Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Post-Apocalyptic Christmas

Well it appears we have survived yet another apocalypse unscathed and just in time to celebrate Christmas!  All the supplies, aka beer, I had hoarded for the impending apocalypse were just begging to be consumed in celebration.  What better beers than Christmas/winter seasonal brews?  I did my best to get some new stuff in the line up this year but you all know I had to snatch a Sam Adams Winter Seasonal sampler.  What is that I see Sam Adams?  A new Christmas beer in there?  Take that you neighsaying Mayans.

Ghost of Christmas Past and Present -  I enjoyed some Boulevard Nutcracker Ale while eating dinner at Jazz the other night.  It hit the spot nicely.  I didn’t snap any pictures of it nor take any notes so the Boulevard Nutcracker Ale will be our Christmas ghost on this list.  If you’re being a scrooge,  Nutcracker will find you and make you see what it means to celebrate the holidays here in Kansas City.  Bahhh Humbuggers Be Gone! 

Christmas Stocking – Hung from the mantle with care every year is Sam Adams Winter Lager.  I’ve mentioned it before, my idea of a perfect Christmas brew is something with some good maltiness accompanied by a balanced cinnamon character.  Nothing fits the bill year after year like Sam Adams Winter Lager.  The nose emits graininess with a hint of some spiced cinnamon.  Your palate is rewarded with a subtle malt sweetness initially, followed by a nice cinnamon spice.  There is a bit of orange peel hiding in there but it’s appearance is fairly brief.  This is a brew I can’t count on year in and year out to signal Christmas is here, just like my good ole stocking.

Christmas Breakfast with Grandpa – A newcomer this year is Mother’s Brewing Company’s Winter Grind.  This brew starts with a nose of straight up cup-o-jo.  Did I mistakenly purchase some coffee from the liquor store?  Sure smelled like it.  The taste falls in line with the nose being very very coffee forward.  The mouthfeel seemed somewhat thin lending even more credibility that you are in fact ingesting coffee instead of a brew.  There’s not much sweetness up front with the flavor profile jumping pretty much straight into a cup of coffee.  There is nice and smooth coffee roast character in this brew that is present throughout the palate.  Some malt sweetness and grain poke through about mid palate but make a quick exit.  The finish is dry with coffee roast lingering for a while.  I really liked this brew because the coffee roast quality is super smooth.  There aren’t many beer traits to blend with it but I enjoyed it nonetheless.  You want a brew to remind you of the mornings of drinking coffee with Grandpa?  This one will do it.  Hold the cream and sugar please.

Fruitcake – The most anti-climatic gift of all time.  Even socks/underpants are at least functional, but the fruitcake will most likely see the bottom of a trash can.  Free State Winter Fest IPA unfortunately is the fruitcake of this list.  I’m not sure if it was old or not carefully stored but it wasn’t good.  The nose was spectacular with citrus and fruit jumping into your senses.  A bit of malt sweetness up front followed by a wheat or maybe a corn character that seemed out of place.  Could the hop character in the finish help this awkward brew out?  Nope it was non-existent.  A hint of dark grapefruit was the only hop character available, but it was really slight.

The Super Awesome Gift but Without the Batteries - Another new to me brew is Deschutes Jubelale.  With the bottle adorned by beautiful art work and a badge of 6.7% ABV, I was intrigued.  Nothing else on the bottle gave any hint of what to expect from this “festive winter ale”.  The first thing I noticed was the beautiful red complexion in the glass.  Man was it pretty.  The nose sports a bit of grain with hop aroma on the tail end.  Was this another fresh hop ipa-esque brew?  Tell me more!  The brew starts with good malt complexity initially, a touch of graininess followed by some simple sweetness.  Some caramel character is noticeable and then in the sake of wonderful complexity a bit of fruitiness comes out as well.  The brew finishes with a subtle bitterness and a dull mint hop character.  Wow!  This is a very well put together brew.  This brew hits the Christmas/winter seasonal on the head without the use of cinnamon or spice (at least from what I could tell).  This beer was superb but didn’t take my holiday brew top spot, so it’s like that awesome RC car you got when you were a kid that your grandparents forget to get the batteries.

The Broken Record of Christmas Music – It skips and repeats, skips and repeats, and repeats.  At least it’s Christmas Music and it is Christmas Day so it’s only mildly annoying.  I’ve noticed that almost all of the Sam Adams Seasonals are supplemented with cinnamon and orange peel.  So when you’re moving through the sampler you are getting similar tastes of cinnamon and subtle orange peel but the base beer styles are different enough to keep it interesting.  The Sam Adams Holiday Porter is a staple for me in the sampler.  The nose has faint sweetness with hints of bread.  The palate has nice maltiness which isn’t really sweet but more a munich type grainy bread character.  The brew is finished nicely with a hint of roast character.  This very drinkable porter is a FatCat staple just like Christmas music while decorating the Christmas tree.

Lump of Coal -  Yes, even worse than fruit cake is the lump of coal in your stocking.  Not only is it worthless, it is a symbol that you were an a-hole this year.  As much as I applaud Sam Adams, they occasionally lay an egg.  The brew I was most excited to try in the sampler was the new White Christmas.  This brew claims to be a crisp white ale with spices.  White ale would mean to me that there should be some substantial yeast character with the possibility of tartness in the finish.  Well they got the crisp part right and that’s about where the story ends.  This brew is actually kind of bland with the only prominent character being cinnamon.  Cinnamon alcohol water, yummy.  It’s not really a bad tasting beer it just doesn’t have any character.  Sorry Sammy but swing and a miss on this one.

The Christmas Tree – Nothing smells better than a real Christmas tree in your house.  That scent is amazing and offers up the smell of the outdoors without all the squirrels and snow.  I was taken by surprise last year by the Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale.  Its big bad hop aroma and hop character smack your senses around like they owe them money.  The aroma is big and piney lending hint to the devastating bitterness that lay in the depths of this brew.  You’re greeted with a bit of caramel sweetness and immediately swept away by never-ending bitterness.  This is one of the few brews I bought an entire six pack of this year.  Now along with my cinnamon laced expectations of winter brews, I now have the hunger for big hop character in the Celebration Ale too.  Like chewing on a Christmas tree but more enjoyable, Celebration Ale.  

The Angel – She may be getting out-dated because you’ve had her so long but she represents your family’s Christmas.  There are more exciting and modern offerings out there but there is something about her classic look that you just can’t replace.  Sam Adams Old Fezziwig is my classic angel.  I look forward to this brew every year.  There are several beers I’ve tried this year that are “better” than my Fezziwig but they won’t replace it.  The nose is a bit of graininess with a hint of spice.  A nice mouthfeel sets this one apart from the other cinnamon laced Sam Adams Seasonals.  A nice dull sweetness greets you mid palate and then finishes with a subtle roastiness.  A nice cinnamon character ties it all together.

The Super Nintendo – As a child I couldn’t think of anything that I wanted more in my life than a Nintendo.  This was my Red Ryder 200 shot BB gun.  It was the best gift I ever received once I finally did get my Super Nintendo as a child.  Years and years of lobbying had finally paid off and that magic box was finally mine.  What Christmas/winter brew could possibly be comparable to a Nintendo?  How about an Empyrean Winter Axis Festival Ale?  It is 6% ABV and 41 IBUs of pure deliciousness.  The nose starts of with a wonderful funky Belgian yeast spice erupting from the glass.  A Belgian for Christmas, huh?  Interesting.  It begins with a really nice sweetness up front.  The sweetness is not overdone and has hints of brown sugar to keep it interesting.  This is basically the roller coaster at the top of the hill because the yeast comes in mid palate and whoosh!  The yeast has a nicely balanced spiced character with an enjoyable sharpness to perfectly accompany the malt sweetness.  The finish is mostly dry with yeast character being the star but a bit of the malt sweetness perseveres to the end.  I could be a little over zealous comparing this brew to a Nintendo but it really shined in this line up.  I guess it could be its uniqueness that sets it above the other winter warmers and fresh hop ales.  Either way this is on my must buy list for next year, most likely along with the Jubelale and Celebration.  I’m going to have to start saving for Christmas a lot earlier next year.


Merry Christmas to all, and to all a beer filled night.

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