Friday, December 30, 2011

Christmas Beer


The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud and drinking beer.  Christmas beer, that is.

Just like I'd never heard of Beer Nog until my recent post, I have never heard of Christmas beer.  But apparently, there really is such a thing.  I was reading about it on the blogs [1] and thought to myself, now there's something I've gotta try.  So while we were in the greater Pittsburgh area for Christmas, I stopped by Bocktown again (previously posted about them here).  I knew they wouldn't disappoint - they had an entire cooler dedicated to seasonal beers!  So I picked up the most appropriately-named brew they had: Christmas Ale.

So what does a Christmas beer taste like?  I was expecting notes of pine or peppermint, though I can't say I was excited for either one of those flavors in a beer.  Gingerbread would have been good, though (hint to all brewers![2]  Turns out that at least this particular libation was nothing like that.

BeerAdvocate.com (BA) classifies Breckenridge Brewery's "Christmas Ale" as a Winter Warmer.  What's a Winter Warmer, you ask?  BA describes it, in part, as having a "big malt presence, both in flavor and body. The color ranges from brownish reds to nearly pitch black. Hop bitterness is generally low, leveled and balanced, but hop character can be pronounced. Alcohol warmth is not uncommon." [3]

As you can see from the picture above, Christmas Ale had a very dark reddish-brown hue with an off-white, frothy head.  There was nothing particularly distinctive about its smell - it smelled like...well, beer.  The taste was about the same as the smell - nothing special and tasted like a plain ol' beer.  Of course, there's nothing wrong with beer tasting like beer - I was just surprised it didn't have some special flavor to it.  The ale had a medium mouthfeel [4], and it had a slight carbonation-like bite to it.  It was a little bitter and had a bit of an aftertaste, though not unpleasant.  All in all, this Christmas beer was okay, though I don't need to have one every Yuletide [5].

BeerAdvocate rates it a 79, while the Brothers [6] rate it an 83.
RateBeer.com rates it a 57 overall with a harsh 12 for style, which they classify as an American Strong Ale.

Granted, I've only had one Christmas beer, but I'm wondering - is Christmas beer a gimmick?  What do you think?  Leave a comment to discuss, or send me a Tweet: @BrewReviewMann.

As Jon says on his blog, TheBrewSite.com, Beery Christmas and a Hoppy Holidays!

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Footnotes:
[1] For readers not familiar with the phrase "the blogs", it is simply a way of saying that authors on more than one blog were discussing this topic.
[2] BeerAdvocate.com, a favorite reference of mine, lists a few different gingerbread beers here.
[3] Source: http://beeradvocate.com/beer/style/47.  You can also read about the many other styles at this link.
[4] I've never really talked about mouthfeel on Justin's Brew Review before, so a quick tutorial is in order.  Mouthfeel is the perception of body in the beer.  Body is typically classified as light, medium, or full.  Each style has an appropriate amount of body to be expected.  (Taken from http://www.alabev.com/taste.htm)
[5] As I was typing "Yuletide", I had the thought that it would make a good Christmas beer name.  So I BA'd it (akin to "Googling" something, but on BeerAdvocate's site instead of Google - okay, yes I made that up...but I'm hoping it catches on!), and sure enough, there are a few Yuletide beers available.
[6] "The Brothers", Jason and Todd Alström, started BeerAdvocate.com in 1996.  Read about it here.