The eve of Saint Nicholas Day is a good a day as any to raise a toast and a cup of cheer to the magical effects of human goodness: With Saint Nicholas speed as it were, the patron saint of brewers.
I find it difficult to bah humbug those who think of cellaring holiday beers. For myself, nothing is quite so great as a freshly completed limited edition, so I do not consider ‘putting down’ (sounds like organized crime lingo) a few special edition bottles for some time later. I’ve always had the suspicion that people who obsess about ‘vertical tastings’, have a secret desire to be wine collectors. But what I am concerned with here is beer, and when it comes to holiday beer, it is most certainly, time to drink.
One of the great beauties of fresh beer is that you get to taste what the beer actually tastes like when it came out of the brewery. Affligem Noel, available fresh at the grocery store this year, is a prime example of what world class beer actually tastes like. How is it possible to describe its enormous quality and character? And without those typical musty notes attributed to cellared versions? Fresh is best. I would say for all holiday beers, whether spiced (wassail) versions or not. Sure many a winter beer will keep for quite some time, but that is most certainly not the point, because holiday beers are designed to be festive and celebratory.
Wassail recipes abound. 21st Amendment Brewery’s Fireside Chat is quite a kick both graphically and physically. A six-pack of cans containing strong spiced winter ale, with a depiction of FDR enjoying a holiday glass and a smoke. The ale itself is a powerful statement for beer in cans. Made at the old Cold Spring Brewery in Cold Spring, Minnesota. One of those “ho ho whoa!” brews available at this time of year.
“When this result was brought about, old Fezziwig, clapping his hands to stop the dance. cried out, “Well done!” and the fiddler plunged his hot face into a pot of porter, especially provided for that purpose.”
Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol
The game is afoot…