Home For The Holidays, Part 5

You would have to have lived for awhile to comprehend the enormous changes in the beer universe over the last 30 years. Not so long ago, many people believed that Holiday beer simply meant putting a ribbon around a six-pack of Michelob… just as there are still some people who believe that bock is brewed in the spring, when breweries ‘clean out’ the bottoms of their vats.
On the other side of all this, there is a growing awareness that some fabled brews at Christmas time, which were once very difficult to obtain, have now been folded into the mainstream beer market. Being fairly old, I still remember when obtaining Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale, anywhere east of the Mississippi river, was very rare indeed. Now, at least until very recently, 12 pack boxes of SN Celebration could be obtained at the local Kroger, in ample supply.  It is hard to believe that not so long ago, even the late fabled beer hunter, Michael Jackson, wondered if there was an actual market for beers that put emphasis on hops. By gobs, that seems like ancient history now, where a whole generation of new beer drinkers arrived at drinking age when hops and flavorful brew has become a given, from Samuel Adams, Magic Hat, Sierra Nevada and Stone, among many others.
At one time, I foolishly believed I could sample all the winter-holiday offerings available. But logistics, state tax laws, put an end to that illusion. Even beers once available in the Midwest have disappeared, often because a brewery’s production schedule simply can not keep up with distribution demands. Then there are (and still are) those special beloved brews that get snapped up as soon as they become available. This year it was Shiner Holiday Cheer that immediately comes to mind, A unique brew that used peaches and pecans… it disappeared in less than a week.
One barely noticed offering this year, from The Lion Brewery in Wilkes-Barre, PA is the Stegmaier Holiday Warmer, a strong ale take on English Winter Ale. A showcase of malt strength, it is not always fully appreciated by some of the younger beer drinkers, who think that hops and all of its extreme presentations, is the last word on what is beer. The same people who will shell out big time bucks for a sixer of Bell’s Hopslam, because for them, it is the ultimate beer, sometimes have difficulty fathoming malty depths.
But this Christmas, I am pretty well set up, with Lakefront Holiday Spice Lager, Breckenridge Christmas Ale, Stegmaier Hol;iday Warmer, Left Hand’s Fade To Black, Sierra Nevada Celebration in the 24 ounce bottle,  etc etc…
As they say in the space program: “I am good to go and ready to launch.”
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, Thank you as always, my only prayer,
The Beer Doctor


Home For The Holidays Part 4

THE HOLIDAY BEER SEARCH CONTINUES might be the headline in a newspaper. The arrival of Dundee Festive Ale, from Rochester, New York, is indeed a welcome sight. One of the more affordable holiday offerings also happens to be one of the best. This is wassail that keeps the emphasis on being ale, with spices for support, rather than vice versa. In fact, I will not be coy about this, having tasted quite a few spiced ales this season, this is far better than that concoction Harpoon Brewery calls Winter Warmer.
I have always enjoyed Dundee Festive Ale, since it was introduced, but this year’s version is the best so far. There is plenty of flavors here, quite drinkable and smooth.
That’s all for now, Saint Nikolas day approaches. Prosit!