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30 Days of Christmas Beer: The Results

The nitecap - and a damn good one.

Well, I made it all the way through. There were a few days of struggle, a few pushes. In the end, I had the gumption to get it done. 30 days and many beers – but each night a Christmas ale – are complete.

There were highs thanks to De Dolle and Hair of the Dog – and there were lows due in part to Ninkasi and Bridgeport. But all in all, I loved each evening. The beer did as I had hoped: restored Christmas to its rightful jolly state.

Throughout the process, I posted a blurb about each beer on our Facebook page. After 30 days, I made my choices. Here are the results:

 

Top 5 Beers – Overall Quality:

 

1. De Dolle Stille Nacht 2009

 

2. Hair of the Dog Doggie Claws 2009

 

3. Troegs Mad Elf

 

4. Nogne O/Jolly Pumpkin/Stone Special Holiday Ale 2009

 

5. Great Lakes Christmas Ale

 

Honorable Mentions: Brasserie Thiriez, Goose Island 2009 Xmas Ale, Fremont B-Bomb, and Silver City Old Scrooge

 

Top 5 Beers – Christmas Style:

 

1a. Nogne O/Jolly Pumpkin/Stone Special Holiday Ale 2009

 

1b. Great Lakes Christmas Ale

 

3. Anchor Christmas Ale 2010

 

4. Maritime Jolly Roger

 

5. Thirsty Dog 12 Dogs of Christmas

 

Honorable Mentions: Eggenberg Samichlaus, Silver City Old Scrooge, De Dole Stille Nacht, and Breckenridge Christmas Ale

 

Top Beer Description:

 

Most of the time when I wrote these reviews, I was half intoxicated at a bar typing on my phone. The quality of the review depended on my motivation level and surrounding conversations. Some beers were cheated, others were given too much (See De Dolle Stille Nacht for “too little” and Fremont Abominable for “too much”)

My favorite description came from drinking an Anchor Christmas Ale at Collins Pub in Seattle:

 

The Xmas ale is their staple, a seasonal release of many years. This year it tastes like some took a glass of milk, nuked it, dropped in 5 gingerbread houses and a black tea bag and put it in a laundry machine for 6 hours. After that, I drank it. It’s delicious, a fine example of Christmas flavors.

 

Top Memory of 30 Days of Christmas Ale

 

One night, Timperial came and surprised me with a party pig (finally, my own tap) and a bottle of Brasserie Thiriez Noel. We got sentimental:

 

I have a pretty good story about this brewer. Timperial and I drove out to West Flanders one morning to visit Saint Sixtus Abbey and drink the Westvleteren 12. After we got biblical, we decided to peruse the towns. We visited St Bernardus, shot the shit with local Woesteners, and proceeded to make the journey across enemy lines (kind of a joke) to France.

Escalbecq is literally 10 kilos across le border. The border is an unrecognizable line where my Tom Tom starts speaking french. We pulled up to a shanty of a farmhouse and went searching for Daniel (owner of Brasserie Thiriez). We bumped into a brute of a man (seinfeld Kramer reference) who had on denim suspenders and a weird rat tail haircut. I engaged him in conversation. He stared blankly and retorted: “oui?….” imagine the most confused vocal tone on earth, in French. That was this guy.

After nearly 10 minutes of charades, awkward hand signals and phony sign language – he finally understood “Daniel” and illistrated that he was sleeping. This guy? Le brassuer.

He also finally grasped my guzzling booze depiction. He led us to the farmhouse and we – extremely awkward – downed a few samples an bought a few bottles. On the way back to Belgium (10 kilos), we road soda’d a blonde and laughed hysterically at the hijinks. Tonight, we formed a consensus that a return was a necessity.

Thiriez makes amazing beer. They have one of the best yeast strains I have ever tasted. Grassy, earthly, active – but clean – it’s always a different experience under each cap. The Noel is phenomenal. It has a clean, yet significant scent. It packs a mouthful of cherries, strawberries, vanilla, and hay. There is no denying the French farmhouse styling – and we love it. A lively beer with a fresh scent yum.

 

All in all, it’s the best Thiriez brew we’ve had. Kudos to Bottleworks for pulling this guy in. If it’s on the shelf – it’s a must buy.

It was a good ride. Look for a repeat, with all new beer, next year.

 


Merry Christmas From Your Friends At Beer Blotter

December 25, 2010 Leave a comment

Nestle up to the fire with a Doggie Claws this Christmas morning!

Hard time sleeping last night? Dreams of epic malt adventures flood your dreams? Us too.

Don’t fret – Its Christmas!  So wake the fam and grab your stocking. Blast your Ray Charles Christmas Album and light the fire. Then head to the basement, snag that wondrous xmas grog and enjoy this wonderful holiday!

Having trouble selecting the perfect xmas beer? Check out our Facebook page and follow the 30 Days of Xmas beer postings. Plenty there to choose from.

From all of us at Beer Blotter – Have a Merry Christmas! We hope you got just what you wanted!

BeerBlotter.com

Great Lakes. Great Beer: A Tale of a Pub and a Christmas Ale

December 14, 2010 2 comments

Oh how I yearn for you - my sweet sweet holiday love.

***This is a reposting of an article I wrote last year, shortly before my yearly bounty of Great Lakes Christmas Ale appeared in my mailbox. This year, I have been slighted by my Ohio beer shop, who promised to have my package here last week – WHERE IS IT!? Each afternoon, I scurry to the mailbox like it was Xmas morning, hoping to see my Xmas passion. Nothing. This morning, I had to read back at what once was – and what hopes to show up today. Enjoy!***

 

I will go ahead and clear this up – I have an Ohio bias. I hail from the great Canton, OH region, home of football, wings and crappy beer.

But over time we have seen some good ones pop up. Hoppin Frog, out of Akron, OH, is probably the best critiqued in the beer world. Check out their RateBeer ratings here. We will rate them later, but as a teaser – get the BORIS (oatmeal imperial stout – theres a barrel-aged version too!).

And now to return to my favorite – Great Lakes. When I fall in love with a brewery, its for several reasons:

 

(1) beer quality

(2) list quality

(3) pub aura

(4) historical connection

(5) the crew of the brewery

 

Great Lakes Brewing excels here in all respects. Though they do not have the most amazing of beer reviews historically, they are typically respectable around the board. For instance, their stouts are damn good (Blackout is a 100), their porter is above average, their specialties (saison and 2x IPA especially) are appealing, and their normal rotation is very drinkable (my father is a Burning River Pale man).

But……its their Christmas Beer that remains fixated in your mid year round. Shockingly, this beer is not immortal in the beer nerd spectrum. It holds an 87 at RateBeer. But after a cursory review I am chalking that up to the 30-40% of reviewers who just said – “I dont like xmas beer.”

Curse you, and curse your palettes. Actually, I can understand that reaction to this beer. The beer holds an incredible smack you in the face aroma of X-mas packed into the bottle. Nutmeg, cinnamon, spice and ginger make you feel as if you are ten years old again, sipping hot cider with mittens on singing deck the halls in 12 feet of snow, below a 30 foot christmas tree, with 1000 wrapped goodies beneath. I love it.

But what is best about this release, is that Great Lakes Brewing has recognized the cult following and really made a bi-annual ritual out of it. In July, they do a “Christmas in July” promo at the brewery, where they tap a few kegs for a few days and Clevelanders black out in unconscious glee. Again in October, the begin the real seasonal release at the brewery with a one week tap-only period and then they begin distributing.

The brewpub at Great Lakes is amazing. They are located on West side of Cleveland, very close to downtown in the “Westside Market” area. As I remember, the Brewpub was the first non-smoking establishment in Cleveland and has always offered a full locally-produced food regimen. (Note: the sausages are amazing)

On top of the food and grog – the Brewery also offers tours and a hefty gift shop where you can pick up pub exclusives (im looking at you Lake Erie Monster, the 2x IPA) and other garb.

If you are stuck in the NW – or elsewhere outside the nether-regions of the Midwest (i dont blame you), you likely cannot get Great Lakes beer. Thats ok because there is a heck of a shop in Cleveland, that can help you out. Rozi’s Wine House carries an amazing selection of beers. They will ship to wherever. Call them up and make an order.

The luscious x-mas grog can be purchased at your local (Midwest only – damn) beer shop, up until about January 10. Do not wait, because at the rate I am moving now, I will have bought out all beer stores and it will be stored in my Seattle basement.

 

Bathing in Christmas Ale: A 30 Day Holiday Journey

December 6, 2010 1 comment

Though 11 days: Stille Nacht tops the quality list.

There is a writer out there who does a beer challenge every once in a while called 100 beers, 30 days. I am not her. But, I am sorry that the challenge mentioned herein somewhat resembles it. I’m doing it all for Christmas.

When I decided to move 1000s of miles away from my family and live the professional life, I recognized a deep dark hole in my holiday season. The holidays are meant to spent with the family, gathering about in funky clothing, before the yule log, sipping egg nog and smelling piney air. I miss all of that specter.

From my 512 square foot condo, I am a man restrained. I cannot lug a tree from the lot; I cannot set lights in my window. I have become deprived of the most festive season of all.

Well, it’s not happening again. I have decided to fight back with a furious celebration of Christmas in a glass. That’s right – 30 days of Christmas beer.

Starting on Thanksgiving, I began a 30 day journey through holiday-inspired brew. We have many fine choices up here in the Northwest, and I intend to get to them all. Of course, many nights will be filled with my old faithful – Great Lakes Christmas Ale – but I am making a concerted effort to diversify the intake.

Please follow my adventure on Facebook, where I will post one new Christmas beer tasting per evening. I have already posted the first 11 days of beer. Check them out by following this link.

At the conclusion, I promise to post a ranking list of my favorites. I will be ranking these beers based both on their ability to harness Christmas in a glass (style) and their ability to put me in the holiday spirit (quality).

If you are drinking Christmas beer – let us know! Happy Holidays from your friends at BeerBlotter.com.

 

Today in Portland: New Old Lompoc Throws a Holiday Beer Release Party

November 30, 2010 Leave a comment

Lompoc is seriously underrated.

Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza or choose to not partake in religious festivities- you can still drink damn good beer. This holiday season, New Old Lompoc is releasing 8 beers.

The Lompoc brewers have been as busy as elves preparing for the holiday season. This year, they are releasing eight different holiday beers – including two for Hanukkah. Come join Jerry, Dave, Bryan, Zach & Sam at the Lompoc Holiday Beers Release Party today – Tuesday, Nov. 30th – from 4 to 10 pm at the Lompoc Sidebar, located at 3901 N Williams Ave. next to Pix Patisserie.

This year’s offerings include Blitzen Golden Ale, Brewdolph Belgian Style Red, C-Son’s Greetings Imperial IPA , Holiday Cheer Porter, Jolly Bock German Style Bock, Old Tavern Rat Barley Wine, 8 Malty Nights Chocolate Rye, and Bourbon Barrel Aged 8 Malty Nights.

All beers will be on tap at all five Lompoc pubs (New Old Lompoc, Hedge House, Oaks Bottom, Fifth Quadrant and Sidebar) November 30. Two of the beers, C’son’s Greetings and Bourbon Barrel Aged 8 Malty Nights will also be available in 22 ounce bottles – great stocking stuffers!

Also, Lompoc will be pouring a special brew at the Holiday Ale Festival in Portland this Wednesday through Sunday.  If you go, try the Franc’ly Brewdolph, a Belgian style red ale brewed with the Belgian Ardennes yeast strain in October ’09 and aged in Cabernet Franc barrels for 13 months. It was then blended in a tank with the this year’s Brewdolph.  It has a malty and creamy body, a mild fruitiness, and a spicy, oak flavor.

What better gift than the gift of beer? None. Below is the list of beers being released:

Blitzen is a holiday golden ale brewed with figs, cinnamon and nutmeg.  It’s light bodied with fruity and spicy flavors and an aroma reminiscent of bread pudding (4.9% ABV).  Brewdolph Belgian style red ale features a malty and creamy body. Brewed with the Belgian Ardennes yeast strain, it boasts a mild fruitiness and a spicy clove character (7.7% ABV).

C-Son’s Greetings is the big brother to the brewery’s popular C-Note.   It features a rich caramel malty body with an endless developing hop presence from all seven of the “C” hops – Crystal, Cluster, Cascade, Chinook, Centennial, Columbus and Challenger (8% ABV).  Holiday Cheer is a robust vanilla porter that combines big chocolate flavor and a full body with mellow vanilla notes, compliments of whole vanilla beans in the conditioning tank (6.8% ABV).

Jolly Bock is a lager brewed with a generous amount of Munich malt to develop the deep amber color and rich malt flavor. The malty flavor is balanced with a spicy hop bitterness (7.3% ABV).  Old Tavern Rat is a dark amber colored barleywine that was aged for almost a year prior to its release.  The beer’s strong bitterness is balanced with the sweetness of caramel and toffee flavors (9.4% ABV).

Portland’s first Hanukkah seasonal, 8 Malty Nights is a Chocolate Rye that features a roasted chocolate flavor and a sweet finish. It is dark brown in color and lightly hopped with English style hops (6.5% ABV).  Bourbon Barrel Aged 8 Malty Nights was brewed for Hannukah 2009 and aged in bourbon barrels for nine months.  It features a roasted chocolate flavor with hints of bourbon and oak (6.5% ABV).

We’ll also be pouring a special brew at the Holiday Ale Festival this Wednesday through Sunday.  If you go, try our Franc’ly Brewdolph, a Belgian style red ale brewed with the Belgian Ardennes yeast strain in October ’09 and aged in Cabernet Franc barrels for 13 months.  It was then blended in a tank with the this year’s Brewdolph.  It has a malty and creamy body, a mild fruitiness, and a spicy, oak flavor.

Thanksgiving Gut: The Brew of the Day

November 27, 2009 1 comment

We had a heck of a spread - including this wonderful Treblehook.

We have arisen from the ashes of Thanksgiving this morning to find about 12 lbs of turkey remaining (YES!) and about 5 lbs of gut remaining (Damn.). But the Beer Blotter festivities were for the record books, and the friends and family attendance was quite pleased with the food…..and more importantly the grog.

The list from last night is long. The Blotter had 18 bottles and 3 kegs up for tasting among its guests. But amongst all that beauty, a few stood tall. Utilizing a moderate budget, we were able to find a few great beers that earn recognition this morning.

(1) Red Hook Treblehook

This beer is produced on a limited basis during the early fall and winter months, generally right in time for GABF. We had this beer out at the brewery in Woodinville, WA back in October  – and we were floored. Wanting to get a more up close and personal look, we added a bottle to the Thanksgiving list.

Notes from the Brewery:

“Treblehook is vigorously hopped and patiently aged with aromatic malt and spicy hop notes.  Smooth and complex, this beer is carefully brewed by hand with sublte caramel, toffee and chocolate notes”

Style: Barley Wine

ABV: 10.1%

Malts: Pale, Caramel, Special Aromatic, Flaked Barley, Black, Melenodin

Hops: Cascade, Palisades, Chinook, Simcoe

Bitterness Units: 52 IBU

Original Gravity: 22

Brewed Since: 2007

Shelf Life: 365 days

Awards: Gold Medal 2008 Great American Beer Festival, Silver Medal 2009 Great American Beer Festival

Cellaring: Can be cellared for up to 3 years

The bitterness rating might be an undershoot. This beer is hoppy and has the typical floral and spiced citrus flavorings of the Simcoe hop. The hop/malt balance of this beer is very interesting – in a very good way. The beer allows both the floral hop and caramel malt flavors exist independently, not muddling either taste.

This beer is very similar to Avery Brewing’s Hog Heaven. The difference is complexity and finish. The Treblehook finish is pleasing – adding molasses smoothness to the end of the glass.

This is a GABF favorite. In 2008, it took gold. This year it followed up with a silver. We can see why everyone seems to like it.

 

(2) Deschutes Abyss 2009

No need for introduction on this bad boy. This is a perpetual 100 on Rate Beer and a repeat medal winner at GABF. This Stout is legendary and probably the best of the NW (Sorry Walking Man Cherry Stout). This year’s version is the 4th release and does not offer any changes – which is a very good thing.

Notes from the Brewery:

“The Abyss has immeasurable depth inviting you to explore and discover its rich, complex profile. Hints of molasses, licorice and other alluring flavors draw you in further and further with each sip. And at 11% alcohol by volume, you will want to slowly savor each and every ounce.

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2009 marks the fourth release of this dark and mysterious imperial stout. Limited availability in wax-dipped 22-ounce bottles and on draft at a few select establishments.”

“The Abyss was one of those beers I didn’t want to end. I was totally blown away – this is precious stuff.” Christian DeBenedetti, beer writer and Men’s Journal contributor”

Click here for a thorough review of The Abyss by James ‘Dr. Fermento’ Roberts!

Silver Medal, Imperial Stout
2008 European Beer Star Awards

Gold Medal, Imperial Stout
2007 Great American Beer Festival

Best Beer Above 7%, International Champion Beer & Supreme Champion
2007 International Beer Challenge

#1 Best Stouts & Porters
2007 Men’s Journal October Issue

Gold Medal, Strong Ales
2007 California Brewer’s Festival

Gold Medal, Stout Category
2007 San Diego County Fair

Gold Medal, Imperial Stout Category
2007 North American Beer Awards

Gold Medal, Strong Ale Category
2007 West Coast Brew Fest

Bronze Medal, Imperial Stout Category
2007 Australian International Beer Awards

Food Pairings: Caramelized Onions and Abyss Infused Cream Cheese on Pepper Crackers

We will agree with all of the award organizations above, this beer simply cannot be beat. Abyss stands alongside elite Imperial Stouts like Three Floyd’s Dark Lord, Bells Expedition and Alesmith Speedway Stout. Deschutes is able to keep up this quality even though it is producing a larger volume on a larger scale.

This year’s version is very appealing, tasting almost identical to the 2008 version. We saved the Abyss until desert, right after the pumpkin pie, pumpkin cheesecake, chocolate mousse and butterscotch chow mein – oh yes. It went amazingly well with the butterscotch and chocolate flavors present in our desserts.

(3) Diamond Knot Ho-Ho

We are still awaiting the few shipments of Great Lakes Christmas Ale which is on its way. So we decided to grab Diamond Knot’s Ho-Ho and Corsendonk’s Christmas Ale. None of us were very impressed with the Corsendonk offering, and an unwilling member (me) was hesitant to crack his bottle of Hair of the Dog Doggie Claws. Diamond Knot’s offering was impressive and added to the holiday essence.

Notes from the Brewery:

A robust, ‘Winter Warmer’ Ale, ruby brown in color with a slightly sweet, fruity nose. Very hoppy, yet balanced with a residual sweetness.”

7.7% ABV

60 IBUs

 

This Christmas beer has a great hop nose and finish. It is very sweet, but not syrupy in any way. The beer has a wonderful light citrus spice while having the perfect x-mas ale body. I suggest grabbing one of these bottles and drinking it pre-meal.


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