Draught Diversions: Christmas Six Pack 2021

Draught Diversions is the catchall label for mini-rants, think-pieces, and posts that don’t just focus on one beer here at The Tap Takeover. We hope you don’t grow too weary of the alcohol alliterative names we use…

Christmas2021Sixpack

All of a sudden, Christmastime is upon us. The weather in NJ hasn’t consistently indicated the Christmas season in 2021, with some days knocking on 60 degrees (normally, temps are in the 40s). However, the songs are in the air, the lights are on the houses, and the holiday accoutrements are in the stores to be bought. Since about October or so, the Christmas/Holiday/Winter beers have been on shelves. For me, I like to get through the celebration of one holiday before gearing up for the next. That’s not just beer, but I don’t want to see Christmas commercials before Halloween. I may have hinted at that a few years back in a post about seasonal creep of Pumpkin Beers.

TroegsMadElf2021Christmastime for me has always been signaled by Santa Claus bringing up the rear of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. The following week (first Saturday in December), truly launches the season – the Christmas Tree farm near my house opens for patrons to tag and/or cut their Christmas Tree and that day is usually when I crack open my first Tröegs Mad Elf of the season (probably my favorite Christmas beer). But you all visited to get some information on new/different Christmas / Holiday beers, I assume. Let’s dive into the 2021 Tap Takeover Six Pack of Christmas Beers. I’ve had none of these, although I’ve had beers from all the breweries, as well as variations on two beers I’ve highlighted.

Christmas Was Tomorrow | Stout – Imperial/Double | Bradley Brew Project | Bradley Beach, NJ | ABV 8.5%

Image courtesy of Bradley Brew Project

I’ve had two beers from Bradley Brew Project, both of which have been lagers. I was extremely impressed with their Czech Dark Lager, and I’ve been wanting to try some of their stouts and darker beers. A few years back, the department in which I worked had a neat Christmas Party, participants were asked to bring a food that is emblematic of their culture or something traditional for their Christmas experience. One person brought the ingredients for and mad Horchata, and I enjoyed it. This stout looks like it could be a lot of fun.

Here’s what Bradley Brew Project says about the beer:

Horchata inspired stout with milk sugar, rice, almonds, cinnamon and vanilla

Jubelale | Winter Ale | Deschutes Brewery | Bend, OR | ABV 6.7%

Image courtesy of Deschutes’s Facebook

Deschutes is one of the great Western American breweries. When I was in Vegas a couple of years ago, I was very happy to be able to get their legendary Black Butte Porter on draft (unavailable in NJ at the time), but they’ve recently begun distributing in New Jersey. I haven’t had a good, new-to-me traditional “Winter Ale” in a few years so I’m hoping this beer makes it to NJ shelves. Winter Ales were once a big staple of the Craft Beer scene, but they’ve seemed to fade to the back of the shelves, specifically “Winter Warmers.”

What Deschutes says about the beer:

Cozy up fireside with this festive winter ale full of spice notes and a robust malt character of toffee and dusted cocoa.

Special Cookie | Brown Ale – Imperial / Double| Free Will Brewing | Perkasie & Lahaska, PA | ABV 10.8%

Image courtesy of Free Will Brewing’s Facebook

Free Will has made a few appearances here at the Tap Takeover, they’ve got a “satellite” tap room not far from me in Peddler’s Village in Lahaska, PA. I’ve had some extremely good brews from them over the years and this beer is one of their long-time favorites which I’ve yet to enjoy. I like the updated can art for the beer and the mix of spices looks quite tasty especially for a Brown Ale.

About the beer:

Imperial Spiced Brown Ale with Vanilla, Cinnamon, Brown Sugar, Cardamom, Ginger, and Milk Sugar

Barrel-Aged Christmas Ale | Winter Ale | Great Lakes Brewing Company | Cleveland, OH | ABV 8.2%

Image courtesy of Great Lakes Brewing’s Twitter

Great Lakes Christmas Ale is one of the most iconic Christmas beers on shelves today. Like Mad Elf, it was a beer I’d get every Christmas Season. It doesn’t hurt that their distribution gets them in nearly every State, which I suppose is why this seasonal Ale is their most checked-in beer on untappd. For a few years now, Great Lakes has been offering a barrel aged version of this beer, but only at the brewery. This year (and maybe last year, I don’t recall), they bottled this in the old 22-oz bombers and sent a bunch out to distribution, so I may have to snag one to sample.

Flavor: A holiday ale brewed with cinnamon, ginger, and honey, aged in Buffalo Trace Bourbon barrels.

Candy Cane Mind Over Matter | Stout – Imperial/Double Milk | Magnify Brewing Company | Fairfield, NJ | ABV 8%

Image courtesy of Magnify Brewing’s Facebook

“Mind of Matter” is a series of Imperial Milk Stouts Magnify brews with various adjuncts, like this one with Candy Canes and chocolate. I’m guessing the intention here is to evoke that wonderful flavor of peppermint bark. I haven’t had peppermint bark in years (not sure I quite like mint the way I once did), but I imagine if Magnify gets the flavor profile on this beer as dialed in as they did for the Banana Bread version I reviewed this year, then the Candy Cane version will be outstanding.

What Magnify Brewing says about the beer:

Double chocolate milk stout with lactose, cocoa nibs and peppermint. Perfect beer for decorating the tree.

Ginger Bread Man (Imperial Stout) | Stout – Imperial / Double| NJ Beer Company | North Bergen, NJ | 9%

Image courtesy of NJ Beer Company’s Facebook

Lots of breweries are making Gingerbread inspired stouts, I may have recently enjoyed one and years ago, I remember enjoying Samuel Adams take on the holiday stout. I’ve been seeing NJ Beer Company’s beer on shelves for years, but for whatever reason, only had one years ago. This beer looks really appealing and seems pretty well received on untappd.

What NJ Beer Company says about the beer:

Rich, doughy, and simply unique. This stout is the perfect companion for the holiday season and beyond! A heavy dosing of molasses adds a sticky yet delicious chewiness, which is then rounded out by conditioning on ginger, and cinnamon. It’s 100% pure gingerbread cookie in a glass

Man…writing these posts about beers I haven’t had makes me want to remedy that situation and grab bottles/cans of all of them! Drop a note in the comments about a Christmas beer you want to try this year or maybe a past favorite.

Christmas2021Sixpack

Beer Review: Hardywood’s Bourbon Barrel GBS (Gingerbread Stout)

Name: Bourbon Barrel GBS
Brewing Company: Hardywood Park Craft Brewery
Location: Richmond, VA
Style: Stout – Imperial / Double Milk
ABV: 11.5%

An outstanding Stout that practically sings Christmas songs when you drink it.

From the Hardywood Park Craft Brewery’s landing page for the beer:

Hardywood Gingerbread Stout, described by BeerAdvocate as “freagin’ Christmas in a bottle,” is an imperial milk stout brewed with vanilla beans, cinnamon, fresh Casselmonte Farm baby ginger and Bearer Farms wildflower honey. Gingerbread Stout is then matured in Virginia bourbon barrels, where it adapts an incredibly mellow character with oak, caramel and bourbon undertones, and emerges 12 weeks later as Bourbon GBS. A festive blend of spice character laces this rich, chocolatey stout, which warms the palate and the soul.

For years, Hardywood’s Gingerbread Stout had been one of the most sought after Christmas beers and one of the most acclaimed for holiday enjoyment. Recently, the brewery began distributing some of their beers to New Jersey, including this amped up version of the renowned Gingerbread Stout aged in Bourbon Barrels. It also seems like this year, 2021, they shifted from bomber bottles for this beer to 4 packs of the beer, a much more consumable portioning of the beer.

What about the beer itself?

The beer pours a dark black into the glass, as one would expect a stout to pour. There’s a sliver of a khaki head on the beer, which is fairly typical for barrel-aged stouts. I typically don’t see big fluffy heads on barrel-aged stouts. The aroma is strong on the gingerbread and bourbon. Again that’s to be expected given the name of the beer, but it is still quite pleasing.

”Sweet Christmas!” That’s what I think when I have the first sip of the beer. This beer has a lot going on in its flavor profile, but the description can tell you that, too. Tasting it all is really enjoyable but let me unpack that.

I initially get hints of vanilla and the bourbon with the lactose providing a very creamy feel to the beer. The cinnamon and ginger come in at the end like the grand finale of flavor orchestra playing Christmas Eve/Sarajevo by Trans-Siberian Orchestra (A band I’ve seen live a couple of times, I highly recommend the experience).

I’ll be honest, initially, the ginger was a little overwhelming. I know, “gingerbread” is in the name, so that should be the most prominent flavor.  But as the beer settled down, breathed, and warmed to room temperature the other flavors balanced out that pop of ginger. I can’t compare this (yet) to the non-barrel aged version, but I can say this is a deliciously crafted beer. The only reason I don’t put this at the top of my list of Christmas Stouts is because I’ve had Hardywood’s Christmas Morning (another variation on the popular Gingerbread Stout, with coffee as an another adjunct),  which blew me away last year.

When it is all said and done, Hardywood Bourbon Barrel GBS is a beer well-worth seeking out. It has all the holiday flavors blended expertly with the bourbon barrel seeping in like a thick, comfy coat to warm the soul. Santa might prefer a glass of this to the standard milk and cookies. I’m pretty sure I would.

Highly Recommended, link to 4.25 bottle cap untappd rating check in.

Beer Review: Bolero Snort’s Mele Kalikimakow

Name: Mele Kalikimakow
Brewing Company: Bolero Snort Brewery
Location: Carlstadt, NJ
Style: Sour – Fruited
ABV: 6.1%

Bolero Snort’s growing sour beer program produces a tasty and delightful non-standard Holiday beer.

From Bolero Snort’s blog entry for the beer:

Here’s the island greeting that we send to you, from the land where palm trees sway. This lava flow cocktail inspired sour is loaded with fruit! Sweep the winter blues under the Holiday table and drift away to warmer, poolside days with this blend of Strawberry, Pineapple, Banana and Coconut! Mele Kalikimakow is ideally sipped out of some bull shaped glassware to toast the holiday season right!

This is the third beer I’ve reviewed from Bolero Snort and the third style. Since Scott and Bob opened their gorgeous, enormous facility in the shadow of the Meadowlands Sports Complex late 2019/early 2020, they’ve increased their production output significantly. One area in particular that has seen growth (quantity/variety. sales, and in what people are saying) is their sour beer “program” and this beer is a great example of that.

When thinking of Christmas beers, Belgians and Stouts come to my mind. But with the name of this beer a bovinely inspired play on the Hawai’ian Christmas Song (and National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation), the style and elements of the beer – a fruited sour evoking a Lava Flow cocktail – make a little more sense.

The beer pours very thick with a pinkish hue. It sure looks like a beer playing with the idea of a Lava Flow* cocktail! I get those fruity tropical aromas mixed with the funk of the yeast from the beer, too. So far, seems on point for what the beer is trying to do.

My wife and I went to Hawai’i for our honeymoon and when we landed in Hawai’i after a 10 hour flight plus a 2 hour layover, I had a delicious Lava Flow. Because I was so tired from the 10+ hours travel, it took just one drink to get me a little tipsy!

I’ll admit, the thickness and look of the beer had me questioning my decision. But a sip eroded those doubts.

The beer feels almost as thick as it looks, but fruited sours like this often do. What do I get from the copious flavors outlined above and on the can? While the strawberries lend much of the color and I assume the bananas help with the texture, the pineapple is the front-most flavor out of the cocktail fruits. Fortunately, I thoroughly enjoy pineapple so that works just fine by me.

This isn’t a beer you can our should chug, but it you don’t want to let it warm too much either. As I was continuing to drink through the pint of the beer, the coconut in particular emerged a little more with the strawberries dancing in the background. Carbonation was minimal, but present reminding me that this was indeed a beer.

It seems Bolero Snort accomplished what they set out to do with this beer – it put me in the mindset of enjoying a Pina Colada in beer form. I’ve also been singing Mele Kalikimaka for the past few days.

I will also point out the great can art that captures a scene from the holiday classic National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. The Bolero Bull is dressed up like Clark Griswold (with added Mariner Moose Egg Nog Glass) during the scene when he’s daydreaming about the pool he’s going have installed thanks to his expected Christmas Bonus.

I suppose the best way for me to describe this beer is that is a fun, playful Christmas inspired beer that is a nice alternative to the traditional Christmas Stouts and Belgian Holiday ales.

Recommended, link to 4 bottle-cap Untappd check-in

Draught Diversions: Christmas (in NJ) 2020 Six Pack

Draught Diversions is the catchall label for mini-rants, think-pieces, and posts that don’t just focus on one beer here at The Tap Takeover. We hope you don’t grow too weary of the alcohol alliterative names we use…

As I’ve been doing since I started The Tap Takeover, I’m presenting an assortment of interesting looking Christmas beers in my six pack format. Since I’ve been focusing more attention on local/NJ breweries since the Pandemic than in previous years, the Christmas 2020 Six Pack is all NJ beers. I’ve only had one of these beers, but they all look really tasty to me. Also, I’ve had beer from all six of these breweries and enjoyed them all. As is most often the case, I’m putting these in alphabetical order by brewery.

Figgy Pudding | Barleywine – English | The Alementary | Ithaca, NY | ABV 5.7%

Image courtesy of The Alementary’s Facebook

Figgy Pudding is a traditional British Christmas dessert and that’s what the Alementary is looking to emulate with this beer. At 9.1%, this beer would seem to me to be a dessert sipper to enjoy while opening the Christmas gifts after dinner. I like figs and many barleywines already evoke fig flavors, so this beer seems a natural concoction for Christmas enjoyment. I think the beer changes slightly from year to year, ao here’s The Alementary’s write-up from 2019.

What Alementary says about the beer in 2020:

Big sweet bready malt, with a full range of supporting characters from light toffee to low chocolate. Fruit aromas of apricot, date, significant fig. Flavors of holiday fruitcake with massive malt structure. Figs for days, with supporting apricot. Date and Prune are secondary.

Cheer | Brown Ale – American | Bonesaw Brewing Co | Glassboro, NJ | ABV 7.4%

Image courtesy of Bonesaw Brewing’s Facebook

Bonesaw has been open a couple of years and I’ve seen only great things about the South Jersey brewery. Some of their cans have been popping up here in Somerset County so hopefully this joyful looking ale makes it to shelves near me. Looks like a classic American take on a dark/brown ale but with some added spices, the way I read the description.

What Bonesaw Brewing says about the beer:

Now that the leaves have turned and fallen and the days are getting shorter and colder, we see the holiday season is here again. We made for you this Christmas ale to wrap up all the warm, familiar flavors and aromas into your cup of Cheer: a brown ale stuffed with orange, cocoa and winter spices.

Boughs of Barley | Cape May Brewing Company | Barrel Aged Quadrpel | Cape May, NJ | ABV 12.6%

Image courtesy of Cape May Brewing Company’s Facebook

”Boughs of Barley” is an annual release from Cape May Brewing Company, but it changes every year. Last year was a Baltic Porter, the year before an Imperial Stout. For 2020, There are two releases, each a Quadrupel, but they are aged in different barrels. I’m a big fan of Quads so I may try to snag one of these if I see them, I’d probably lean towards the Grand Marnier barrel.

About the beer:

It’s the most wonderful time of the year: it’s time to deck the halls with Boughs of Barley! Our annual holiday offering, this year we’ve taken our insanely delectable Belgian quad and laid it to rest in some gigantic Portuguese sherry puncheons and a few incredible Grand Marnier barrels, each lending its own character to the base beer, adding layers and layers of complexity.

For this year’s Boughs of Barley, we took our rich and robust Belgian-style quadrupel ale and laid it to rest for many moons in barrels previously aging a well-known orange liqueur. A carefully layered grain bill fermented with our favorite fruity Belgian yeast, we’ve created a robust brew for your holiday season. Ample conditioning time in the orange liqueur barrels yields a well-rounded body with strong notes of orange peel and toasted marshmallows, making this orange liqueur barrel-aged Boughs of Barley our holiday treat for you.

Ginger Snap Cookie | Cream Ale | Forgotten Boardwalk Brewing | Cherry Hill, NJ | ABV 5.5%

Image courtesy of Forgotten Boardwalk Brewing’s Facebook

Forgotten Boardwalk does a very smart thing…they’ve got their popular Funnel Cake Cream Ale and they use it for multiple variants. The Christmas version is this appealing beer, Ginger Snap Cookie with all the holiday spices in the mix. I may need to snag a 4 pack.

What Forgotten Boardwalk Brewing says about this beer:

Bright and zesty, smooth yet not too sweet. Ginger Snap Cookie is a simple vanilla cream ale brewed with ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, orange peel and clove to evoke the spicy savory flavor of the classic holiday cookie.

Malus | Belgian Strong Dark Ale | Kane Brewing Company | Ocean, NJ | ABV 9.5%

Malus is the only beer in this six pack I had and I thought it was very good. I had it a few years ago on draft and there’s enough of the beer elements to keep it a beer, but there’s a lovely apple cider flavor to the beer, too. Well worth seeking out.

What Kane says about the beer:

Malus, our 10% Belgian-style dark ale was the first beer we bottled back in 2012. We wanted to create an alternative to pumpkin beers, so we chose a warm spiced apple cider as inspiration. We source locally pressed cider from Delicious Orchards that we boil down and reduce into a syrup to replace the dark candi syrup we typically use. We then added orange zest, cinnamon, nutmeg, clove and allspice to the kettle and fermented it with our house Belgian yeast. Malus is one of our more unique and interesting beers and is ideal for this time of year as it will warm you up with every sip.⠀

Winter Ale | Cider – Graff | Untied Brewing Company | New Providence, NJ | ABV 7.3%

Image courtesy of Untied Brewings’s Facebook

Untied has been brewing a “Winter Ale” each of the last three years since they’ve opened and this one seems the most interesting. Previously, they’ve brewed a straightforward Winter Ale and a Saison, but this one, as a cider ale blend, could hit the holiday spot perfectly.

What Untied says about the beer:

Wassail(Hot mulled Cider) inspired Graff (Cider/Ale Blend) brewed with Apple Juice, Nelson Sauvin hops, Chardonnay grape must, apple juice, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla bean, orange peel, molasses, and brown sugar.

It is an apple and cider forward Ale with notes of winter spices.

Not a bad, varied selection of beers, if I do say so myself.

Draught Diversions: Christmas Six Pack 2019

Draught Diversions is the catchall label for mini-rants, think-pieces, and posts that don’t just focus on one beer here at The Tap Takeover. We hope you don’t grow too weary of the alcohol alliterative names we use…

The last two years, I’ve posted “12 Beers of Christmas” over the course of two days as an homage to the “12 Days of Christmas.” However, even last year to get to 12 I felt I was stretching my search parameters a bit. I’d rather have a super-solid six pack filled with a couple of borderline iconic beers this year. Also, in an effort to NOT exhaust all the Christmas beers available, I’m trimming it down to a single six pack of Christmas beers for 2019.

Avec Les Bons Vœux | Farmhouse Ale – Saison | Brasserie Dupont | Tourpes, Belgium | ABV 9.5%

Image courtesy of Brasserie Dupont’s Web site

I’ve seen this holiday Saison in some shops over the years but never grabbed a bottle. However, after having THE flagship Saison earlier this year, I’m even more excited  to try this beer. A spiced up and higher ABV version of a world-class Saison sounds very intriguing indeed. This might be a bottle to bring to my in-law’s since my father in law is a big fan of Belgian style ales.

What Dupont says about the beer:

Les Bons Voeux means best wishes, which is what Brasserie Dupont sends with this very special saison ale brewed for the holidays. .

Redolently aromatic, rich and velvety, rich gold color, fragrant (lemony with hints of pepper, banana and clove), as all the beers of Dupont are with a full,deep malt richness that lingers on your tongue for what seems the whole holiday season.

Considered by some the finest offering from this unparalleled Brewery. “The best Belgian beer, if ever there could be such an award…a sumptuous, seductive 9.5% beer. Because of it’s intensity, I would recommend the novice graduate to this beer. However, if a saison that is starting to lean towards being a triple appeals to you, and if its in season, don’t hesitate.

N’Ice Chouffe | Winter Ale | Brasserie D’Achouffe | Achouffe, Belgium | ABV 10%

Image courtesy of Brasserie D’Achouffe

How do I not include a beer whose label looks so Christmasy with those red-hatted gnomes? N’ice Chouffe is one of those beers I see often in the import section but never got around to trying, similar to the beer above.  At 10%, this dark beer seems like a nice sipper for a cold evening by the fire with the Christmas Tree acting as the only other light source in the room.

About the beer:

N’ice CHOUFFE is the winter beer from the Achouffe Brewery. We recommend that you enjoy it from mid-October to mid-February, preferably by the fireplace. It is a dark beer, slightly hoppy, spiced with thyme and curaçao, and made using orange peel. It has an alcohol content of 10%. N’ice CHOUFFE goes well with any winter dishes.

Winter Lager | Schwarzbier | The Brooklyn Brewery | Brooklyn, NY | ABV 5.6%

Image courtesy of The Brooklyn Brewery’s Facebook

Brooklyn has a beer for every season and their Winter seasonal is a dark lager in the vein of a German Schwarzbier. Although I’ve had only a few Schwarzbiers, I do like the style, but it isn’t a very popular/prevalent style. Of the Schwarzbiers I’ve had, I was very much reminded of porters from the ale side of the beer tree – strong roasted flavors, maybe smoky, sometimes coffee or chocolate. I haven’t had Brooklyn’s dark lager yet, but that may change.

What Brooklyn says about this beer:

Brooklyn Winter Lager is our answer to the heavy ales and stouts that emerge in wintertime. Though dark in color with a sturdy presence, our Schwarzbier-inspired lager layers notes of chocolate, roasted barley, and dark bread into a 5.6% ABV frame that finishes surprisingly light and pleasantly dry. Winter means different things depending where you live, but Brooklyn Winter Lager is ready for any chill.

Gingerbread Stout | Imperial Milk Stout | Hardywood Park Craft Brewery | Richmond, VA | ABV 9.2%

Image Courtesy of Hardywood Park Craft Brewery’s Website

This is one of those “event” beers that has specially scheduled days of release dedicated to it. Ever since I became more aware of the online beer community and more aware of regional breweries outside of NJ over the past few years, Hardywood’s Gingerbread Stout is the Christmas Beer at the top of my list to get. Unfortunately, Hardywood does not distribute into NJ so the potential for me to get this beer is not very high. Based on the description, this beer seems like the epitome of a Christmas Stout.

What Hardywood Park says about the beer:

Made with baby ginger from Casselmonte Farm and wildflower honey from Bearer Farms, Hardywood Gingerbread Stout captures the terroir of Central Virginia in a rich, creamy libation with a velvety mouthfeel and an intriguing evolution of notes from milk chocolate and vanilla, to honeycomb and cinnamon, to a snap of ginger in the finish. We hope Hardywood Gingerbread Stout contributes to your merriment this season.

Fuggly Sweater | Lager – Dark | Ithaca Beer Company | Ithaca, NY | ABV 5.7%

Image courtesy of Ithaca Beer Company’s Website

Ithaca is one of the great Northeast Breweries, their “Flower Power” IPA is iconic. With that said, it is nice to see another Lager for the Christmas season. Ginger and cinnamon, the holiday spices, seem to be on prominent display here. Plus, that is some nifty looking label design.

What Ithaca says about the beer:

‘Twill be the fuggliest time of the year, so we joyously present our gift to this year’s season… Fuggly Sweater. Fuggly Sweater is a dark lager brewed to inspire the holiday favorite, gingerbread. The wide range of specialty malts create yummy cookie and cake qualities. The presentation is dark, but not opaque, with brown hues. Ginger is at center stage, and as with traditional gingerbread, a light amount of cloves, nutmeg, and cinnamon round out the spice profile.

Mad Elf Grand Cru | Belgian Strong Dark Ale | Tröegs Independent Brewing | Hersey, PA | ABV 11%

Image courtesy of Tröegs Independent Brewing’s Facebook

It just doesn’t seem like the Christmas season until I have a bottle/glass of Mad Elf. A couple of years ago, the brothers Trogner decided to play with the legendary beer by adding more tart cherries to the mix. I haven’t had this beer yet, but for Krampusnacht, The Krampus (my wife) got me a bottle of this, so I’ll be sipping from that bottle when we decorate our Christmas tree.

What Stone says about the beer:

If you know Tröegs, you know The Mad Elf, the mischievous belle of the holiday beer ball that helped put our little brewery on the map. In your hands is the Director’s Cut. Tart Balaton cherries – loads of them – make all the difference. Bottle-conditioned and flush with notes of cinnamon and clove, this beer begs to be shared. Take a bottle home, gather your friends, and cherish the cherries.

We taste: tart cherry, brown sugar, clove, subtle peppercorn

Availability: 750mL cork & cage bottles only.

There it is, a robust six pack of suggestions. For my Christmas Beers this year, I’ll be having at least one of the above.  On Christmas Eve specifically I’ll also likely bring a growler from one of the handful of breweries in my immediate vicinity, maybe Jersey Cyclone, maybe Conclave Brewing to my parents’ house. The last couple of years I’ve brought growlers from Lone Eagle Brewing and Demented Brewing (which went out of business earlier in the year). All of those growlers went over very well and were finished very quickly so I feel like I have set the bar high in the past with what I brought to share.

Have a warm and safe holiday season, Merry Christmas!

American Craft Beer Classic: Anchor Brewing’s Merry Christmas & Happy New Year

For all the new beers it is fun to try, going back to the classics, American “Craft Beer” Classics if you will, can also be fun. These are beers many folks have probably had, beers that are fairly widely available, and beers that have been in the market for upwards of ten to fifteen years. In other words, beers that have had a significant impact on the American Craft Beer landscape.

Christmastime…although there are more than enough Christmas and Winter specific beers available you could likely go a few years with trying something new every Christmas, the classics are great options too. No beer is more classic with regard to Christmas in America than Anchor’s Our Special Ale / Merry Christmas & Happy New Year beer. This really shouldn’t be a surprise considering Anchor Brewing helped to ignite the “craft beer” and/or “microbrewing” movement over 50 years ago.

Even Santa Claus stands at attention for an iconic beer.

2018 marks the 44th year Anchor has brewed their Christmas beer, having first brewed a version of this beer in 1975. I say “A” version because every year the recipe is slightly different as is the label. Each year a different tree adorns the label and the beer has different tasting notes. I’ve had each vintage for four years in a row according to my untappd check-ins and I know I had a few versions of the beer before joining untappd. In other words, I’ve been having a version of this beer for many years.

Image courtesy of Anchor’s Facebook page

Here’s what Anchor has to say about the 2018 version of Merry Christmas & Happy New Year:

Our annual Christmas Ale is a subtly spiced and sumptuously smooth winter warmer. This year’s brew marks the 44th annual release of this Anchor holiday tradition.

Back in 1975, Anchor released the first holiday beer in America since Prohibition. Year after year, Anchor creates a new, secret recipe with a unique hand drawn label for their Christmas Ale, but the intent with each brew remains the same: joy for the changing seasons and celebration of the newness of life. With a heavily guarded, confidential recipe, Christmas Ale is sold only from early November to mid-January. This highly anticipated seasonal delight is complex and full in flavor, packed with toasty cocoa notes, roasted malts and strong aromas of resinous pine.

Our 2018 Christmas Ale has varying specialty malts, lending rich flavors of brûléed sugars, holiday spices and freshly baked banana bread with a velvety finish. The aromatics are quintessential for the holiday season: nutty candied yams and resinous pine. It pours a nice mahogany brown color with a fluffy, tan head.

As each Christmas Ale recipe evolves, so does its hand drawn packaging, created by long-time Anchor Illustrator Jim Stitt, who has been creating Anchor’s Christmas Ale labels since 1975. Since ancient times, trees have symbolized the winter solstice when the earth, with its seasons, appears born anew. For the 2018 release, Stitt created a brimming Korean Pine Tree for the label. Native to both North and South Korea, the Korean Pine Tree is a symbol of peace and a reminder of the spirit of the season. It flourishes in the picturesque botanical gardens just north of San Francisco, Anchor’s home base.

A few years back, Anchor Brewing put together this video about their iconic Christmas Beer:

I found this year’s version to be good, but a little thinner than previous years. There was a nice amount of spice throughout the beer, and sweeter finish than I’ve come to expect. For me, the biggest difference was in the color – the beer poured closer to an amber ale whereas I recall the beer in the past being darker, bordering on stout territory. I think the version I enjoyed the most was the 2016 version, the malt, spice, and sweet elements I thought came together almost perfectly and the beer was darker than this year’s. I think when the recipe leans more on the darker roasted malts that produce a beer that is almost knocking on the door of a stout, it works better for me. Not that a beer like this *should* have full stout characteristics at all, but it is almost stout-adjacent in looks.

One thing some people do with this beer is set one or two aside to age and have 3 or 4 years in a row for a gathering or vertical tasting. That’s more common with barrel-aged stouts, but since the recipe for this one changes annually, it would be interesting to see how the beer ages.

The darker 2016 version of the beer, my favorite from the past few years.

My opinions aside, take a look at the beer landscape, especially this time of year. I mean, aside from the continual glut of various sub-styles of IPA, the many stouts, and leftover pumpkin beers on shelves from mid-November through the remainder of the calendar year. Winter Warmers and Christmas Beers are displayed prominently in bottle shops. Bars and breweries have Christmas/Holiday focused pourings/events. The Winter Warmer and Christmas Beer are slightly different if you ask some people, such as the great beer writer Jeff Alworth who examines the styles over at his must-read Beervana blog. The differences can be negligible and subtle in some cases, in others like Sierra Nevada’s Celebration Ale a highly hopped IPA, the difference can be obvious between “Christmas beer” and Winter Warmer.

Beers like Great Lakes Brewing Company’s Christmas Ale (a slightly heavier beer and iconic in its own right), Abita’s Christmas Ale, Breckenridge’s Christmas Ale, Souther Tier’s 2XMAS, Schalfly’s Christmas Ale, and Samuel Adams’s Old Fezziwig (which unfortunately is STILL only available in a variety pack), are just a few of the more well-known Christmas-themed beers. I’m not necessarily saying there wouldn’t be Christmas Beers (specifically those leaning on the Winter Warmer variety) without Anchor’s first “Our Special Ale” back in 1975, but the Christmas beer landscape might look a little differently than it looks today.

The 2017 vintage. Though poorly lit, the beer poured darker last year, too.

The recipe isn’t the only thing that changes every year. As I noted above, for each new iteration of the beer, a new label is commissioned featuring a different tree, different font, and a slightly different look. The label always looks like an Anchor Christmas beer on the whole, but the specifics do change. On their Web store (steamgear.com), Anchor sells a poster every year which features all the different labels they’ve produced for the beers over the years.

Although Anchor Brewing has been in some form of operation under that name since 1896, it suffered some difficulties from Prohibition until about 1965 when Fritz Maytag III (yes, he’s part of THAT family) purchased a 51% stake in the company and reinvigorated the brand. That re invigoration is what helped to start the craft beer movement in California, specifically. Given their history, and the iconic beers they’ve produced over the years (Porter and Steam, for example), it seems only logical that Anchor brews arguably the most iconic Christmas/Holiday beer and that “Our Special Ale” has achieved, classic iconic beer status. For me, this beer is always a must have during the holidays. It should be a tradition for you, too.

Draught Diversions: 12 Beers of Christmas (2018 Part 2)

Draught Diversions is the catchall label for mini-rants, think-pieces, and posts that don’t just focus on one beer here at The Tap Takeover. We hope you don’t grow too weary of the alcohol alliterative names we use…

Here’s part two of the 12 Beers of Christmas 2018 I promised on Tuesday. Like that post (and all similar posts this year), this follows the six pack format. There’s a mix of beers I haven’t had, haven’t had in a few years, and a recent favorite.

Old Jubilation Ale – Avery Brewing Company (Boulder, CO)

This beer is one of the modern American Christmas classics. Though not technically a winter warmer like many Christmas beers, this one is more along the lines of an Old Ale/English Strong Ale. A high ABV of 8.3% makes this a long sipper and without having had this one yet (by the time I was looking for it in early December, stores had already sold out of their annual allotment), I imagine it would be similar to Founders’ Curmudgeon. I’ll have to keep my eyes open a little earlier next year if I want to grab some of this one.

What Avery says about the beer:

Our winter strong ale has a gorgeous mahogany hue, a hint of hazelnuts, and a finish reminiscent of mocha and toffee. No spices, just a perfect blend of five specialty malts.

For 2018 we used light brown sugar, raisins and figs to bring out caramelized sugar and dried fruit flavors. Also added to the boil is star anise, clove, cardamom and cinnamon. The spices balance and play nice with the caramelized sugars!

Corsendonk Christmas Ale – Brouwerij Corsendonk – (Antwerpen, Belgium)

Here’s the Obligatory Belgian Christmas beer for this list. I had this one for the first time last year and thoroughly enjoyed it so I may have to grab some again before the Christmas season ends. I received a gift pack of this beer last year for Christmas, which included the glass in the picture above. Again, like many of the Belgian Christmas Ales, this one is categorized as “Belgian Strong Dark Ale.” I remember being really surprised that the ABV on this was 8.5%, but on the other hand, that could be a reason why the bottles are a little smaller (I think 8 or 9 oz).

About the beer:

Brewed with Pale, Munich and Caramunich malts; Kent Goldings hops. This is a rich, dark, joyous brew with which to celebrate the holiday season. It’s aroma of chocolate malt and spiciness is reminiscent of the wonderfull smells of holiday baking in Mom’s kitchen. Silky smooth on the palate, it’s predominantly malty, with smoky, spicy and citrusy notes and a long, lingering finish that is lightly tart and malty. Bottle conditioned for a fresh, lively taste. Round and well balanced, it’s a welcome addition for holiday tables and beyond.

Santa!! I Know Him! – Evil Genius Beer Company (Philadelphia, PA)

Image courtesy of Evil Genius’s Facebook page

A Saison is not your typical style of beer for Christmas, but Evil Genius (at least going by the clever the names) aren’t your typical brewery. I’ve enjoyed some of Evil Genius’s tasty beers over the years, but haven’t had a chance to give this one a try. Yet. The name for this beer is in homage to the modern classic of Yuletide films, Elf. Some interesting components are utilized in the brew process for this beer.

What Evil Genius says about this beer:

Festive Saison -Santa!! I Know him! is our holiday saison brewed with rose hips, chamomile, black currants and dark Belgian candi syrup. Deep, complex and intriguing, this bone-dry Belgian-style ale is sure to seduce you, or the one you’re with. Roses, chamomile, and currants have long been considered powerful aphrodisiacs, so we decided to combine them with mysterious and beguiling Belgian saison yeast. The result is something very special and sure to help spice up nights spent at home during the cold winter months. Have you been Naughty or Nice this year – or both?

Chrismukkah – 902 Brewing (Hoboken, NJ)

Image courtesy of 902 Brewing’s Facebook page

This is probably the newest beer in this post as I think 902 is debuting the beer this holiday season (December 4, according to their Facebook page, where I snagged the photo above). That said, it looks like it fits the bill with all the holiday spices and brownish hue. I’ve had only 2 beers from 902 Brewing and both were very good so hopefully, this beer continues that trend should I come across it.

What 902 Brewing says about the beer:

It’s the holiday season! What better way to warm up than this 7.6% winter ale? Brewed with cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger, it’s hitting distro today. Well in time for your holiday needs! A nice treat for when the big man drops by on Christmas Eve, too!

2XMAS – Southern Tier Brewing Company (Lakewood, NY)

I haven’t had this one in a few years and the last time I had it, the beer was very spicy. Other times; however, I recall really enjoying it. I might have to locate some and give it a try this year, but the figs, cinnamon, and cloves in the brew process are flavor components I enjoy.

What Southern Tier says about the beer:

Spiced double ale with fig paste, orange peels, ginger root, cardamom, cinnamon and cloves

Swedish flags are a fairly common sight in our part of the country. Holiday parties often have warm concoctions of spices and booze at the ready to knock the ice off of toes while raising spirits. We were inspired by a “Glögg” party, deciding on the spot to brew a beer that pays tribute to this Nordic tradition.

2XMAS ale combines traditional brewing ingredients with figs, orange peels, cardamom, cinnamon, clove and ginger root. It’s a holiday addition to the 2X line and another reason to toast to the season, but unlike Glögg, we recommend serving this one chilled.

Xocoveza – (Stout –Imperial Milk/Sweet) – Stone Brewing (Escondido, CA)

I had this beer for the first time last year and really enjoyed it, .I said at the time this beer is the closest beer I’ve had to one of my local favorites, Conclave’s Mexican Morning Stout. The beer emulates Mexican Hot Chocolate with peppers and cinnamon and if any beverage says Christmas morning then it would have to be Hot Chocolate. For 2018, Stone released the beer in cans.

What Stone says about the beer:

This is a beloved stout. When first introduced as a limited special collaboration release with San Diego homebrewer Chris Banker (after his recipe won our annual homebrew competition) and Cerveceria Insurgente, it was an instant hit and fans began clamoring for its return. Seeing as how its amazing flavor profile is evocative of Mexican hot chocolate, featuring coffee, pasilla peppers, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg and a generous amount of our own in-house made chocolate, we concluded it was the perfect stout to re-release in celebration of the Holidays and the entire winter season. This is now a highly anticipated yearly tradition that we are pleased to present from us to you, and makes a perfect wintry gift from you to your friends, loved ones, or simply to yourself. Cheers!

So, 12 Christmas beers over the course of two posts this week here at The Tap Takeover. Any favorites out of these or any I missed?

Draught Diversions: 12 Beers of Christmas (2018 Part 1)

Draught Diversions is the catchall label for mini-rants, think-pieces, and posts that don’t just focus on one beer here at The Tap Takeover. We hope you don’t grow too weary of the alcohol alliterative names we use…

Last year, I did two broad Twelve Beers of Christmas posts, so why not do it again? There are certainly enough choices out there in the Christmas Beer realm to warrant an annual Twelve Beers of Christmas post. I’ll do one six pack today, and another six pack on Thursday.

Krampus – Beach Haus Brewing Company (Belmar, NJ)

How could I not go with a beer named in honor of the legendary Germanic “anti-Santa Claus?” Especially since, being half German, I’ve been hearing stories about Krampus since I was a little kid. I’ve visited Beach Haus a few times, they make good beer and have one of the best locations of any NJ brewery, in downtown Belmar not far from the beach. They’ve been making a Krampus beer for the majority of the time they’ve been brewing beer and I think they’ve tweaked it a bit every year. Unfortunately, I haven’t had the chance to try it yet, but perhaps that will change this Chistmastime. . .

What Beach Haus says about the beer:

Beach Haus® Krampus is a welcome visitor to any holiday home with its blend of spices, fruitiness and malt.

Our most limited of limited releases that is brewed a li’l different each year.

For 2018 we used light brown sugar, raisins and figs to bring out caramelized sugar and dried fruit flavors. Also added to the boil is star anise, clove, cardamom and cinnamon. The spices balance and play nice with the caramelized sugars.

A 9.4% ABV gives this year’s Krampus an extra bite!

Scaldis Noël Brasserie Dubuisson – (Pipaix, Belgium)

If you’ve got a Christmas beer list, you’ve got to include one from Belgium and Scaldis Noël is one that is held in pretty high regard. I haven’t had this one yet, but I’ve been enjoying a different Belgian Christmas beer every year. Like many of the Belgian Christmas Ales, this one is categorized as “Belgian Strong Dark Ale.”

What Brasserie Dubuisson says about the beer:

The Scaldis Noël was introduced in 1991 to respond to consumer demands for the ideal beer to add lustre to their end-of-year celebrations.

The Scaldis Noël is brewed solely from malts, hops, candy sugar and water. It is a filtered, top-fermented beer with an alcohol volume of 12%. The use of caramel malts produces a copper-coloured beer with a full, rounded taste. The Scaldis Noël owes its fruity taste and subtle hop aromas to the well-thought out choice of hops in this brew.

The Scaldis Noël is brewed in limited volumes but has already achieved the status of a classic beer for the end-of-year celebrations.

Rude Elf’s Reserve – Fegley’s Brew Works (Bethlehem, PA)

For a few years, I was grabbing this beer every year at Christmas time. It was initially a bomber (I think 750ml) back about 8 years ago or so and I remember having it when the beer was called Rudolph’s Reserve, which changed for obvious reasons. In recent years, I haven’t seen the beer as regularly or as widely so I haven’t had it SJU (Since Joining Untappd) but I’ve been hoping to find it again. The beer is very similar to Tröegs’ iconic Mad Elf from a stylistic perspective of the beer (and the name).

What Fegley’s says about this beer:

A BELGIAN STYLE HOLIDAY ALE WITH ATTITUDE! –  After being harassed by elves in the toy workshop and the reindeer in the stables, Rudy found his true calling in Santa’s brew house. Keeping his edge and focusing his talents, this elf created a spicy holiday brew that became a Christmas legend of its own.

HISTORY OF THE RUDE ELF’S RESERVE –  This fabulous holiday ale was first developed and brewed in 1999 at the Bethlehem Brew Works under original head brewer (and co-owner) Jeff Fegley. The Fegley family thought it was appropriate to create a spiced beer to help us celebrate in the City.

TASTING NOTES –  Pours a deep chestnut ruby with a creamy tan head. The aroma is sweet with harmonic spices led by clove, then cinnamon and nutmeg. The rich body has a fine carbonation that smooths and hides the high ABV, wrapping up oh, so much holiday spice. Finishes very dry, leaving a lingering gingerbread cookie note.

Gnoel de Abbey – The Lost Abbey (San Marcos, CA)

The Lost Abbey is one of the California breweries whose beers I’ve not had the opportunity to try yet. Their beers are well-regarded and often of the big variety – Imperial Stouts, Quads, etc. This is their take on a Winter Warmer and with hints of coffee and spice (a “Holiday Brown Ale,” as The Lost Abbey’s web site references it ) I’d really like to get my hands on a bottle.

What The Lost Abbey says about the beer:

The Lost Abbey’s newest seasonal, Gnoel de Abbey is a winter warmer brewed to be lighter in body while maintaining nuanced notes of oak.

TASTE Beginning with aromas of freshly brewed espresso, Gnoel has hints of cocoa, vanilla and holiday spice, finishing with a crisp coffee bitterness.

Christmas BOMB! – Prairie Artisan Ales (Tulsa, OK)

Image courtesy of Prairie Artisan Ales’s Facebook page

Prairie’s beer have only recently begun appearing here in NJ (as far as I know), and their beers are of the big stout variety, including the Bomb! Beers. I like most of the spices in this one, especially when beers have chocolate and chili in them. This could be an interesting beer to share, although it seems they are only sold in single 12oz bottles about $9 per bottle.

What Prairie says about the beer:


The Bomb! that we all know and love, with the addition of Christmas spices – cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg.

Here’s the standard Bomb! Bomb! is an imperial stout aged on coffee, chocolate, vanilla beans, and ancho chili peppers. The peppers add just the right amount of heat to complement the intense coffee and chocolate flavors.

Winter Cheers Victory Brewing Company (Downington, PA)

Victory decided to do some counter-programming with their Christmas beer. Typically, and as the other beers on this list will support, Christmas beers are a bit darker and weighty. With Winter Cheers, Victory has been producing a tasty, spicier Hefeweizen every year at Christmas time as a tasty alternative to those darker beers. It has been a couple of years since I had one, but I remember enjoying it quite a bit.

What Victory says about the beer:

Winter weather may drive us indoors but cannot dampen our spirits when hearth, home and hops meet in jubilation. Hoisted high in its golden glory, Winter Cheers lives up to its name, fueling festive times and chasing winter’s chill. Glowing and glimmering, frothy and shimmering, our celebratory wheat ale features luscious fruity and spicy notes, making it a perfect brew to brighten spirits even on the deepest of nights.

Check back here on Thursday for another half-dozen beers to seek out this Christmas!

Draught Diversions: December 2017 Beer Pours

Draught Diversions is the catchall label for mini-rants, think-pieces, and posts that don’t just focus on one beer here at The Tap Takeover. We hope you don’t grow too weary of the alcohol alliterative names we use…

With December, the Winter Ales and Stouts are filling the shelves. Many filled my glasses and comprise a majority of the new beers I enjoyed this December.

As has been tradition with my wife and I the last decade or so, on the first Saturday of December, we tag our Christmas Tree at a local farm with our friends and celebrate with brunch and adult beverages. This year, my friend had a Six Point variety pack, including Resin, their Double IPA and Sweet Action their blonde. I’ve come to realize I’m just not a fan of much of Six Point’s output. Later in the week, at a work dinner, I had a fine New Jersey brew: Philoso-Rapper, a Belgian Strong Golden Ale from Departed Soles out of Jersey City, NJ.

I stopped at Flounder and picked up a growler of Delta House Stout, their tasty interpretation of a Milk Stout, to bring to a gaming session. At that same session I had some Viking Blood mead, also quite good. I need to explore the world of mead more thoroughly. One of the pleasant surprises of the month was a solid Pilsner from Industrial Arts Brewing, Metric, which was part of a recent Wegman’s Craft Your Own 6 Pack.

I dove fully into the Christmas/Winter Ales having this year’s version of Anchor’s Anchor’s Christmas Ale beer and Rogue’s Santa’s Private Reserve. Anchor’s was good, but I enjoyed previous recipes/iterations more, the 2017 batch was stronger on some spices that didn’t quite work for me. Rogue’s revamped Santa beer, on the other hand, I found to be excellent. A sweet cherry Dark Strong Ale, the beer was perfect as a dessert beer and reminded me of Ommegang’s Rosetta, but without the sourness. Also from my 6 Beers of Christmas Future (2017) was  Two Roads’ Holiday Ale one of the more unique holiday / Christmas beers I’ve had. There’s an interesting malt/sweetness to the beer that really sets it apart.

The Thursday before Christmas was the monthly Brews and Board Games at Lone Eagle. This brewery continues to impress me with how the beer has been getting better and more consistent over the past year. First up was their Abbey Road Dubbel, a fantastic interpretation of the classic Belgian style. The second beer I had was one of their staple brews, 007 Golden Rye Pale Ale, the first Rye beer I’ve had in a while and the first one I can remember enjoying this much. I think I need to reassess this style, particularly the German interpretation known as Roggenbier.

Abbey Road Dubbel on the left, 007 Golden Rye on the right

Finally, Christmas arrived. Well, Christmas Eve, which is when we get together with my side of the family. Christmas Day is spent with the In-laws. Fortunately, I’m not the only person who enjoys craft beer either day, so for years I’ve been bringing special beers to share on both days. I started off sharing possibly the best beer I’ve had all year with my dad, Goose Island’s 2017 Bourbon County Brand Stout. As I have the past few years, I brought a local growler to share with everybody, in this case it was Demented Brewing’s Gluttony and incredible coffee stout that is perfectly balanced. Just as good (if not better) than Firestone Walker’s Mocha Merlin. Unsurprisingly, the growler did not survive the night. My dad also brought out a bomb of Founders Doom the IPA entry in their Barrel Aged series. This is one of the best, smoothest, most balanced IPAs I’ve ever had.

On Christmas Day, I had the Corsendonk Christmas Ale my folks gave to me as a gift the night before. I can taste why this is such popular, traditional beer around Christmas Time. This is a very solid interpretation of a Belgian Strong Dark Ale. The other Christmas beers I brought was 10 Lords a Leaping from the Bruery. This beer tasted like the best parts of a Witbier and a stout amalgamated into one beer with lots of spice complexities.

The final week of 2017 brought still more beers. I had a bottle of Chimay Blue, the Belgian Trappist brewery’s Strong Dark Ale which is a wonderful World Class ale. As I said in my Tuesday review, one of my team members at work got me a 4-pack of Spellbound’s Porter aged on Palo Santo Wood as well as their fantastic IPA. Spellbound’s IPA had the perfect balance of hops and malt. I continued my trek through Flying Fish’s Exit Series with Exit 7 Pork Roll Porter at Hub City Brewhouse, a local tap house in New Brunswick, NJ. Unlike another pork infused beer from a NJ brewery I had earlier in the week, Flying Fish’s beer was really well balanced with the right amount of spice and flavor from the pork roll. The other beer was a fantastic Belgian Brown ale from Leffe.

Lastly, New Year’s Eve for the last beers of 2017. The last few years, my wife and have been going to our friend’s house and just about everybody brings their own beer, but everybody winds up sharing. In addition to a six-pack of Victory’s Prima Pils, I’d been holding a Chocolate Bock from Samuel Adams for a couple of weeks and figured New Year’s Eve the right time to have it. I’ve had the beer in the past, but not in a very long time, long before joining untappd. It was as good as I remembered it. I also had a Wet Dream from Evil Twin Brewing, a brown ale with coffee and Flower Child IPA, a well balanced brew from Cambridge Brewing Company.

So there you have it. The “new to me” December 2017 beers. If I’m calling out the best, the top would definitely be Spellbound’s Porter aged on Palo Santo Wood, Founders’ Barrel-Aged IPA Doom and Demented Brewing’s Coffee Stout Gluttony. I’m excluding Bourbon County Brand Stout since I’ve had a previous year’s version.

Coming next week, my top 12 new to me beers of 2017.

 

Beer Review: 21st Amendment’s Fireside Chat

Name: Fireside Chat
Brewing Company: 21st Amendment Brewery
Location: San Francisco, CA
Style: Winter Ale
ABV: 7.9%

From the beer’s description on 21st Amendment’s Web site:

Like FDR’s Depression-era radio addresses, which were like a kick in the butt and a hug at the same time, our Fireside Chat is a subtle twist on the traditional seasonal brew. We begin with a rich, dark, English-style ale and then we improvise with spices until we know we have a beer worth sharing with the nation.

Fireside Chat is our early winter seasonal brew available from October through December in six pack cans and on draft. Brewed like a classic, warming Strong Ale but with a subtle blend of hand-selected spices for just the right festive flair.

I may have had a thing or two to say about Christmas / Winter beers. I’ve also mentioned the great “Craft Your Own 6 Pack” offering at Wegmans supermarkets. Conveniently, there’s a Wegman’s only a few miles from my house. So when I visited a couple of weeks ago in the hopes of grabbing six new beers to try, my goal was to find a few Winter/Christmas beers. Unfortunately, there weren’t many on the shelves of single brews I hadn’t had previously. The exception was this Winter Ale from ’s 21st Amendment in San Francisco, California.

Most Winter Ales are spiced up versions of Brown Ales and that’s pretty much what 21st Amendment has done with Fireside Chat. But that simplicity is what makes the beer such a nice drinking beer.

The beer pours a deep mahogany brown and is topped with a nice frothy head. A little spiciness wafts from the beer, giving a slight hint of what to expect, but nothing too overpowering. The first sip is full of comforting spices and malt. The more I kept drinking the beer, the more I was reminded of Christmas Cookies with all the spices working together.

It wasn’t until after I had the beer I realized exactly what Christmas Cookie the beer reminded me of: Pfeffernüsse, a German spice cookie popular at Christmas. My wife made some homemade Pfeffernüsse that were delicious and had a similar flavor profile to the Fireside Chat. I only added one can of the beer into my Craft-your-own, but this is a winter ale I can see myself picking up again. Well, considering the 7.9% ABV I’m not sure I’d throw back more than 2 or 3 in one sitting despite the relatively high alcohol level not making itself felt.

I’d also be remiss if I didn’t remark on the packaging of the beer. Since the beer’s name is an homage to president FDR, the former president appears on the can in a lovely wrap-around image that covers the whole can.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4-star rating.

Badge Earned with this Beer:
Winter Wonderland (Level 10)

It’s cold outside – warm up with Winter beers.