle to myself. You can probably imagine what happened after that. And if you imagined that I would go outside intent on knocking the snow off our satellite dish with snow balls only to eventually turn to climbing onto the roof in order to clear the snow by hand, then you would be correct.
I’m not exactly sure how to handle this one as it is only December 2nd, meaning that this Xmas actually qualifies as Xmas Future, but whatever. I’ll at least tell you my plan. The start of our season usually happens on St. Nicholas Day (Dec. 6). Friends throw a big party with a giant, flaming bowl of mulled wine. It’s good stuff, but I always show up with some seasonal beers. Other than the Mikkeller (again), I currently have a Jolly Pumpkin Noel Calabaza, but I think I’ll take a sixer of Sierra Nevada’s Celebration Ale, assuming there’s more in the stores.
After that, my beer club has a Holiday Party/Yankee Swap/Ugly Sweater Contest planned. I’ll bring something nice to drink (possibly the Allagash Odyssey I scored at last year’s party), possibly a Boulevard gift set for the swap, and I don’t know about the sweater.
As far as our own Xmas festivities, I’ll take it easy this year on Xmas Eve. There will be no drunken roof climbing this year. I always enjoy a bomber all to myself on Xmas Day. Other than that, it will be typical beer consumption for me.
I have lots of ideas for future Xmas. Let’s list them, since that’s kinda my thing this month:
- Xmas Homebrew – I want to brew a special Xmas brew on Xmas Day one of these years. Of course, it will probably have to be something that isn’t necessarily Xmas-y as it will take time for fermentation and such to occur. Ideally, I’d like to brew something big that can be enjoyed during the following Xmas as a way to start a tradition.
- Travel – One of the best Xmas celebrations I ever had was the year we visited family in California. I’d love to do a beer-themed Xmas trip one of these years. Maybe Colorado, San Diego, Asheville, Portland, Chicago, or even Belgium would all be great trips. Someday, someday…
- Neighborhood Tasting – I’ve always wanted to do a tasting with my neighbors. They all like to imbibe and have a good time. I’m the resident beer nerd. They’re always asking me about craft and homebrewed beer. I always thought it would be cool to have them all chip in and I’ll buy a load of beer for a tasting. There’s a neighborhood party and progressive dinner, a beer at each stop would be ideal.
- Beer Gifts – My wife always gets me cool and unique gifts for Xmas, but one of these years I’m going to get her to give the gift of beer. I’m thinking glassware, all-grain equipment, a beer trip, or some membership to a special mail-order club or something. Even a stockpile of beer books would be cool.
- Sharing Craft Beer with My Daughter –My three-year-old is obviously not ready for beer, but I’ve given her tiny tastes here and there. I look forward to the day I can sit down and share a beer with her on special occasions. The day we crack open a special beer I’ve been cellaring could be a lot of fun. Here in Missouri, it’s legal to serve your kid alcohol within your home. I’m not talking about getting plastered. I’m talking about sipping on a great beer and enjoying the aromas and flavors within. It will be a valuable experience where I can teach her about good craft beer. By the time her peers are all doing keg stands, she won’t want to take part unless it’s good beer.
Well, those are my Xmas beer thoughts for the past, present, and future. Be sure to check out the other posts in the Session over at Beersay. Also, have yourself a happy holidays and all that. Cheers!
I’m not gonna lie. I drank some beer this holiday season. That’s what you’re supposed to do, right?
The following are not all the beers consumed this holiday season. They are either beers I liked, felt were interesting enough to mention, had pictures of, or some combination of the three. Also, it’s worth mentioning that I’m using the term “holiday season” loosely to describe several weeks of beer-geek debauchery. Mostly, I just wanted to write about some beers I had over the last month.
Mikkeller Black Tie
Honeyed ash tray. That’s all I can say about this one. It’s not terrible, but good luck finishing an entire 500 mL on your own. I shared this with some dudes in a little pre-holiday fatherly drinkfest.
Stone Double Bastard
Well, it’s double the Bastard. So, how can it not be good? This one was purchased for me by family mistakenly thinking they had found the Lucky Bastard I so wanted this holiday season. Alas, Lucky never made its way to Missouri, but this held me over for a bit. That is, until my siblings proceeded to send me this picture on Xmas Eve:
Not cool. Not cool at all. Of course, for those of you who know the Bastard, you’ll adeptly point out that the beer in their glasses is not Lucky Bastard. I think it was Southern Tier’s Krumpus. So, there’s still hope, I guess.
He’Brew Jewbilations 13 and 14
How are these beers 1) only $5 and 2) still available? I’m talking about two beers that measure in at 13 and 14% ABV respectively. I had both several times this winter and still hold onto one bottle of each. Hopefully, I can hold on for 15.
He’Brew Rejewvinator Year of the Date
I am not a big fan of this particular lineup of He’Brew beers, but the annual Hanukkah party gives me an excuse to show up with a few bombers of the ‘Brew. This one surprised as it festered with festiveness and raisins…or might those be the dates?
He’Brew Origin Pomegranate Ale
This beer accompanied me to said Hanukkah party last year and I was pleasantly taken aback as the pomegranate pairs well with and feeds the dry, fruity, hoppy bitterness. I like a dry fruity finish with my beers and somehow pomegranate does the trick. This one will become a Hanukkah tradition around this gentile’s house.
Mikkeller Rauch Geek Breakfast
I had this several times this fall and winter. Normally, I am not a smoked beer fan, but this one is different as it is smoky Beer Geek Breakfast Stout. This beer does for smoke what Beer Geek Brunch Weasel does for poop. Perfect smoky beer for a Polish feast.
Mikkeller Ris a la Male
I’m not sure this one fits with the holiday theme, but I found one and had to try it. I’m still not sure what I thought of it. Almonds, cherries, but not too much of either. The packaging and appearance are beautiful, but the beer lacks anything to make it memorable or even interesting.
O’Dell Deconstruction Golden Ale
Held onto this beer for a while until breaking it out for movie night and Indian takeout. Phenomenal. Slight tartness and pungent but golden sweetness to make it one of the more balanced and diverse beers I’ve had this year. This beer defies style and that may hurt it hype-wise, but I enjoyed it both times I was able to sample it, especially that night I killed the entire 750 on my own. See below for the other time I sampled Deconstruction.
Yankee Swap – Allagash Odyssey
This is the only beer I have yet to try. I “won” it in a Yankee Swap after some persistence. It was that or a Russian River beer I’ve since forgotten. I’ll let you know when I do cork it. This was one of the few acquisitions over the holidays that will still hold a spot in my cellar.
Alesmith Horny Devil
My brother (seen pictured taunting me with Lucky Bastard) brought this one on a whim. I asked for several breweries available in Ohio and he shows up with this one. I took it to a officer meeting for my beer club and so glad I did. Freaking awesome! As you can see in the picture below, we enjoyed some nice beers at our meeting. The three Hopslams were from last year and not one tasted like the others. It sorta made the case for never cellaring Hopslam again. Still, the Horny Devil was a nice discovery.
Anchor Steam Christmas Ale
This was my first foray into season craft brews so many years ago. Anchor Steam changes their recipe from year to year. I always hope one year will blow me away, but they rarely do. I enjoyed the one three years ago, but my taste buds have undergone a lobotomy since then. Still, it’s a nice, flavorful beer. The spices actually accent the slight hop presence as opposed to overwhelming. It’s not bad and plenty sessionable. Of course, it’s taken the entire season to get through the sixer.
Afternoon at Hellbender
I have these friends who are trying to get a nano brewery off the ground. It’s called “Hellbender” and it mostly runs out of their garage at the moment. I hope they make this thing happen as their beers are consistently solid and unique. I got a chance at Thanksgiving to try their Rosemary, Baby, a beer they plan to enter in The Bruery’s Batch 300 Contest, and I have to say it’s the best beer The Bruery hasn’t brewed. I’m predicting it wins, but I’m also prepared for the West Coast bias. The homebrew in the pic is that very beer. We also had a beer geek’s delight in the rest of the lineup: Deschutes’ The Dissident, another Deconstruction, Odell Mountain Standard Double Black IPA, Cantillon Kriek, and The Lost Abbey’s Devotion. All beers were good. Drink them if you get your hands on them, but you could probably live without the Lost Abbey.
I have to interject here. This is maybe the best part of being in a beer geek community. I had to drop something off at my buddy Jarrett’s place. With beer in-hand, I entered his garage. By the end of the 2-2.5 hour visit, these were the beers shared. Beer geeks are a giving bunch and my
liver belly tongue thanks them.
Mikkeller Santa’s Little Helper 2010
I had the 2009 version of this beer among many other seasonals last Xmas. This one I broke out and consumed on my own for our traditional Polish feast Xmas Eve. I enjoyed this beer so much as I was able to spend time with it, getting to know it’s subtle intricacies, rubbing its thigh, whispering sweet nothings into its ear…Let’s just say 750 mL of a good Belgian-style ale with your favorite meal of the year is a nice way to ring in the holidays.
New Holland Spirits
I know this isn’t beer. I also know that New Holland brews maybe one beer I like. That said, my wife mixed things up this Xmas and purchased me some holiday spirit(s). The Brewer’s Whiskey is good, not great, but it’s a nice sipper and warmed the cockles of my heart Xmas day. The gin is pretty excellent. Me thinks my retired, gin-loving daddy will like some of his own come Father’s Day. More craft brewers should get in on this small batch spirits game. It’s the next big thing since, well, craft beer.
Rogue Yellow Snow IPA
I bought a growler of this last year just so I had something interesting to bring to a party. It was not our favorite IPA. Still, something made me buy it again this year, only in a smaller container. It was really quite nice. None of the super-sweet maltiness so many IPA’s are going with these days. The Simcoe and whatever give you that piney, catty sensation…It’s not for everyone, but this was the perfect hair on the dog Xmas afternoon.
Southern Tier Iniquity
I’ve had this beer many times, but the trend of the black IPA has to be addressed. Maybe the biggest trend of 2010, the black IPA is all anyone wants to brew these days. The name is terrible. How can something be black or dark and pale? Even worse is the Oregon-centric push for the style to be called “Cascadian Dark Ale.” I call it a “black bitter,” but I think “black ale” is appropriate for those brews on the sweeter/less bitter side. Regardless, this is easily my favorite of the style, closely followed by the Odell double black IPA.
Sam Adams Infinium
I haven’t had the best of luck with hyped beers, but this one pulled through. Sure, it’s getting blasted in reviews. However, Infinium is a fine beer. I don’t know that it’s a fine $15 beer, but I liked it. The only problem was that I didn’t spend New Year’s Eve with any beer geeks. No one was interested in trying this beer. I had to polish off the entire 750 mL myself. That was a little much. Still, Infinium is a good brew, sharp, clean, fruity. It washed down the take-out Indian brilliantly. It did, however, make me feel a little dirty for drinking it alone.
This was my first attempt at writing some more beer-centric posts here at Building Coalitions. I want to do the same for music and for posts that intersect the two and stay away from things like college athletics, politics, and beards. It’s sort of a blogging New Year’s Resolution, which, as someone pointed out, usually run out by mid-February. Still, the hope is to get three of these bad boys out every week. I’m hoping to do one beer post, one music post, and one that intersects the two each week. I want more readers and regular content is the only way that will happen. Now, I just have to think of some topics.
As usual, read the footnotes and comment at will.
1Or it could be just the beers I remember. You know how that goes.
2It was father craft (beer) night, I believe as several mothers attended a craft (craft) night.
3Although, word on the street is that Stone will be in the Show-Me State next year. Yay.
4Although, I believe some people from my high school still think I’m Jewish.
5Which is strange, because if a Mikkeller beer is not good, it’s at the very least interesting. See the previously mentioned poop stout and Black Tie.
6And by “cellar” I’m just talking about a particularly cold closet in my basement.
7Actually, I had three or four of them. The last two were left at a New Year’s Day party. I’m good on holiday beers for another year.
8More on the black IPA later. Odell has always made dependable beers, but anything they do in a 750 mL bottle with a cork is liquid gold. This black IPA being black gold, Texas tea.
9There is no better hair on the dog than beer hair on the dog. Sugar and vitamin B. That’s all you need.
10Me alone with 750 mL of beer is an alarming trend, something that will need to be addressed in resolutions of moderation for the year to come.
Happy Christmas, y’all. It’s nearly been a year on this “new” blog and it’s been fun. Many of my faithful readers from misery past have stayed with me as I attempt to build coalitions through beer and Pavement. And along the way, I’ve gained several new converts. Overall, it’s been a good year.
There are no big announcements this year. I’ll attempt to post once a week as usual. The posts will continue to be long and meandering with many self-gratifying footnotes, but I do that you for you, my faithful readers.
1I apologize if I did not link to your blog. I sort of got lost in coming up with links and forgot who’s been linked and who hasn’t. The oversight is just that and not a slight in the least. Of course, if you commented more and linked back to my blog more, I might not have made such an error.
2I fully recognize that I go weeks without posting, but I do have somewhere around 60 posts. That’s more than the 52 required to be a weekly thing.
3Did you really think I’d dump the footnotes?