Holiday

Weyerbacher Winter Ale

Beer: Winter Ale
Brewery:
 Weyerbacher Brewery
Style: English Brown Ale
ABV: 5.6%

weyer

Serving Style: Bottle
Drinking Establishment: Chez Wood
Primary Consumer: Kerensa

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OVERALL RATING:

Sight: Dark cola body with no head.

Smell: Exceptionally malty and chocolately. I think this might be the most chocolately smelling beer I’ve encountered this year,

Flavor: Although the overall flavor is somewhat nondescript, the malts are the most pronounced. It’s a little toasted, a little sweet, but that’s about it.

Feel: Thin body with high carbonation. It has the mouthfeel of seltzer.

Concluding Remark: Weyerbacher usually produces loud, alcoholic beers that challenge both my tolerance and palette. However, it would seem that they were a little tired come the end of the year. Their 2012 Winter Ale is anything but interesting and challenging. It’s a somewhat watery, banal brown ale whose only redeeming quality is that it is quite easy to drink. Meh.

Categories: Brown Ale, Holiday | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Lost Abbey Gift of the Magi Ale

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Beer: Gift of the Magi Ale
Brewery:
 Port Brewing Company
Style: Biere de Garde
ABV: 10.0%

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Serving Style: Bottle
Drinking Establishment: Chez Wood
Primary Consumer: Kerensa

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OVERALL RATING:

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Sight: Hazy auburn body with a medium-sized beige frothy head.

Smell: It has quite a complex nose: there’s an overall tanginess that is complemented with some sweet caramel malts, yeast, tangerine, and spice aromas.

Flavor: Despite the sweet nose, it is a hop bitterness that defines the character of this beer. There are notes of earthy hops, straw, grain, and basement mustiness.

Feel: Medium body with some carbonation.

Concluding Remark: The Gift of the Magi is a dry-hopped Biere de Garde that is bottle conditioned with Brettanomyces yeast–or “Brett”–known for its “barnyard,” “damp wool,” “sweaty saddle,” or “horse blanket” flavors and aromas. Brett is appropriately used, given that this beer was created to commemorate the three Magi and the camels that transported them on their historic journey.

Biere de Gardes are known for being well-balanced with some toasted malts and hops, and have the added bonus of being pretty musty. So how does Gift of the Magi live up to its style? Well, I would say that the hops dominate the flavor profile, so it’s NOT well-balanced. However, the use of Brett renders this beer a little tangy, funky, and tart, giving it an overall musty flavor that is typical of the style.

While it’s a fine alternative to whatever beer you were going to drink today, I will say that it’s prohibitively expense ($10). While interesting enough to finish, it’s not interesting enough to ever buy again. Though, I have to give it up to Port Brewing  for using Frankinscense bark and Myrrh, which add to the authenticity of the beer. If only authenticity translated into THIS IS THE BEST BEER EVER…

Categories: Bière de Garde, Holiday | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

St. Bernadus Christmas Ale

Beer: Christmas Ale
Brewery:
 Brouwerij St. Bernadus
Style: Belgian Quadrupel
ABV: 10.0%

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Serving Style: Bottle
Drinking Establishment: Chez Wood
Primary Consumer: Kerensa

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OVERALL RATING:

Sight: Opaque, dark brown body with a seriously massive beige head that looks like meringue. There are huge bubbles trapped inside this dense head, and I swear, the head twinkles with sparkles.

Smell: It smells slightly ester and apple-y. There’s also an underlying metallic note.

Flavor: This is one malty Belgian. We have some of the usual Belgian flavors–raisins, molasses, figs–spiked with a melange of holiday spices

Feel: Medium, creamy body with awesome carbonation.

Concluding Remark: St. Bernadus offers a Christmas Ale that is malty, sweet, and just a little bit spicy. This is one of those beers that stick to your ribs, and to your lips. St. Bernadus takes their near perfect Quadrupel, and adds some some additional ingredients (mint?). As the beer sits, more and more different delectable dessert flavors come forth. All in one sip, I get some sticky toffee pudding, stewed fruits, tres leches cake, banana bread, licorice candy, and molasses cookies. While it is the holiday season, and sharing is an appropriate gesture this time of year, I recommend sneaking off with this for 20 minutes mid-holiday party. Even for the most un-spirited, you’ll come back with a little pep/drunken stupor in your step.

Categories: Belgian, Holiday | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Brasserie Dubuisson Scaldis Noel

Beer: Scaldis Noel
Brewery:
 Brasserie Dubuisson
Style: Belgian Strong Dark Ale
ABV: 12.0%

scaldis

Serving Style: Bottle
Drinking Establishment: Chez Wood
Primary Consumer: Kerensa

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OVERALL RATING:

Sight: Deep amber body with a garnet tinge and a frothy, bubbly beige head that leaves an intricate lacing on the glass.

Smell: This beer smells like the deliriously overwhelming comfort one feels when walking into a bakery filled with freshly baked cakes, breads, pastries…yeah. The prominent aromas are caramelized sugar, heavy cream, and caramel.

Flavor: Like the smell, it tastes like biting into a fresh pastry oozing with some sort of sweet pudding goodness. The lingering flavor is brown sugar. There isn’t any of that overripe, raisin fruitiness that is typical of Belgian Strong Ales.

Feel: Medium, buttery body with awesome carbonation. There’s nearly no heat from the alcohol.

Concluding Remark: Brought to us from Brasserie Dubuisson of Belgium, Scaldis Noel is hands down the best holiday ale I have had the pleasure of consuming while listening to Gene Autry Christmas songs. It doesn’t employ any of those insta-holiday ale shortcuts that nearly all other seasonal beers do, such as adding a pine flavor with juniper berries or a mulled wine taste with cloves and allspice. Instead, Scaldis Noel is a sublimely balanced beer that tastes like dessert without that annoying cloyingly sweetness that plagues many supremely alcoholic brews. In the spirit of the season, I shared this with my household and all parties agree that this beer is so insanely delicious that we would all rate it a “5” even if it was only 5% ABV. The fact that it’s nearly triple that makes this one of the best beers of the year and/or EVER.

Categories: Belgian, Holiday | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Samuel Smith’s Winter Welcome Ale

Beer: Winter Welcome Ale
Brewery:
 Samuel Smith Old Brewery
Style: Winter Warmer
ABV: 6.0%

winterwarm

Serving Style: Bottle
Drinking Establishment: Chez Wood
Primary Consumer: Kerensa

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OVERALL RATING:

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Sight: Clear amber body with a tiny white head.

Smell: This smells like a less sweet Martinelli’s Sparking Apple Cider. Apple juice and cinnamon are the dominant aromas.

Flavor: Its look and smell are quite deceiving. There is a strong, burnt malt flavor that defines the character of the beer, with hints of caramel, toffee, and apple.

Feel: Thin body with high carbonation, making for an exceptionally easy-to-drink beer.

Concluding Remark: In honor of the first day of winter and the alleged end of the world (are you sick of these references yet?), we present to you Samuel Smith’s WELCOME WINTER Ale. Welcome Winter is a Winter Warmer, which is an English-style malty brew produced during the winter months. Authentic English Winter Warmers (this is an example) do not add spices. If you find yourself drinking a spicy beer this December, chances are it is NOT a Winter Warmer, even if it states otherwise (examples soon to follow).

Sam Smith welcomes you to “contemplate its complexities by an open fire.” Hmm…honestly, that would be a waste of your time. The contemplating complexities part, not the open fire. While a completely pleasant and drinkable brew, the Welcome Winter Ale isn’t what I would call complex. It’s a solid welcome mat to the Holiday Ale mansion. I neither urge nor warn you to try this beer. It’s good! Do it! Or try something better, either of the elven variety or one of Sam Smith’s more distinguished ales.

Categories: Holiday, Winter Warmer | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Fegley’s Rude Elf’s Reserve

Beer: Rude Elf’s Reserve
Brewery:
 Allentown Brew Works
Style: Spiced Ale
ABV: 10.5%

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Serving Style: Bottle
Drinking Establishment: Chez Wood
Primary Consumer: Kerensa

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OVERALL RATING:

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Sight: Clear, bright amber body with a wee head that vanishes right quick.

Smell: It initially smells like WHOA THIS IS COUGH SYRUP and maraschino cherries. Then come those holidays spices…espeically prominent are cloves, allspice, and cinnamon.

Flavor: If this isn’t the sweetness beer I’ve ever tried….There are a ton of flavors tangled up in this beer, including but not limited to sweet maraschino cherry, raisin, plum, and loads of white sugar. There is also a typical “Belgian-y” flavor (bananas/cloves) from the Candi sugar and Belgian yeasts.

Feel: Thin, syrupy body with medium carbonation. There’s a noticeable heat from the insane ABV.

Concluding Remark: I’ll be honest, I opened up Fegley’s Rude Elf Reserve not to channel some holiday spirit, but to function as a night cap. At 10.5%, I had little doubt that after a long day of work, this Rude Elf would knock me unconscious. And it did! Thanks, Elf. As far as holiday cheer goes, the spices are somewhat subdued. Instead, Rude Elf tastes like an average Belgian Ale, with an extra serving or two of sugar that renders the beer cloyingly sweet.  If this was any less alcoholic, I would have given it a lower rating because it’s a slightly below average Belgian and a slightly underwhelming holiday beer. But, that’s not the reality in which this beer exists. It’s 10.5%, and that has to count for something or this isn’t The Year in Beer.

Categories: Belgian, Holiday, Spiced Ale | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Goose Island Christmas Ale

Beer: Christmas Ale
Brewery: Goose Island
Style: Brown Ale
ABV: 7.3%

goose

Serving Style: Bottle
Drinking Establishment: Chez Wood
Primary Consumer: Kerensa

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OVERALL RATING:

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Sight: Cloudy, deep amber body with no head.

Smell: It smells like an overripe fruit basket, with prominent plum and cherry aromas. There’s an underlying note of alcohol esters.

Flavor: Okay, there are a number of intricate flavors swimming around in this beer. For one, there is a roasted malts and caramel profile indicative of its Brown Ale base. However, there is also quite a bite from the hops, as well a healthy dose of holiday cheer (aka spices and other seasonal flair). There’s a bit of a fruit cake thing going on, as well as hints of anise and mint. Complex is a word I would use.

Feel: Thin, syrupy body with high carbonation. The flavors would’ve been better grounded in a fuller beer.

Concluding Remark: Goose Island’s Christmas Ale offers consumers a plethora of little flavor presents (apologies–there are only so many holiday metaphors). While not a explosion of holiday spirit, we have here a Brown Ale that’s decently balanced with the added bonus of unique flavors such as cranberries, gingerbread, anise, and mint. As Goose Island changes the recipe every year, I cannot vouch for how many of these ingredients actually made it into the beer. However, I can guarantee that you’ll find at least some of these cheerful flavors in this Christmas Ale, an exploration worthy of a pint, I say!

funny elf

This is Keebler Elf-approved holiday beer.
Categories: Brown Ale, Holiday | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Brasserie d’Achouffe N’ice Chouffe

Beer: N’Ice Chouffe
Brewery: Brasserie d’Achouffe
Style: Belgian Strong Ale
ABV: 10.0%

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Serving Style: Bottle
Drinking Establishment: Chez Wood
Primary Consumer: Kerensa

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OVERALL RATING:

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Sight: Pitch brown body with a ruby tinge. It has a huge white head with high retention.

Smell: Admittedly unhelpful, it has a robust “beer” smell, like that of a Pilsner. It also smells like “sparkling,” as in sparkling apple cider without the apple cider-ness. There’s also a bit of orange peel and grape juice.

Flavor: Surprisingly prevalent coppery, metallic taste. Other than that, it’s a pretty mellow beer, defined by sweet malt and fruit flavors, a mild herbal hop flavor, and some caramel and brown sugar notes.

Feel: Thin, oily body with medium carbonation.

Concluding Remark: I don’t think I’ve ever described a beer this way before, but  N’Ice Chouffe is quite a quiet beer. The myriad flavors in this winter Chouffe are subtle. The special ingredients are thyme and curaçao peel, which are detectable but not overpowering.  While it doesn’t reek of holiday (i.e., spices and spruces), perhaps this is what a Belgian Christmas tastes like?  As it’s name implies, N’Ice Chouffe is a nice beer. I have nothing negative to say about its existence. That being said, it is pretty unmemorable. I wouldn’t call it a quintessential holiday ale, but I would be more than happy to drink it on someone else’s dime (@ $12/bottle).

funny elf

This is a Keebler Elf-approved beer.

Categories: Belgian, Holiday | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Abita Christmas Ale

Beer: Christmas Ale
Brewery: Abita Brewing Company
Style: Brown Ale
ABV: 5.5%

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Serving Style: Draft
Drinking Establishment: Spuyten Duyvil
Primary Consumer: Kerensa

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OVERALL RATING:

Sight: Clear deep garnet body with a dense white head.

Smell: It has an extreme Christmasy spruce scent–and not in that artificial car air freshener way. It smells like walking through a Christmas tree lot.

Flavor: While there is a slight trace of pine, there’s little else in here that screams HOLIDAY CELEBRATION IN MY BEER. It kind of just tastes like a poorly executed IPA.

Feel: Thin body with high carbonation.

Concluding Remark:  All I’m going to say about this is that I did not feel festive after drinking Abita’s Christmas Ale. False advertising. Next.

Categories: Brown Ale, Holiday | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Samuel Adams Merry Mischief

Beer: Merry Mischief
Brewery: Boston Beer Company
Style: Sweet/Milk Stout
ABV: 9.0%

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Serving Style: Bottle
Drinking Establishment: Chez Wood
Primary Consumer: Kerensa

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OVERALL RATING:

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Sight: Black as a rural night’s sky during the new moon. There’s a dense tan head that looks particularly scrumptious.

Smell: It smells a bit like rubbing alcohol at first, but it mellows out to a more appealing aroma, with notes of coffee, smoke, pumpernickel, and wet bark.

Flavor: The standard flavors you would expect from a stout are elevated with a slew of holiday spices, notably ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and clove. There are some sweet cherry and plum flavors, too.

Feel: Dry, medium body with medium carbonation. It’s just a little burn-y from the high ABV.

Concluding Remark:  When I saw that Sam Adams’ seasonal release, Merry Mischief, was a GINGERBREAD Stout, I had my reservations. I was expecting something akin to Starbucks’ every growing line of holiday drinks: too sweet and too much artificial flavor. However, Sam Adams has kind of blown me away. They have created an (Imperial) Sweet/Milk Stout that is dense with both flavor and alcohol. Merry Mischief has a solid stout backbone and is amped up with a injection of holiday goodness. It tastes like a gingersnap cookie, with less sugar and more malts.

Overall, Merry Mischief makes for a pretty great holiday stout. At $9, it’s a little pricey for a Sam Adams–I might pick up a Belgian Christmas Ale instead–but it’s widely available and different than most beers you’ll be drinking this season. I say, go ahead. It’s not an excellent stout, but it’s a fine holiday beer.

funny elf

This is a Keebler Elf-approved beer.

Categories: Holiday, Stout | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

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