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.
Most of us around the country experience 4 seasons or at least some variation. I love the change in seasons and the beers that make you appreciate the good things about each one.
Summer: is a season full of sunshine, heat, the beach and being outside. When it comes to a beer, you need something to quench your thirst, cool you down and evoke some flavor. Here, I would go with an IPA, a single, maybe a double. An IPA is appropriately served at a chilled temperature, provides some festive flavors and is a drink you can sit back and relax with, in the sand, outside at a bar or on a roof.
Fall: a transitional season as we gear up for the winter months, is a personal favorite. Here in Seattle, fall generally brings warm days and crisp nights. September marks the season of Pumpkin picking, apple cider, foliage, Halloween and thoughts of Thanksgiving. Not to mention pumpkin beers. Pale Ales, IPAs, Stouts filled with unusual spices and pumpkin is something I treasure every year. As my palette develops, I have come to love that extra spice in a beer, be it black pepper, ginger, nutmeg or cinnamon.
A quote from Beeradvocate.com about pumpkin ales,
Often released as a fall seasonal, Pumpkin Ales are quite varied. Some brewers opt to add hand-cut pumpkins and drop them in the mash, while others use puree or pumpkin flavoring. These beers also tend to be spiced with pumpkin pie spices, like: ground ginger, nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon, and allspice. Pumpkin Ales are typically mild, with little to no bitterness, a malty backbone, with some spice often taking the lead. Many will contain a starchy, slightly thick-ish, mouthfeel too. In our opinion, best versions use real pumpkin, while roasting the pumpkin can also add tremendous depth of character for even better results, though both methods are time-consuming and tend to drive brewmasters insane.
Winter: for most is a daunting, treacherous, long haul of a season with the exception of the Christmas holiday. This winter season, curl up on the couch in a flannel blanket, light your fire, be with friends and family and drink some damn good beer. When I think of winter, I think of lots of rich colors, flavors, smells and sounds. It’s pretty much a sensory overload- you are hot, then your freezing, then your hungry but you eat 5lbs of cookies and your stuffed. Winter pushes the extremes which is why you need an extreme beer to complement the season. Stouts are rich, smooth, thick, served at room temperature and will warm you right up. Higher in alcohol and packing the flavor regiments you need on a cold winter’s night, stouts are very diverse. Brewers are known to add fruit flavors, such as sour cherries, sweet flavors, such as chocolate, savory flavors, such as sweet potatoes and some even age stouts in whisky or bourbon barrels leaving the drinker with a fiery sensation climbing down their throat.
Spring: just puts you in a good mood. You can finally step outdoors without the bitterness of winter. Cherry blossoms are in bloom, colors are glowing from the flowers and trees…in celebration of this change in season, a season that gives you hope for warmer weather, I pick the Saison/Farmhouse Ale style. Saisons are generally brewed in the winter to be enjoyed during those warmer months and tend to be on the lighter side with fruity, earthy and spicy aromas and flavors. It is the perfect complement to the warmer days, the fresh flowers and signs of life.
So thats that, a beer for the seasons. Enjoy every last one of them!