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Christmas Beer Recap

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My favorite time of the year is the Halloween through Christmas corridor, and part of that is the seasonal beer we get. It's not fashionable to be into Christmas beers, winter warmers and the like, but I love them and always make room for some of them during the holidays. I know I just got done mentioning that I don't feel the need to write about every beer I drink, but now that the holidays are over, I need some way to occupy my time that doesn't involve poopsocking it through Fallout 4, so here's a sampling of two beers I drank for last minute Christmas wrapping fuel, and two that were gifts.

Ballantine Burton Ale

Ballantine Burton Ale - So Pabst revived the Ballantine name with a decent IPA, and for Christmas, they put together this little barleywine number. According to a bunch of strangers on the internets, this is the single best beer Pabst has ever made. Let's see, shall we? Pours a clear amber orange color with a finger of head and some lacing. Smells sweet, lots of dank, piney hops and a little dark fruit. Taste is also quite sweet, more of the dark fruit here, but the hops balance things out without feeling too bitter in the finish. Mouthfeel is full bodied, tight carbonation, hints of booze, a sipper for sure. Overall, it's a solid little barleywine, tasty, and I haven't had something like this in a long time... B+

Beer Nerd Details: 11.3% ABV bottled (500 ml). Drank out of a snifter on 12/24/15. Vintage: 2015.

Samichlaus Classic 2010

Samichlaus Classic 2010 - It's become something of a Kaedrin tradition to do last minute Christmas wrapping whilst watching cheesy Christmas movies and imbibing a Samichlaus of some kind (or maybe, um, two of them). This year was no exception, and in the spirit of dipping into the cellar to drink some of my aged stock, I grabbed a 5 year old bottle. Pours a deep dark amber orange color with a half finger of head that quickly disappears. Smells intensely of clean, dark fruits, very sweet, a little booze. Tastes very sweet, sticky, sugary sweet, with muted dark fruit, and did I mention it was sweet? Not cloying though, age has treated this well. Mouthfeel is full bodied and rich, well carbonated. Overall, it's very good with some age on it, among the better I've had. I'm going with a high B+

Beer Nerd Details: 14% ABV bottled (500 ml). Drank out of a snifter on 12/24/15. Vintage: 2010.

Samuel Smith Yorkshire Stingo

Samuel Smith Yorkshire Stingo - My brother isn't a big beer guy, but usually manages to get some decent stuff. For instance, this year's selections included a Sierra Nevada Celebration, a La Fin Du Monde, and a few other beers I genuinely love yet rarely revisit. Then there's this one, which sounds like the most interesting of the lot on paper... English Strong Ale aged in oak barrels for over a year? Well sign me up! Alas, this runs into that Belgian pale ale character that I always find distressing and the oak aging doesn't feel harmonious at all. Something odd going on here. Pours a murky amber color with a finger of off white head that sticks around for a bit. Smell has a lot of fruity character to it, some toffee and maybe some butterscotch, possibly diacetyl. Taste has more of that dark fruit, raisins, toffee, butterscotch, and a hint of tart astringency. Not, like, infected, but I think it's the result of that barrel aging. Mouthfeel is well carbonated but medium to full bodied. Overall, this seems well crafted, but it's just not really my thing. C

Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV bottled (500 ml). Drank out of a tulip glass.

Ridgeway Lump of Coal - A gift from a coworker, I knew I was in for trouble because I've never had a Ridgeway that I've ever liked, despite the fact that they put out, like, ten Christmas beers. Pours a clear dark brown color with amber highlights and a finger of off white head. Does not smell like a stout at all, getting that toffee and butterscotch and diacetyl here. Taste is along the same lines, diacetyl and maybe even some skunking, this is terrible! Notes of death and decay. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, well carbonated, appropriate for the style I guess, but the problem lies not here. Overall, this is terrible! It doesn't even warrant taking the time to upload the image I took. I don't hand these out often, but this one earned it: F

Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV bottled (500 ml). Drank out of a tulip glass.

A decidedly mixed bag this year. I shall have to endeavor to do better next year. In the meantime, New Years Eve drinking was more palatable, so I'll cover that one tomorrow.

Polishing Off Christmas Beer Season

Did I say I only had 2 Christmas beers left? Turns out there were more. Rather than belabor the holiday beers, I figured I'd just finish them off, all in one post.

  • Mikkeller Red/White Christmas - Inspired by the colors of Christmas, red and white, Mikkeller made this combination between an Imperial Red Ale (i.e. the Red) Belgian Wit (i.e. the White). Is this anything more than a gimmick? Well, I'll tell you, if there's wheat in this beer, I couldn't detect it (and only found out about it after the fact), but there are spices added. Of course, the spices are subtle, but there's definitely something going on here. Whatever the case, it's a pretty great beer:

    Mikkeller Red White Christmas

    Pours a dark reddish brown color with fluffy head and tons of lacing on the glass afterwards. Smell is fully of earthy hops and citrus, maybe a little pine. The taste is sweet with a spicy bite and a well balanced hop bitterness in the finish. The hoppiness trends towards the citrus and pine, and as the beer warms, some complexities emerge in the taste as well. Mouthfeel is great, smooth and eminently drinkable. I was taking pretty big swigs of this one. Surprisingly medium to full bodied, with lots of complexity. It's not quite Yule Smith, but it was quite enjoyable. B+ (Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV on tap. Drank out of a tulip glass on 12/29/11.)
  • Ridgeway Reindeer's Revolt - A Christmas gift from my brother (apparently picked out by my nieces, as they liked the funny looking reindeer on the label). As it turns out, I've sampled this before, but neglected to rate it. I was pretty middle of the road on it in that context (a larger tasting with lots of other beers), but by itself, well, it just didn't stand up. Pours a clear orange amber color with a very small amount of bubbly head. Aroma is very English pale ale to me - bready, a little citrus, maybe even some raisins... but there's also some buttery diacetyl notes (typically something that doesn't go over well with me). Taste is sweet, a little bready, with some light caramel/toffee flavors there, but I can never seem to get past the prominent buttery diacetyl in these beers. Mouthfeel is ok, maybe a little light on carbonation, but smooth and drinkable. The beer gets slightly better as it warms up, but this was still disappointing. C- (Beer Nerd Details: 6% ABV bottled (500 ml capped). Drank out of a tulip glass on 12/29/11.)
  • Ridgeway Pickled Santa - Another Christmas gift from my brother. Ridgeway is a brewery that makes 22 beers, and I swear, half of them are Christmas beers. 11 Christmas beers. And most of them seem to be mediocre at best, this one not being an exception. It's definitely better than the Reindeer's Revolt - more spicy, more head, less diacetyl - but there's nothing particularly special about this beer either. C+ (Beer Nerd Details: 6% ABV bottled (500 ml capped). Drank out of a tulip glass on 12/29/11.)
So there you have it. That wraps up this year's Christmas beer blogging extravaganza. Regular beer blogging will resume next week, and boy did I have a doozy to start the new year off right!

Decembeer Club

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Towards the beginning of every month, a bunch of friends from work and I meet up at a local BYOB and bring some new/interesting beers to try. This month's haul:


It was a mostly holiday ale theme. Conditions aren't exactly ideal for tasting, so take the following with a grain of salt, but here's what I thought of each:

  • Affligem Noël: My contribution and one of my favorites of the night. Much like their dubbel, but a little spicier. Great beer that I plan to revisit in more detail this holiday season (I have another bottle on my shelf).
  • Anchor Special Christmas Ale 2010 - My other contribution, I've already written about this, but it went over well with other folks too...
  • Delirium Noël: Raisiny and sweet, another popular beer and something I want to revisit in detail.
  • Ridgeway Insanely Bad Elf: Super boozy red ale. Not terrible, but the high alcohol overpowers everything. I'm not sure I could drink a 12 oz bottle of this, but it's interesting nonetheless...
  • Ridgeway Reindeer's Revolt - Not as dark as the Delirium, but it shares that certain raisin smell and flavor, a little syrupy sweet too. Not bad.
  • Ridgeway Reindeer Droppings - Doesn't sound appetizing, but a solid light flavored beer (technically an English Pale Ale). Not a favorite, but a decent session beer.
  • Ridgeway Warm Welcome: A reasonable brown ale, I think this one was overshadowed by some of the above beers.
  • Southern Tier Unearthly IPA - Solid DIPA, but not the top of the line (like Dogfish 90 Minute or Stone IPA)
  • Ridgeway Lump of Coal Stout: I suppose this is a reasonable stout, but there's nothing special about it and there's no holiday style to it either. Not offensively bad or anything, but not especially noteworthy either.
  • New Belgium Fat Tire Amber Ale - Nothing really holiday about this, but a solid session beer (I assume that this is someone's Yuengling Lager style beer).
  • Unibroue La Fin Du Monde - A first time beer club attendee brought this. Hard to fault him for that, as I love this beer.

Well, that about covers it! Again, not an especially rigorous tasting session, with the palate cleansed by a burger and fries, but still, as always, a really good time. After beer club, a few of us hit up the local beer distributer. It being PA, we could only buy a full case of stuff, but someone became enamored with Anchor's Christmas ale and bought a case of that, and four of us went in on a St. Bernardus variety pack (each of us got 6 St Bernardus beers, which is pretty awesome). As usual, I'm already looking forward to next month.


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Hi, my name is Mark, and I like beer.

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