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.
Non-Alcoholic beers are one of the growing trends in beer and Athletic is producing them exclusively. My wife did a trail run (where she kicked ass!) and Athletic Brewing was a sponsor, which afforded me the opportunity to sample this very tasty stout. There’s no hint in the flavor/taste that this stout doesn’t have alcohol. A slightly roasty, tasty oatmeal stout is all that I get, which is a good thing…and better than some stouts I’ve had with alcohol in them!
I wrote about Untied Brewing in the fall and visited them again because I wanted to get a bottle of their Russian Imperial Stout and to try this beer. I was very impressed with their take on a dry-hopped pilsner. It has the bready/crackery elements I like in a Pilsner and yet the dry-hopping doesn’t come through too strongly on the finish. This is simply a well-made lager, which is a great thing in my book.
One of the last of Boulevard beers from a work colleague is a dandy! The roasted elements that can sometimes be too dominant for my palate are subdued, I’m guessing, from the bourbon barrel aging. There’s a perfect blending of elements of the beer and barrel in this bottle (and subsequently, my glass), that I most certainly took my time and savored each sip. The beer was delicious and my only regret is it is gone.
This was one of the more strange and interesting IPAs (in a good way) that I’ve had. Grassy, citrusy, with a little kick from chili on the end, these ingredients worked really well together. Then again, I shouldn’t be surprised at anything less than extremely good coming out of the brewery in Lakewood, NJ,
In my Christmas Six Pack last year, I wrote about Hardywood’s Gingerbread Stout, this beer is a variant on that renowned beer. Christmas Morning sees the addition of coffee to the standard vanilla, ginger, and honey for a savory sipper. This was one of the best milk stouts I’ve ever had, absolutely delicious.
My wife and I stopped in at Czig Meister after dropping off some Christmas presents at a family member who lives nearby and decided on a flight rather than a full pour. Czig has been doing really nice things on the beers in their Abyss series and this one is no exception. The Citra and Strata hops give the beer a wonderful tropical hoppy taste and there’s no lingering aftertaste.
Mamaw’s Mean Cobbler is a delightful variation of our Peach Tripel with vanilla, cinnamon, coconut, and milk sugar additions delivering the classic flavors of a southern-style peach cobbler baked fresh in grandma’s kitchen.
Another great beer from “The 20 Years 20 Beers” gift provides for an introduction to another new brewery! Hardywood is a brewery I’m well aware of and a brewery I featured here for their whale beer, Gingerbread Stout. This installment of 20 Years 20 Beers also gives me a new Tripel to try, a style I thoroughly enjoy, but isn’t quite as common in the American Craft Beer scene.
The initial small pour my wife gave me so I could try guess the style of beer gave off the fruity vibes. I tasted banana and thought perhaps peach might be involved. The yeast was very prevalent, I knew I had some kind of Belgian-style.
This beer, fully poured in my goblet, looks extremely inviting – some Tripels are filtered, some are a little cloudy like this one. Looks great, and the aroma is equally pleasing.
I’m getting massive peach aroma from this beer, fortunately peach is a fruit I enjoy a great deal. The nose leads to the taste, but with more than just a small pour, more than just peach emerges. The Belgian-style yeast is very prominent, but other elements come through, primarily the cinnamon. It is subtle, but present enough and a welcome complement to the peach and yeast. The lactose and coconut are even more subtle, lactose usually adds more texture and sweetness than a distinct flavor which is the case here. I didn’t get too much coconut as a standout, it was more in the background.
I was utterly entranced by this beer. The peach is a perfect complement to the strong, yeast element in the beer and the cinnamon is just a lovely component that ties the two elements together. I’ve had peach cobbler and this beer is a perfect interpretation of the dessert into a beer. Dessert beers are often associated with sweet, “pastry” stouts, but this beer right here? Give me this as a summer dessert beer and I’ll be a very, very happy guy. The peach is sweet, the lactose/milk sugar is an added sweetness, and the yeast helps to generate sweetness, so there’ quite a few sweet elements working together. However, the sweetness is not cloying and those three sweet elements are in balance with each other.
Mamaw’s Mean Cobbler is a beer with a funny name, but a great taste. My wife is continuing to knock it out of the park with the 20 Beers 20 Years theme so far.
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.
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.
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%
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%
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%
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%
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!