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.

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Beer Review: Magnify Brewing’s Banana Bread Mind over Matter

Name: Banana Bread Mind over Matter
Brewing Company: Magnify Brewing Company
Location: Fairfield, NJ
Style: Stout – Imperial / Double Milk
ABV: 8%

“A balanced and flavorful dessert stout from popular North Jersey brewery.”

Magnify _BB-MoM.jpg

From the description of the beer onuntappd:

Banana Bread Mind Over Matter is a new variant in our series of double chocolate milk stouts featuring a new, refreshed label design. We set out to brew a double chocolate Milk Stout with as much flavor as our 10+% stouts a more manageable ABV. Banana Bread Mind Over Matter is brewed with lactose and conditioned on cocoa nibs, walnuts, wild Thai banana, cinnamon and vanilla.

Magnify has been one of the hottest New Jersey / Northeast breweries over the past few years, with about three new beer releases per week, their IPAs and other flavorful ales are highly sought by craft beer drinkers in the area. I personally haven’t had very many beers from them, so I was looking forward to giving something from them a try for the blog.

”Mind over Matter” is a series of Imperial Milk Stouts Magnify brews with various adjuncts, there’s a “S’Mores” version, a Pancake version (which I’ve had) made with maple syrup, a “Candy Cane” version, and so forth. This version looks to emulate banana bread, obviously, and is brewed with walnuts, “wild Thai banana,” cinnamon, and vanilla. I really enjoy banana bread and beer with most of these adjuncts, but I was admittedly a little wary of what the walnuts would bring.

The pop of the can is nice and the beer that pours into my glass is dark and thick. It definitely has the appearance I’d expect at the outset. The strongest element in the aroma for me was the cinnamon, which is quite welcome. I give the glass a little swirl and there’s a nice reddish/burgundy tint to the edges from the foam from the cinnamon.

First sip test….the beer easily passes that test. There’s a lot going on with this beer, just look at all those adjuncts I mentioned! I enjoy the taste quite a bit and I want to drink more to really figure out if the flavors I’ve tasted match up with the description

As I enjoy the pint over the course of about an hour, I begin to get a nice feel for this beer and what works for me. The sweetness is incredibly potent, but it isn’t overpowering and cloying. The cinnamon is the most prevalent additive I taste, which works for me, it is ever present. There’s a soft creaminess to the beer, too. I’m not sure how much of the banana is coming through, but on the finish, the walnuts assert themselves and I’m pleased. I suppose I like the flavor of walnuts, but I loathe having any kind of nut in my baked goods probably because of the texture. I just hate the way the hard crunchiness ruins the softness of say, a brownie or banana bread.

Banana Bread Mind over Matter is a damned good “beer interpretation” of banana bread. The cinnamon is wonderful, the hints of walnut give the beer a nice finish. If I can knock the beer for anything it is that the bananas themselves aren’t quite as present in the overall flavor profile of the beer compared to the other elements. However, of the 10 beers I’ve had from Magnify Brewing over the years, this beer is hands down the best beer I’ve had from them.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4.25-bottle cap rating.