There was a time when people held on to the quaint notion that the marketing of the holidays was performed within a limited window of opportunity. Thus, you had complaints about Christmas decorations being put on display before Halloween was concluded. But in this neoliberal age of on-line smart phone shopping, that is so 20th century.
The same principle applies to the release of winter/holiday beers. It used to be the short window approach, but now, it is best to sample these beers as soon as you obtain them. In other words: the fresher the better.
This certainly applies to Great Lakes Christmas AleThe state of Ohio’s favorite wassail, the Christmas Ale recipe speaks for itself. Certainly the beer fans of Ohio have spoken. That is why you find stacks of this ale, often in convenience stores. The unbeatable combination of spices and honey make this a much anticipated annual treat. The fresher the better.
When it comes to American wassail, the grandfather of the style is of course, Anchor’s “Our Special Ale” 43rd editionThis the first Anchor Christmas Ale since the brewery was acquired by Sapporo Holdings. This is my 27th sampling of this legendary ale, where the recipe changes from year to year. Often in the last twenty years there was a touch of what has been described as a spruce essence. But this year that signature has all but disappeared, along with the associated aromatics. Instead is a deep malty presentation accentuated with unnamed spices. This produces a semi-dry dark chocolate palate that is the strongest edition to date at 6.7%. Malty from start to finish, with subtle complexity , and despite all legacy implications (or the lack thereof) this is a very enjoyable Holiday ale.
There is that old overused saying that if it’s not broke don’t fix it! This certainly applies to Bell’s Brewery Christmas Ale. A Scotch ale, this is a classic wee heavy take on holiday festivities. To be clear, this is a beer I love to drink.
Then there is from Marshall, Michigan Dark Horse Brewing’s 4ELF ale, a winter warmer spiced ale, where cinnamon and cloves are combined with malts to create a palate that produces an impression of vanilla, swimming in a sea of dark chocolate. Despite the enthusiastic complexity, this is a surprisingly drinkable ale.
It has been 2 years since Anheuser-Busch InBev bought the Breckenridge Brewery. Besides being banished to the Craft Brewers Association of outer darkness, the real question is: has the recipe of their Christmas Ale changed? A famous Scotch ale take for the holiday, the recipe seems unchanged and delicious. The only difference is the corporate streamlined label and packaging, which is graphically colder than their original presentation.
The 30th Anniversary of Deschutes Brewery Jubelale reveals that this recipe has stood the test of time. A five malt, five hop, creation that is spicy without the use of spices. Even the IBU rating of 65 is somewhat misleading. This is not some over hopped bitter bomb IPA, rather, it is a masterful example of American winter ale.
A spiced dunkelweizen bock or as it is said on the carton: wheat bock with spices. I would not be surprised that many people in the beer world have forgotten that Samuel Adams Winter Lager has been made annually for 28 years. Not that there haven’t been a few tweaks over the years ( I still recall the first time they employed Saigon cinnamon) but this tried and true recipe I have always loved. I wish the Christmas Bock tradition would return because bock is my very favorite style of beer.
Love and peace, and that’s not so funny in these tumultuous times.
The Beer Doctor