Of elf and woe

Of all the tastings I’ve done over the years, I suppose I looked forward to this one the least. There were good friends and tasty beers involved, but as beers go, a holiday spiced offering is low on my list. Not as low as a pumpkin beer and not as low as Bud Light, but down a bit.

We put together a “holiday beers” tasting to round out our formal 2009 tastings (the approaching New Beer’s Eve, excepted). Sometimes you can bite into a nice one, like Boulevard’s Nutcracker, but sometimes they’re spiced a little heavy, ruining a potentially festive sensory experience. The good thing about this tasting is that we really had a lot of stylistic diversity to deal with, one of the great artistic-nesses of a holiday offering.

In any case, these were the beers involved, and my thoughts on each:

Three Floyds’ Robert the Bruce Scottish Ale:Yeah, yeah, it’s not a spiced beer–I wanted a malty baseline beer to start the night, and I was pleased when Kyle the Beer Runner brought this one. It was my favorite beer of the night.

Bell’s Winter White Ale: This was tasty and you could certainly notice the hybridization of wheat beer styles, but why anyone would want to drink this beer in the winter is beyond me. Though I might change my mind if it were thrown in a cab barrel. My least favorite, though not because it was a bad beer.

Point’s St. Benedict’s Winter Ale: A spiced abbey ale, this one was agreeable enough, though it didn’t punch you in the face, knock your socks off or make you hear angels singing on high.

Abita’s Christmas Ale: The order in which we served these was something of a crap shoot. If I were doing it again, I’d have served this one later, because of its unexpected hop profile. This one had a wonderful aroma of soft spice-hop interplay, but the hops overpowered the flavor more than I’d hoped.

Goose Island’s Christmas Ale: With a recipe that changes every year (like Abita’s, I should add), it was, well, fine.

Ridgeway’s Bad Elf Winter Ale: Big diacetyl in the aroma put me off, but once that flashed, there was actually a fairly enjoyable hoppy, golden ale to be had. Let this one breathe before you drink it.

We concluded the night with a bottle of Kyle’s latest creation, which has a really cool name that I have forgotten.


Look for the name of that beer in the comments following this post.

I wasn’t sure what would be up with this beer, as Kyle’s wife sent me an email the other day which offhandedly mentioned that he had ruined this much-anticipated Belgian dark strong, to which he added bing cherries soaked in Captain Morgan. But then again, Kyle’s wife doesn’t like beer. Or wine. Or whisky. Or whiskey. Or tequila. She drinks lemonade.

What was ruined was that it was flat. What was awesome was the aroma! Cherry-rum-banana-delight. There was some tartness from the cherries that countered the sweetness on the palate . We thought that this would be good in a snifter for dessert with a big scoop of French vanilla ice cream. A banana split beer, if you will. Yeah, it was under-carbonated, but that can be dealt with. Really tasty, and I’d probably have chosen this one over any of the commercial examples of the night–not counting Robert the Bruce.


One Response to Of elf and woe

  1. bigHuskerFan says:

    The beer was called “Bazinga”, which some people might know if they watch the show “The Big Bang Theory” on CBS on Monday’s.

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