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. (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. 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,, Beery Christmas and a Hoppy Holidays!

[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], a favorite reference of mine, lists a few different gingerbread beers here.
[3] Source:  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
[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 in 1996.  Read about it here.

Monday, December 26, 2011

A Taste of Brew Reviews to Come

Quite unexpectedly, I made out on the Christmas gift front, largely due to a generous gift from my wife's cousin, Nick (thanks again!).  I received 18 unique beers, which means you can expect some upcoming brew reviews!  Of course, it'll take me quite some time to get through all these, so please be patient!

Here's a list of the beers (from left to right):

Front row
  • Sixpoint Brewery's Autumnation (6.7% ABV)
  • Williamsburg AleWerks's Tavern Ale (5.6% ABV)
  • Blue Mountain Brewery's Blue Mountain Classic Lager (5.3% ABV)
  • Starr Hill's Double Platinum (8.6% ABV)
  • 21st Amendment Brewery's Fireside Chat (7.9% ABV)
  • Pabst Brewing's Stroh's (4.6% ABV)
Middle row
  • Williamsburg AleWerks's Pumpkin Ale (8.0% ABV)
  • Blue Mountain Brewery's Lights Out Holiday Ale (7.0% ABV)
  • Williamsburg AleWerks's Washington's Porter (6.4% ABV)
  • Williamsburg AleWerks's Coffeehouse Stout (5.4% ABV)
  • Port City Brewing's Monumental IPA (6.3% ABV)
  • Williamsburg AleWerks's Red Marker Ale (5.0% ABV)
Back row
  • Southern Tier Brewing's Pumking (8.6% ABV)
  • Thirsty Dog Brewing's Old Leghumper (6.7% ABV)
  • Stone Brewing's Stone IPA (6.9% ABV)
  • Stone Brewing's Stone Levitation Ale (4.4% ABV)
  • Stone Brewing's Oaked Arrogant Bastard Ale (7.2% ABV)
  • Stone Brewing's Stone Pale Ale (5.4% ABV)
I look forward to enjoying these brews and sharing my tasting experiences with you.

Trusting that you all had a wonderfully Merry Christmas.  Prost!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Beer Nog

Just in time for the holidays - a recipe for Beer Nog!  I had never heard of such a thing until the November / December 2011 issue of DRAFT Magazine (if you have your own copy, just turn to page 14).

Mmm, Beer Nog!
(Photo Courtesy of
So how do you make Beer Nog?  Glad you asked!  The article and recipe in DRAFT Magazine was provided by Joe Stange of

  • 4 ounces strong ale*
  • 4 fresh eggs
  • 1/2 ounces Bourbon or dark rum
  • 2 dashes ground nutmeg or mace
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1-1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup cream
  • mixer
  • serving glasses [1]
  1. Separate the eggs.  Beat the sugar into the yolks until smooth.
  2. Stir the milk and cream into the yolk mixture.  Add 1 dash of spice and the whiskey or rum.  (Some recipes call for as much as 4 ounces of liquor; here, a bit of warmth is welcome, but too much can overwhelm the beer's flavor.)
  3. Beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form; fold into the nog mixture.
  4. Pour the beer into the serving glasses [1] and add the nog mixture.  Optional: Reserve some of the cream, whip and add a dollop to each glass.  Spring 1 dash of spice on top and serve.
Serves: 4

barleywine, Belgian strong, Christmas beer, or otherwise

I plan on mixing up my own batch of Beer Nog this holiday season -- how about you?  Looking forward to raising my glass - Prost!

[1] In his post on, Joe says that the DRAFT Magazine article said "snifter" rather than "serving glasses" so I made the correction here.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Beer Resources

In case you were wondering, it has been a little while since my last post.  I admit - I've been slacking!  But only in the beer blogging arena.  I've got a lot of ideas, so it's time to do a little writing!

Resources - that's the topic of today's post.  Besides Justin's Brew Review (shameless plug), what other sites, books, magazines, etc. are available to us fellow beer lovers (or otherwise interested readers)?  There are a LOT.  Seriously.  I'll name quite a few here and will undoubtedly miss a LOT.  Get the point?  Okay, good.  Here we go.

  • (affectionately known as BA) -- from their website, BA claims to be a "global, grassroots network, powered by an independent community of beer enthusiasts and industry professionals who are dedicated to supporting and promoting beer".  So what does this mean?  It means that if you want to learn about beer and tell others what you think about beer, this is the site for you!  This site appears to be very popular with beer snobs and geeks but is quite accessible to all.  Like most anything these days, they have built a social element in to their site.  (Check out my profile!)    Final item: their motto (read "credo") is "Respect Beer."
  • -- along with BA, RateBeer is highly referenced by beer reviewers.  From their website, RB writes that they are "widely recognized as the most accurate and most-visited source for beer information. RateBeer is an independent world site for craft beer enthusiasts and is dedicated to serving the entire craft beer community through beer education, promotion, and outreach".  This is a good place to visit to see what others think of a certain beer.
  • -- This unique "beerfinder" site helps people to track down, locate, and otherwise identify the right beer for them.  Their database allows the user to filter results by beer, brewery, country, style, ABV, "smart rating", and even calories.  As I suspected, the "smart rating" is a weighted average of ratings from multiple sites (The Opinionated Beer Page,, - unless you've managed to find and imbibe a bottle of the now retired Hazed and Confused, hopefully some of these sound familiar).  The site claims to "present you with the facts - stripped of any marketing influence", which sounds like a good idea to me.  We don't need the marketing hype - we want to know what our fellow beer drinkers think!
Apps for your mobile (and also websites):

  • Untappd -- Their slogan is *Drink Socially*, so you can take a guess at what this app is.  The world of social networking...coming to a pint near you.  From their website, "Untappd is a new way to socially share and explore the world of beer with your friends and the world. Curious what your friends are drinking or where they're hanging out?  Just check out their profile where you can toast and comment on their beers! Untapped will offer you beer recommendations based on what you and your friends have been enjoying, so you'll have no reason to not try something new!"
  • Pintley -- More social beer e-drinking.  From their website, "Pintley is a new kind of beer website--one that only recommends beer you're sure to love.  Unlike other beer sites, Pintley doesn't just know beer; it also knows you. [1] Pintley learns from your ratings and tasting notes to understand exactly what pleases your palate the most, so you can be your own beer expert."


  • The Oxford Companion to Beer by Garrett Oliver -- This is a very new book (published only two months ago in October 2011), and there has been quite a bit of discussion on the beer blogs about it.  The hardcover list price is $65 [2], and at the time of publication, Amazon has it listed for $39.  That's quite a deal for a 960-page book! Also according to Amazon, the book "features more than 1,100 A-Z entries written by 166 of the world's most prominent beer experts".
  • Tasting Beer by Randy Mosher -- This is an excellent reference book for all things beer.  Published in February 2009, this 256-page paperback book is the "insider's guide to the world's greatest drink".  From Amazon, "Mosher explores and explains the tasting experience, guiding readers to a better understanding of how every batch of beer is affected by recipe formulation, brewhouse procedures, yeasts, fermentations, carbonation, filtration, packaging, and much more. Readers will learn to identify the scents, colors, flavors, and mouth-feel of all the major beer styles".
  • Pennsylvania Breweries by Lew Bryson -- You may recall that my last blog post was about Lew.  Not only is he author of this book (and others), but he is a beer blogger.  And hopefully a beer blogger soon to have a TV show about beer blogging [3].  But I digress.  The 4th edition of PA Breweries was published in September 2010 and provides a comprehensive look at PA's 73 breweries and brewpubs [4].  I believe you can also pick up a copy at nearly any of the breweries mentioned in the book - I know for sure I've seen copies for sale at two of my favorite breweries, Tröegs and Yuengling.


  • DRAFT Magazine -- I subscribe to this well-written, bi-monthly publication.  It is an entertaining look at beer throughout the United States today.  It includes articles on beer, food, travels, and a combination of all three.  They always review a handful of beers from a few different beer styles.  At the time I'm writing this, you can subscribe for a year (6 issues) for $20, or you can opt for the more economical 2-year subscription (12 issues) for $30.
  • BeerAdvocate Magazine -- Published by [5], this monthly publication is yours for the low subscription fee of only $15 per year (12 issues).

There is also a multitude of beer blogs available for your reading pleasure.  I encourage you to check out the "Blog Roll" in the right-hand column of Justin's Brew Review.  The "Blog Roll" is simply a list of some of the blogs I follow.  They're pretty good...but you don't have to take my word for it!  Prost!

[1] It's scary when you think about how much information about us is actually "out there" for the whole world. While only slightly off-topic, check out this article (12/15/2011) about the amazing amount of information Facebook collected on someone in a year's time--including information that was supposed to have been deleted or removed.
[2] So that means you pay $75 at a brick and mortar bookstore, right?
[3] He needs our financial support.
[4] Although with the ever-increasing popularity of craft beer, I'm sure that there are more PA breweries and brewpubs around today. In fact, I'm sure of it - I know of three in York County, PA alone:  South CountyMudhook, and LiquidHero.  Lew also chronicles book updates online.
[5] Bet you wouldn't have guessed that if I hadn't told you.