Thursday, December 19, 2019

Nurse the Hate: The Way Too Extensive 2019 Christmas Beer Tasting

Realizing I hadn't done an updated Christmas beer tasting, I got a couple degenerate friends of mine together and we sampled 25 Christmas beers in one sitting.  Like the holidays themselves, anything worth doing is worth overdoing.  The tasting notes got a little fuzzy as this rolled on.  At the end, I just begged for it to stop.

Anchor Steam 2019 Christmas Ale-  As I recall, they do a slightly different recipe each year.  It always seems to have a dried herbs and stale spice rack quality to it.  It’s not unpleasant per se, but it’s not exactly friendly either.  I think of this beer as a Deep Purple record from the cut out bin.  You looked at it a few times, but never bought it because none of the songs on it were immediately recognizable.  One day you find it in a Thrift Store for $3, so you pull the trigger.  When you get home you open the gatefold sleeve and a musty smell wafts up from the record, the white sleeve slightly browning with age.  When you put the record on, it’s OK, but you know you’re probably never going to listen to it again.  That’s what this beer makes me think of.

Market Garden Festivus-  I wanted to hate this as there’s a smug hipster vibe that that brewery, but dammit, it was really good.  The cinnamon/nutmeg was very strong, like someone knocked too much into the vat and hoped no one would notice but it all sort of worked out.  There is a certain “Ta-da!” element to this beer, like when I saw the Psychedelic Furs once way past their prime where they came out to great fanfare with lights and lasers but you felt like they were overcompensating with the production because they knew the substance wasn’t quite there.  The show was still good though, and so was this beer.

Shiner Holiday Cheer-  This was unexpected as it tasted like peaches and apricots instead of the expected cinnamon.  Is this a Christmas Ale?  It depends.  If you consider a girl in a bikini standing on the beach wearing an elf hat something you associate with Christmas, than this is a Christmas Ale.  Shiner is from Texas, and as far as I know they have Christmas on South Padre Island, so I guess this is a Christmas Ale.  I liked it but every else in the tasting group hated it.  

Millersburg Brewing Edgy Elf-  This beer roars out with a cinnamon flavor that drops off the cliff on the finish.  “Hey, this is pretty good… oh…”.  I imagine myself at the brewery tasting this and the waitress comes over after recommending it and says, “Don’t you just love it?” and then I just nod and make a “Mmhmm” noise.  This might be one of those beers where if you ask the bartender if it’s good they give you the lip service answer that isn’t really an answer like “it’s very popular” or “many people seem to like it”.  This isn’t awful, but you can do much better in the category.  

Platform Brewing Holiday Donut-  I really wanted to like this.  Who doesn’t like a holiday donut?  That is something that is universally regarded as pleasant.  For example, I can’t ever recall hearing a horrific survival story that went, “so there we were, trapped on the mountain after the plane crash with nothing to eat but boxes of holiday donuts”.  The beer couldn’t possibly live up to the hype.  It tasted disjointed, like there were two different brewers working on it at once, neither talking to the other.  The flavor profile never really comes together.

Revolution Brewing Fistmas-  The soft fruity apricot nose and contrasted with an edgy hoppy palate that made it very interesting.  This is like going to see the Meat Puppets expecting that all the songs sound like “Backwater” but then you find out they fucking destroy.  You get into it thinking it was going to be a 90s nostalgia act, and then you discover you are in way deeper than you thought and you’re getting your mind twisted into a fucking pretzel.  Odd as that sounds, I think that’s a good thing.  Recommended.

Abita Christmas Ale-  This is all cinnamon with a peppery edge to it.  It reminded me of going to grandma’s house when she baked cookies for the holidays.  That is what she has done every year, and it’s nice that she went to the trouble, especially since she lives on her own after Grandpa Ernie passed on.  You bite into a cookie, not because you want to so much as it’s the polite thing to do.  That’s when you discover that Grandma forgot to add sugar into the cookie and it doesn’t taste so good.  She asks you if you like it, and you nod while looking around for someplace to spit it out.  A week or so later Grandma is walking around the neighborhood at 3am with her robe blowing open mumbling about Kirk Douglas.  At least, that’s what this beer made me think about.

Breckenridge Christmas Ale-  This is loaded with so much cinnamon and honey, it smells like it is going to be syrupy.  It is so Christmasy that it is like a neighbor that has 117 plastic Santas in their front yard.  It sort of goes past the idea that it is a celebration of the holiday.  It has morphed into an aggressive confrontational holiday display meant to provoke a reaction.  “You see how fucking festive I am!  You got a fucking problem with that?”   No man.  Happy holidays…. I’m not looking for trouble.  I’m going to go inside now…

Mucky Duck Nauti Or Nice-  This has a dried herb element that made me think there has to be a hippie involved in it.  As I was drinking this it made me think of waking up in a VW Camper with a girl in dreadlocks named “Rain” who “can just tell I’m a Gemini”.  There is a Phish record playing on a boombox connected to power though a cigarette lighter jack adapter.  We are underneath a couple of musty smelling Mexican blankets and she is trying to convince me we need to go see a Shaman who is conducting a “happening” in his yurt in Ontario somewhere.  There’s one problem though, she just needs a “little bread” and wants me to go to the bank machine so we can go buy some gas and vegan cheese.  That, to me, isn’t Christmas.  

Fat Heads Holly Jolly-  With Christmas Ales, cinnamon and nutmeg are like breast implants, cosmetic add ons.  If we follow the idea that cinnamon and nutmeg are breast implants, then Fat Heads Holly Jolly is an F cup.  This is a beer that would be dancing at a “show bar” for tips.  Perhaps you would enjoy it, but you will feel guilty about its afterwards… you fucking degenerate.

Royal Docks Yuletide-  I picked up a lemon citrus scent on the nose that reminded me of dishwashing soap.  Now that’s not something one normally wants associated with a beverage but the acidic lift on the palate was nice.  I should also point out that I sampled this after all of the previous ones so I might not know what I am talking about.  Despite all this double talk, I liked this.

Saucy Brew Works Three Hoes-  This is all about the spicy cinnamon, like one of those Red Hots candies but with booze.  This would be a great beer to get a bunch of seven year olds all lit up.  I could have used one of these when I was forced to be in the chorus for our forced Christmas pagaent fun when I was in second grade.  I can admit now I was just mouthing the words and not really singing because I had never sung before and I didn’t want to look like an asshole in front of the girls on either side of me.  If I’d had one of these I’ll bet I would have done a solo.  It would have gone poorly as I don’t think seven year old me would have held his beer very well.  It would have made the show more interesting though as the parents would have said, "I can't ever recall seeing a seven year old so drunk, and singing so poorly."

Great Lakes Christmas Ale-  All hail the king.  This is perfectly balanced with notes of honey and clove.  It is The Rolling Stones of xmas ales, perhaps a bit taken for granted.  Stores are flooded with Christmas Ales, so it’s fun to try them all.  But just like when you put Beggars Banquet on the turntable, it becomes evident that some things are classic for a reason.

Thirsty Dog 12 Dogs of Christmas-  In what was maybe one of the best guerrilla marketing campaigns ever, there isn’t a person in NE Ohio that won’t stop to tell you in a hushed whisper that this is the original recipe for Great Lakes Christmas Ale.  This of course infers that this beer is better because it’s like Great Lakes was, and we all know everything was better in the past.  Make America Great Again, you know, like it used to be before we had to care about people we used to obliviously oppress.  I’m not suggesting this is a Trump beer, because it’s too well made.  It’s just trying a bit too hard like a guy with too much cologne.

Around The Bend Pretty Lights-  This is all about the orange zest, orange juice and candied orange on the nose.  This would be a good thing to be handed by a guy named “Electric Dave” at a party.  You’d thank him for the beer and then later he would say, “You didn’t drink that whole thing yourself, did you?  Shit.  You’re going to be tripping for a week.”  Guys like Electric Dave are fun to know, but you do you really trust Electric Dave? 

Platform Brewing Esther Belgian Christmas-  This sort of tastes like a Belgian beer, and it looks like a Belgian beer but its just not quite a Belgian beer.  This is like a guy at a party pretending he’s from Bruges and speaking with an obviously fake accent but he’s really from Chillicothe.  Maybe he even tricks some girls into thinking he's an exotic European exchange student, but when he's in the line for the toilet you lean in and whisper, "Hey man... I know.  I KNOW." 

St Bernadus Christmas-  This has all kinds of complexity.  There’s an interesting overripe banana scent on the nose with fruit and spice.  It’s a full palate, especially evident after the Platform Esther.  It wasn’t great on the first sip, but then it gets better and better as you get into it.  This is the beer version of Neutral Milk Hotel’s “In the Aeroplane Over The Sea”, something you don’t get at first but then wonder why everyone doesn’t realize that this is the best thing ever.  Highly recommended.

Praire Artisan Ales Christmas Bomb-  Dark roasted coffee, espresso, dark chocolate, cocoa powder, malt, it’s dark dark dark.  This is really delicious, but at 13% ABV it will kick your ass.  I don’t know why it is Christmas.  It should have been called “Big Chocolate Coffee Bomb Mind Fucker” but maybe that would have negatively impacted sales.

Southern Tier Double Xmas-  This was like drinking a wreath.  It’s very piney.  I’ll be honest, at this point in the tasting, my notes start to look very unreliable like someone trying to tell you about seeing Black Flag in a bowling alley in 1983 when they were 16.  It was probably really good, but there’s just not a good way to capture the experience so long after the fact.

Southern Tier Cinnamon Roll-  This is a boozy Cinnabon.  They should market this beer as “America’s Favorite Breakfast Beer” and run commercials with families knocking these back while walking the kids to the school bus.  There is no way in hell anyone would want to drink two, but maybe Mom and Dad would like to have one each morning.  It's probably a nice way to start the day.  Well, if you don't have to drive.  Or go to work.  Or be awake.

Goose Island Christmas IPA-  Caramel and butterscotch on the nose and then the hops come down like a fucking hammer.  This is like getting a delicately wrapped holiday gift, untying the exquisite bow and discovering you have received a .38 snub nose revolver.  Merry fucking Christmas.

Masthead Sleigh All Day IPA with Spruce Tips-  Yep it’s very piney.  It’s also a hoppy beast.  This is a hairy Turkish guy in shorts lifting weights in the forest all by himself.  He's wearing a Santa hat, so in theory it's Christmasy, but actually it just makes you uncomfortable.  Especially if he puts the barbell down and says in a quiet voice "I like the spruce tips."  No judgement, but I'm getting the hell out of there. 

Rheingeist Dad Hoppy Holiday Ale-  This smells like French toast.  I don’t know if French Toast beer is synonymous with the holidays.  Maybe the “Dad” in this beer name suggest a scenario where the family is making up French toast on Christmas morning and Dad lurches in and says to his kids, “I don’t want any French toast.  I’m going down to my workshop.  If either of you two sons of bitches messed around with my tools, I’m coming up here and throwing you into that Christmas tree.”  Ah, the holidays…

Rogue Santa’s Private Reserve- This is like wet leaves and orange peels.  It’s pretty yucky like an Adam Sandler movie on an airplane.  If this was a Christmas tree, it would be a bent little plastic tree that looked like someone hauled it out of a storage space and set the dusty bent tree up in a lobby of a cheap motor lodge where it unavoidably makes everyone sad that looks at it.  

Santa’s Cookies by Champion Brewing- This is an Imperial stout.  I suppose they left Santa a chocolate cookie because this tastes like a flourless chocolate cake.  When I was a kid I never knew Santa liked chocolate cookies.  I thought it was a good idea to leave him Slim Jims.  That seemed like the kind of change of pace Santa would really enjoy.  Knock back a Slim Jim and then have one of these frosty Christmas beers.  That’s how you get a new bike.  Not with cookies.    


At December 20, 2019 at 4:36:00 PM EST , Blogger AZ said...

You are a braver man than me. Tasting that many Christmas beers would result in my quitting Christmas forever.

At December 21, 2019 at 1:33:00 PM EST , Blogger trainwreck said...

great review! now i don't have to try any of them! thanks!

At December 27, 2019 at 10:03:00 AM EST , Blogger Greg Miller said...

Call it a public service


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