Tag Archives: celebration

Homeless For The Holidays

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 AleglcThe 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 edition43edThis 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.

bellxmas 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, Michigandarkhorsexmas 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.

Christmas Ale party 2017 square 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.

jubelaleThe 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.

index 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


One Time Only

When everything in the beer world seems out of sync, often with questionable nonsense being offered as the latest examples of superior beer, I only have to turn to Sierra Nevada’s Oktoberfest collaborations to remind me that are still breweries, as Carol Stoudt once famously said, that still remember and respect “the integrity of the beer”.

Sierra Nevada Oktoberfest 2017 is the latest German collaborative brew, this time with Brauhaus Miltenberger, known as Faust Miltenberger in Germany, but because the Faust brand is a trademark owned by AB-I it is not allowed in this context. So be it, this Oktoberfest 2017 is a malt forward recipe that is wonderfully complex and simultaneously quite drinkable oktoberfest2017bottlepint using the finest German malts and hops. this is yet another outstanding example of Sierra Nevada collaboration project success. This from a very large family owned brewery, “owned, operated and argued over” now producing beer on west and east sides of the country.

But the true magic of these collaborative efforts is that each of these Oktoberfests are one time only. Enjoy this great 2017 Oktoberfest while it is available.
The Beer Doctor


beer_7_baltimore_arrowbockbeerlabel.jpgblack-label-bock.jpgbluffcitylabel.jpgbock4.jpgbock_label.gifcc_bock.jpggold-bock-label2.jpgsamuel_adams_double_bock.gifstarbockl1.jpgTake me bock, take me all the way bock. There is nothing like the goat beer in the time before Easter. Of course there are other bock celebrations at different times of the year; Christmas and May bock come to mind. But it is the bock in the time of Lent that has the strongest roots in American beer culture, including myths and misinformation that still exist in some circles, even today. No, bock is not beer made from the bottoms of the tanks during spring cleaning, an urban legend that has persisted for generations. And no, the goat symbol associated with bock is not some pagan symbol of passage, but rather an iconic designation that this is a beer with kick. It all goes back centuries, to German monks who were encouraged to cut down on eating, as part of a pre-Easter fast. The malty rich beer was a pleasant way to imbibe nutrition. Such was the case with the Paulaner Brewery in 1634 in Munich, where the monks created the first trademarked dopplebock known as Salvator, still brewed to this very day. The use of the a-t-o-r ending has been adopted by many a brewery as tribute to this original style of beer. Thus you will find: illuminator, bajavator, optimator, celebrator, etc. In 1634, the first dopplebock or double bock was created. In 1643, the first Christmas dopplebock was created and it too is still available, it is known as Wurzburger Holiday Bier. But back to the bock at hand…
Bock beer was the one link to great beer when the United States was mired in pedestrian forms of pale lager. Spring bock was when for a short but blessed time, beer with full flavor became available. Many people who enjoyed these beers had no idea of its cultural significance… some folks associated with St. Patrick’s day! But one thing was certain, bock was always and will continue to be a wonderful style of beer.
With the craft brewing renaissance in the United States, bock as a style for serious consideration came into vogue. Soon, Samuel Adams offered their Double Bock, an 8 percent plus abv of full malt strength and character. Soon there were other takes on bock, including wheat brewed or weizenbock, made world famous by the global standard: Schneider and Sohn’s Aventinus. This is where bock ceases to become a bottom fermented beer and becomes an ale.
But it is with single bock that I am most concerned with here. Traditional American bock that was higher in strength than normal lagers, but not overwhelmingly so. Huber bock comes to mind, so does Berghoff Bock and Shiner Bock, and what is probably my favorite U.S. single bock: Saranac Black Diamond Bock, a beloved recipe from the Matt Brewing Company in Utica, New York.
I have experienced many wonderful bock beers over decades. There was Pabst Blue Ribbon bock, Augsburger bock, Point Bock, Genesee bock, Hudepohl Bock, and Schoenling Old Tyme Bock. All of these brews I have very fond memories of. And to be honest with you, I wish all these recipes and more would be revived. By all means drink some bock in the spirit it is intended, a celebration of life! As always thank you!lb.jpg