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Monday, January 28, 2013

Revolution Brewing Co.'s Mad Cow Milk Stout

  • Style: Milk Stout
  • ABV: 7.70%
  • Season: Winter/Rotating
  • Ease to locate: Chicagoland area grocery & liquor stores (I bought mine at Jewel) Also distributes to Ohio.  Here's their beer finder 
  •  Color: Dark brown cola color with bits of orange light at the edges
  • Head: One finger with bits of lacing
  • Aroma: Milk chocolate predominant with sweet caramel malts and coffee notes
  • Mouthfeel: Medium (but I did wish that it was a bit creamier)
  • Finish: Short and tasted of burnt chocolate
  • Food friendly: Friendlier than most milk stouts.  Try roasted meats with a bit of spice or hearty stews 
    There's a poplar myth about the great Chicago Fire of 1871 involving a shoddy wooden barn, a poorly thought out lantern and a place-kicking cow.  The story is that on October 8, 1871, a (falsely accused) bovine belonging to Katie O'Leary kicked over a troublesome lantern and began a fire that would become known as one of the worst disasters to occur in the city of Chicago (the second worst also took place in October, only in the year 2003, during the 6th game of the National League Championships between the Chicago Cubs and the Florida Marlins.  The name Steve Bartman still may only be whispered conspiratorially in certain areas of Wrigley Field.).  The reality is that a newspaper reporter for the Chicago Republican later admitted to making up the whole story.  Apparently insanely destructive pyromaniac farm animals were the "Is Jennifer Aniston Pregnant With Alien Twins???" headlines of the 1870s. That poor cow has taken the brunt of the fire's responsibility for over a hundred years now.  Personally, I'd be pretty put out by the whole situation if it were me.  
    Revolution Brewing Co. must also sympathizes with the poor animal.  After all, they named their milk stout Mad Cow, not Ticked Off Rooster or Mildly Irritated Groundhog (although, I think both of those would make awesome band names.  Feel free to use them if you should one day find yourself stuck in a garage with a few unemployed guys, a case of beer and a base guitar.) Milk Stouts and Sweet Stouts are variations of a basic stout recipe.  They are brewed to retain a certain amount of unfermented sugar in the beer, giving the drink a sweeter profile than a regular old stout.  A Milk Stout uses lactose sugar to sweeten the beer and to give it extra body (and extra calories too, FYI if you happen to care about your girlish figure.)  In fact, at one point, milk stouts were thought to be extremely nutritious and were given to nursing mothers to supplement their diet.  My, how times have changed.  Now mothers are only encouraged to consume copious amount of alcohol after the kids have gotten old enough to feed themselves. 
 Notice how the light brings out the orange around the edges
     Mad Cow Milk Stout pours a dark brown cola color.   A one finger ivory head rose from the liquid.  Solitary bits of lacing clung to the sides of the glass.  I was expecting a bit more from a milk stout, but I suppose that lacing neither makes nor breaks a beer.   When held to the light, I could see the edgings of orange brightness in the liquid.  I always love it when a beer has a more complex color scheme than I first thought.  I could smell the milk chocolate aroma right away (the glass didn't even need to get too close to my nose to pick it out.)  There was also the scents of sweet caramel and slightly over roasted malts.  A bit of dark coffee was present too.  This bitterness of the roasted malts and the dark coffee helped to keep the chocolate aroma in check.  I was doubly happy about this when I took a taste.  The milk chocolate sweetness hit me first and hit me hard.  What I liked most about this is that it was a true chocolate taste, not artificial like some other milk stouts I've sampled.  It was followed by a mild coffee flavor which was more like a cappuccino than an actual cup of joe.  The sweetness of the malts and the bitterness of the hops emerged on the back. 
View from above.  Not exactly inspiring
     I had expected more creaminess from the beer.  Milk Stouts are known for their cream-like qualities (in certain circles they are actually called Cream Stouts.)  Mad Cow had a medium mouthfeel, much like I would expect from a regular stout or porter.  Whatever lushness there was though, was tainted for me by the short finish that tasted mildly of burnt coffee grounds.  It wasn't unpleasant enough to ruin the drink for me, but, again, it was completely unexpected.  I can't help but wonder if Revolution was using this bitter over cooked coffee flavor to try to balance the chocolate sweetness on the front, but just had it's timing off?  I would like to let this milk stout age a bit as well to see if time would mellow this burnt note just a little.
Because this beer is lighter in sweetness and mouthfeel than a typical milk stout, I believe that it should be easier to pair with food than say New Holland's Dragons Milk or Left Hand's Nitro.  Since you don't need  to deal with a overly rich flavor profile or extremely creamy mouthfeel, you can use the sweet and bitter notes to counteract the flavors in your particular dish.  Try it with roasted meats that might have a bit of kick to them, but still echo a similar flavor profile and weight, such as a Texas style brisket rub made with coffee & cayenne pepper.  Or maybe try it with a darker stew, such as beef stew with Cuban coffee gravy.  Mad Cow is not my favorite milk stout out there.  With a little tweaking, it certainly could become one of my top five, however.  I'm intrigued enough to want to give the bourbon barreled aged version of it a go around (yes, I know, I had you at bourbon aged).  I'm hoping that with a bit of therapy (again, by this I mean bourbon) and a little distance (this is where the barrel comes into play), this mad cow could become a very, very happy Chicago legacy.    

Power to the cow!


Friday, January 25, 2013

Belfast Bay Brewing's McGovern Oatmeal Stout

  • Style: Oatmeal Stout
  • ABV:  5.10%
  • Season: Year Round
  • Ease to locate: Hit or miss.  Distributed east of the Mississippi (Florida was only recently added.) Check this beer finder to see if any are near you 
  • Color: Very dark black brown color with hints of orange when held to a light
  • Head: Three fingers with great lacing
  • Aroma: Milk chocolate, roasted malts and a hint of bitter coffee.  Not overly sweet
  • Mouthfeel: Medium (I wish it was a bit creamier)
  • Finish: Short with bitter, burnt coffee taste at the very end
  • Food friendly: Hearty stews mainly.  Cheese plate selection leans towards  nutty and earthy such as Camembert or Fontina

I'm used to most breweries having a line of at least three year round beers rounded out nicely by a few seasonal offerings.  As of last Sunday evening, or as I called it Big Bad Brewing Day, my own little homebrewing bar will have three separate beers under it's belt (a scotch ale, a Saison and a Stout.)  So it's a little surprising to me that as of Monday morning, little old Second Story Brewing will have more beer styles available than Maine's Belfast Bay Brewing Co.  Suck that, you Brady loving, Sam Addams swilling New Englanders  Color me shocked, fellow lovers of the pigskins and fermented grains.  

I may brew more beers, but none of them have this fancy dancy tap handle

Belfast Bay Brewing Co. is a brewery  on the Maine/Canadian boarder town of Belfast Bay.  It's considered the sixth largest brewery in Maine, but let's also consider that the state of Maine could fit comfortably in Illinois' top right pocket.   According to the brewery's website, at one time the owner would bottle all of the beer himself.   I've got to tell you, I think that sort of volume alone would settle the "to keg or bottle" debate once and for all for most homebrewers.  It took my brother, P, and I about two hours to just bottle 45 of our Scotch Ale last May.  Now multiply that by one hundred quadrillion (give or take.)  Out of a total of eleven former beer offerings once produced by the brewery, they currently only distribute two beers that are available east of the Mississippi.  Lobster Ale is a scaled back version of a New Brusnwick red ale.  The other brew is McGovern's Oatmeal Stout.  I recently slipped a bottle of the oatmeal stout into a make your own six pack because I'm always up for trying out a new stout or porter.  And, um, maybe because I also kind of  liked the boat on the label.

Looks creamier than it tastes

 McGovern's Oatmeal Stout poured a dark, dark blackish brown color.  It looked sort of like spent motor oil.  When held to the light, I could see faint hints of orange glow back from the pint glass  It produced an almost alarming three finger head, which luckily settled to two, then one finger relatively quickly.  The foam was delicious looking, thick and tan, but with only minimal lacing.  How something that produced so much foam could have so little staying power was beyond me (OK, I could again insert a Tom Brady joke here, but I'll restrain myself., Well, I'll restrain myself until the end of this post, at least.)  The first sniff was very heavy on the dark chocolate aroma, backed up with roasted malts and bitter coffee.  As I expected, it tasted pretty similar to the smell.  Bitter chocolate upfront layered with softly sweet roasted malts and more bitterness from the coffee flavors.   There was also an ever so slight wood-like flavor, which I could only assume was due to the oatmeal, and a hint of orange citrus.  I would have liked bit more sweetness as a way to balance out the bitterness.  Oatmeal is traditional added to stout recipes to contribute to the creaminess and smoothness of the drink.  I guess because of the dankness of the color and the thickness of the foam, I expected more from McGovern's by the way of creaminess. 
Looks thick enough to hold a spoon, huh?

The finish was also shorter than I expected.  There was a some what unpleasant taste of burnt coffee on the back of the finish.  Not the sort of taste that I personally want lingering in my mouth.  It wasn't strong enough to make me recoil in horror, but it also wasn't tasty.  Over all, I couldn't help but wish that this beer presented a sweeter profile and creamier feel.

I would serve this beer with normal stout friendly dishes, such as stew made with beef or game.  The lingering bitterness on the finish and shallowness of the mouthfeel can make pairing the beer with anything delicate or complex very difficult.  It wasn't a terrible beer by any means, but with so many other oatmeal stouts out there, why settle with a brew that is just OK?  

And on that note,  here's the Tom Brady joke I promised you earlier. 

God is eating dinner alone. Peyton Manning approaches the table and God asks "What do you believe?"
Peyton says, "I believe in hard work, and in staying true to family and friends.”
God sees the goodness of Peyton and offers him a seat to his left.

Eli Manning walks up and God says, "What do you believe?"
Eli says, "I believe in your total goodness, love and generosity and that you have given all to mankind.”
God is greatly moved by Eli's eloquence, and offers him a seat to his right.
Finally, Tom Brady comes over to the table: "And you, Tom, what do you believe?"
Tom replies, "I believe you're in my seat.”

Thursday, January 24, 2013

New Facebook page is up!

Just a quick note to let everyone know that Down The Hatch now has a presence on Facebook.  I know.  Welcome to 2008!  Anyway, I'll try to update the page daily with fun facts and interactive posts, plus I'll share recent blog posts there when available.  You can "like" it here Down The Hatch Facebook page or by using the permanent  link on the left side of the blog (under my photo.) 

Spread the word! 

Oh, and I'll be starting a series on stouts and porters soon.  So if you are a fan of dark, creamy, winter brews, be sure to check it out!

Monday, January 21, 2013

New Galrus Brewing Co.'s Apple Ale

  • Style: Fruit/ Vegetable Ale
  • AVB: 4.0 %
  • Season: Fall
  • Ease to locate: New Glarus only sells in Wisconsin.  They do have a great beer finder if you happen to be in the great cheese state
  • Color: Amber gold.  Looks a lot like a quality cider
  • Head: One finger with minimal lacing
  • Aroma: Fresh apple cider, sweet and crisp
  • Mouthfeel: Thin, but crisp with carbonation
  • Finish: Short
  • Food friendly: Not a lot.  It should work with simple, straight forward food like a green salad or grilled pork tenderloin.  I would stick to cheddar only for a cheese plate. 
    In my family, we all get to choose our dessert when our turn at the great birthday wheel comes around.  I say birthday dessert and not cake because for years now, not one of us has chosen a cake for our big day.  More often than not, we have cupcakes or possibly brownies.  My mother, for reasons only known to herself, pulls out a butterscotch pudding request every few years.  When the end of August rears it's head, I always make it known that I want a candle or two in a fresh baked apple pie.   Because there is nothing in this world that I love as much as a slice of cold, cinnamon flavored baked apples encased in a flaky pastry crust. When I was a little girl, my grandmother used to actually bake me apple pies.  She was an amazing cook and to this day, I have never had a pie that equaled even the worst of one of her kitchen creations.  I doubt if I ever will.  But that certainly won't stop me from trying.  It's with this thought in mind that I picked up some New Glarus Brewing Co.'s Apple Ale during a quick trip to Wisconsin.
    New Glarus Brewing Co. is located in the town of New Glarus, Wisconsin (listen, all brewery names  can't be gems and anyway, Hoppn' Frog and Horny Goat  were already taken..)  The town is known as America's Little Switzerland.  I had thought that distinction would have gone to the entire state of Arkansas (known to some as the Les Arses of the West) but apparently not.   Anyway, I like most New Glarus beers.  I think it's partially from the fact that I have to drive over an hour to buy one and partly that they are just damn tasty.  So when I was putting together a make your own six pack at the Mars Cheese Castle one day, I slipped a couple of Apple Ales into the case.  
This is what Autumn would look like in a glass 

    Apple Ale poured a slightly hazy golden amber color.  I could see heavy carbonation immediately as the tiny bubbles raced skyward through the glass.  It was surprising that there was only a one finger at best head with next to no lace retention.  The foam quickly reseeded and left the barest ring around the outer ring of the pint.  The aroma of freshly pressed  apple cider assertively wafted up from the glass, tinged with a bit of bready yeast and sweet malts.  It tasted like the distant cousin of cider.  You know, the relative who came from the "other" side of the family,  the one with the eccentric  uncle who likes to build dioramas out of dental floss and post-it-notes in the basement.  It had a fresh apple pie flavor on the front, juicy tartness balanced with the bite of cinnamon and nutmeg.  What put this ale in the "taste's like beer" category was the fresh baked bread note of the yeast.  The carbonation lasted through the whole pint and only contributed to the clean crispness of the drink.  The body was light, but more crisp than watery.  The finish was short to medium, which seem right on par with the type of fruit beer.   
I'll admit it.  I sort of wanted this bottle because of the fancy red foil top
    I'm not a big fruit beer type of girl.  If I want any fruit in my beer, I'll add my own lime wedge to the reluctant glass of Corona, thank you.  I probably would never order this ale in a bar or drink more than one glass in the span of an afternoon. If I had to pair Apple Ale with food, I'd want a simple salad of mixed greens or a protein that pairs well with apples, such as a minimally prepared pork tenderloin. If you are the type who loves fruit beers, this a definite contender for your attention.  Me?  I'd rather have the pie.  Because it's really difficult to get a candle to stand up straight in a pint glass. 

Friday, January 18, 2013

Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.'s Celebration Ale

  •  Style: American IPA
  • AVB: 6.8%
  • Season: Winter
  • Ease to locate: Widely distributed.  Check the beer locator here
  • Color: Amber with tints of gold & orange
  • Head: One finger with minimal lacing
  • Aroma: Balance of toasty biscuit, grapefruit and pine
  • Mouthfeel: Light, but not watery
  • Finish: Long and piney
  • Food friendly: Shellfish, Asian food, Mexican food, anything spicy.  Cheese pairing would be pungent varieties, such as Gorgonzola or other blue cheeses

What is a beer geek? Is it somebody who will only drink the most obscure craft beer they can find? Is it a person who can talk for hours on the various differences of American vs Old World hops? Or it somebody who just gets excited when discovering a new amazing beer, even if it's only really new to them?  A little over ten years ago, my brother and I took a tour around Italy. I usually bring at least two books with me on vacation and this was no exception. One of those books was the inaugural entry into a Chicago wide event called One Book, One Chicago. It was the ever beloved "To Kill a Mockingbird." Ever beloved by every one but me, since I had never actually read it before. You see, I've always been a voracious reader and I suppose all of my teachers just assumed that I would have tackled this book on my own at some point. They probably didn't think that it would take until my late twenties to do so. Anyway, here I am, reading about Atticus and Scout and Boo Radley amongst the great ruins of the Roman Empire and talking nonstop about it to any one who was unfortunately enough to be stuck at my dinner table. Can you believe what an amazing father Atticus was? Isn't Scout just the most insightful ten year old ever? Had they ever read it? Of course they've read it. Back in middle school, like any normal person. Anyway, I got used to the sly, condescending smile and shake of the head. It didn't bother me because I was enjoying the hell out of myself and didn't care who knew it.

My first sip of Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.'s Celebration Ale was exactly like that.

                                                                                          Other things that make me geek out:  Eddie Izzard & Star Wars

When you go onto various beer lovers forum pages and peruse the holiday beer lists, you will find a lot of local and one off beers listed. It seems that every craft beer has a fig infused, orange peel zested, spiced ale with a cutesy, holiday appropriate name. Old Fezziwig Ale, anyone?  (actually, this one is really good. I wouldn't mind if Samuel Adams offered it in something other than their assortment pack. Hint hint). But strangely enough, the one beer that came up more than any other was Sierra Nevada's Celebration Ale. An American pale ale? What was so Christmasy about that? But no matter where I looked, there it was, listed  as one of the beers that people were looking forward to the most. I mentioned it to my youngest brother (yes, the one who suffered through my geek out in Italy, but I suspect was secretly enjoying his superiority over actually having read a book before I did.). And what was under the tree for me Christmas morning? A self made six pack of holiday brew complete with a bottle or two of Celebration Ale. 

Sierra Nevada first brewed this seminal seasonal offering in 1981 (the brewery itself was only founded in 1980.). They use three separate fresh hops in their offering: Cascade, Centennial and Chinook. Fresh hops are hops that are dried and ship from the harvest field within seven days of picking. Most hops are harvested between the end of August and very early November. Now, a majority of these hops are used through out the year for a brewery's various beers. And just like dried spices, hops lose their intensity they longer that they sit on a shelf. Celebration Ale begins the brewing process only as soon as the first shipment of fresh hops arrives at the brewery. And they stop when the fresh hops run out.  You've got to love that.

What a gorgeous color

My Celebration Ale poured a bright amber color with hints of gold and orange. It was slightly cloudy with bits of yeasty goodness floating around in it. There was a one finger ivory colored head with minimal lacing. It settled after a while to a thin film that covered the surface of the beer. I could smell the rich, bready yeast right away. Toasty biscuit and an addictive grapefruit scent followed. I love grapefruit. In my beer, in my shower gel. I don't care. A bit of piney hops was also present, but not as much a I had feared. I took a sip. Or two. Or ten. I could taste the toasted bread malts immediately, with the piney, bitter hops right behind. The crisp grapefruit and slight grassy notes took a back seat in the taste wagon, but that only helped to keep everything in a wonderful balance. Honestly? This was good, good beer. And that was pretty much when the geek out started. The mouthfeel was light, but not at all watery.  Three was a crispness to it that made the beer extremely refreshing.  It sported a long, hoppy finish that was pleasant even for a non-pine loving drinker.

This was the view from above for most of the pint.  Nice, huh?
I am not a great fan of Pale Ales. I don't see what 's so great about drinking an evergreen tree. And I certainly didn't think that a thirty year old holiday beer would ever become my favorite brew for the Christmas season. But there you go. I'd drink this short run beer with any sort of shell fish, such as Mexican Shrimp & Chicken Soup, or even spicy Asian food. In fact, this would be my go-to brew for a local Thai place if it was around for more than a few months of the year. And I'm sure that I would totally geek out about the difference between fresh hops and wet hops and how sad it is that it's only available for such a short time and how the 65 bitterness units may seem like a lot, but they really assist with keeping the balance of the drink intact. And everyone would smile condescendingly and shake their heads.  But I wouldn't care as long as the glass was full.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Goose Island Beer Co.'s Christmas Ale

  • Style: American Brown Ale
  • AVB: 7.3%
  • Season: Winter (Holiday)
  • Ease to Locate: Grocery & liquor stores (lets put it this way, I used zip code 90210 in the beer finder and found over 10 stores that had it.  You'll be fine.)
  • Color: Medium brown with flecks of gold & orange
  • Head: Two finger head with wonderful lacing
  • Aroma: Caramel & roasted malts with mild pine hops    
  • Mouthfeel: Medium (creamier than it has a right to be)
  • Finish: Long
  • Food Friendly: Yes.  I can see this working with any sort of winter meals from roasted chicken to baked ham to broth based soups.  For a cheese plate try Asiago or Parmesan selections

I've made a somewhat disturbing discover about myself over the last year or so. I am becoming a craft beer snob. I'm not sure exactly when it began (although I expect that New Glarus Brewing may have something to do with it). But beers that once satisfied me as perfectly amicable options now force a turned up nose. Is this a good thing? Is it a sign that something as simple as brewed malts can create a pretentious snob right out of a mediocre 80's movie (I'm looking I at you, Mr. James Spader). I know that it's the very definition of 1% problems, that's for sure. For example, I used to think that Goose Island Beer Co.'s Honkers Ale was a sophisticated fall back solution when the bartender is giving me the stink eye for taking too long with the drink list. Now I can only order it with a roll of the eyes and an unsolicited explanation to anyone within earshot that the beer list leaves a lot to be desired. This is not the girl my mamma raised (she drinks the occasional Guinness with a certain amount of gusto that must be admired in a 70 something woman). When I was handed a Goose Island Christmas Ale by my brother on Christmas Day this year,  I was faced with a high school mean girl moment. Laugh haughtily at his sincere seasonal offering or take the damn beer with a smile while secretly planning on dumping it down the sink as soon as his back was turned?  I did insist that we pour it into a decent glass first.

Goose Island Beer Co.was one if Chicago's first successful craft breweries. It started like many breweries do today, with a single brewpub in 1988 (can we say Granddaddy Goose, little baby Haymarket and Moonshine?) A decade later, it opened a second brewpub in the bar friendly Wrigleyville area of the city. By then it was distributing at least a half a dozen year round brews and a good amount of seasonal beers. In 2008 it started distributing a small batch of it's Bourbon County Stout (a Russian Imperial Stout that is aged in bourbon barrels) to all 50 states and the rest of the country soon realized just how good a Goose could really be. An American craft beer success story, right? All was right with the world until that fateful year of 2011, when Goose Island agreed to sell all of it's shares of the brewery to Anheuser-Bursch. And there you go. Enemy waters. But in the name of family love and in the spirit of Christmas, I let the fallen Goose into my home.

Gorgeous foam.  Who have thunk it?

Christmas Ale poured a medium brown color, flecked with hints of orange and gold. Eh, mediocre is as mediocre does. But when I held the pint glass up to the light, the color lighten to a lovely honey amber hue. It was sort of cloudy and hazy, like a decent spiced brown ale. So they got that right, I allowed. Then I noticed the generous two finger ivory head. The foam took it's sweet time settling into a one finger head, which stuck around for most of the drink. I hadn't expected that. And certainly not out of a bottle.  It looked like a just pulled draft. For a moment I thought that maybe my brother had given me a surprise in home bar for Christmas.  But then realized that he, like most people I know, was not Richard Branson.

                                                                                                         Neither looks at all like my brother 

OK, so the foam was pretty. Kind of capital G gorgeous in a glass, with lots of amazing lacing clinging to the sides. The head was by far my favorite thing about the beer.  I took a sniff of the still lingering foam. The soft aroma of sweet caramel and roasted malts whiffed back at me. I could also detect a bit of cinnamon and a hint of piney hops. The taste echoed the aroma to a "T". Sweet caramel, brown sugar and a pinch of cinnamon hit my taste buds right away. A few sips let me find a bit of nutmeg and what was the nicest touch imaginable, a bit of smoke to up the complexity. Quite honestly, the beer reminded me of a holiday version of a Scotch Ale. On the back note, the piney hops emerged and stuck around for a while (like a single guy waiting for an unsuspecting gal to cross under a mistletoe). The mouthfeel was creamier that I would have suspected. I believe that the lingering head helped the lushness of this beer considerably. The finish was also longer than I would have guessed. It consisted mainly of the hop note, but mildly so. Like the single guy who was waiting under the mistletoe for an unsuspecting gal, but first introduced himself properly before laying one on her.

Pretty, pretty lacing

I would serve this beer along side most winter meals. Try it with roast chicken, honey baked ham and broth based cold weather soups. I think it might even work with sweet barbecue sauced meats.  The mildness of the hops and moderate lushness of the mouthfeel will work with almost any sort of casual meal. It's definitely a decent beer to keep in the fridge for a laid back Saturday night.

Goose Island Beer Co. sold out to the corporate monster. There is no two ways around it. In my opinion, for what it's worth, I no longer consider them a real craft beer. But does that necessarily mean that the quality of their beer will defiantly suffer because of their now generic beer legacy? If their 2012 Christmas Ale means any thing, it just may not be the case. I don't know if I can judge the whole brewery on just one seasonal offering, but it does give me hope. This was the first holiday beer offered since the great sell out and it was better than expected (and what I expected was a Bud Light with some apple pie poperri thrown into it.). I suspect that the real test of the pudding will be what Goose Island does with it's most popular and profitable beers in the coming year. But since they took the time to create a better than a Leinenkugel holiday offering, I'll be willing to give the old Goose a chance. If my brother brings another six pack, of course.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Southern Tier Brewery Co.'s 2Xmas

  • Style: Spiced (Winter) Ale
  • AVB: 8%
  • Season: Winter
  • Ease to locate: Very well distributed throughout large US liquor stores
  • Color: Reddish amber color
  • Head: Maybe a half finger with no real lacing
  • Aroma: Sweet malts with figs, raisins & orange peel
  • Mouthfeel: Syrupy but still lighter than expected
  • Finish: Short
  • Food Friendly: Not in the least bit

Instant karma's gonna get you.  In a previous post, I may have made fun of a Swedish drink that goes by the unfortunate name of "glogg."  To me, glogg is the sound a person makes when one is forced to sit through a Housewives of Pittsburgh marathon, not a cherished, traditional Nordic winter drink.  But, hey, I'm Irish.  We enjoy Guinness in the middle of July and routinely drink something that we loving refer to as Car Bombs.  What do I know?  Anyway, I recently tried an interesting seasonal holiday beer at a party.  And right smack dab on the label I saw the phrase "in the tradition of Swedish glogg."  Son.  Of.  A.  Bitch.

Glogg is a traditional mulled wine drink that is served warm.  I can see why a nice, warm, boozy drink would help a Viking get through the long winter months.  Hell, making it through a regular old Chicago winter without a remote start on my car is bad enough.  

I have no idea what this guy is saying, but it kind of makes me thirsty

Southern Tier Brewery Co. is a brewery located in Lakewood, NY (on the New York/Pennsylvania boarder.)  2Xmas is listed by the brewery as a double spiced ale, although I'm not certain what a double spiced ale has that a regular old spiced ale doesn't have. Southern Tier boasts that this beer has four different malts and two different hops, but honestly, this just blares "PR move!" Many beers amp up their hops and malts when brewing to give their base wort a bit of complexity and depth. On the other hand, maybe they just wanted to justify the 2 part of the 2Xmas.

2Xmas poured an appropriate holiday reddish honey color with hints of orange and amber. I know that most of that was just food coloring and dye, but damn, it looked so Fa La La La La to me. The beer produced very little head, maybe a half a finger and I'm being generous there. The foam dissipated faster than a $100 HD TV on Black Friday morning. I had absolutely no lacing on my glass, which made me wonder if I received a bad batch to try. However, one sniff of the beer told me that the drink was just fine as is. I could smell the typical sweet caramel malts with a softer scent of figs, raisins and the zest of orange peels. I was expecting a fruit cake in a glass and wasn't at all disappointed when I tasted it. At first the richness of the malts almost overpowered everything else. But a second try yielded the flavor of the figs and the chewiness of the raisins. The sweetness verged on almost cloying for me. The vanilla caramel taste needed the saving grace of the citrus peel to balance it out. I don't think that there was any cherry flavor to the beer, but honestly, my first thought was a can of Cherry Pepsi. I could also taste some bitterness, which was probably just the hops peeking through (thankfully so.). The mouthfeel was almost syrupy, yet not at all lush, which did confuse me at first. I think this sort of cough medicine mouthfeel makes the beer less food friendly, but decent enough to sip on it's own. For such a sweet beer, it thankfully had a rather short finish. I think this assisted the drink ability of the brew considerably.

The view from above

Overall, Southern Tier's 2Xmas wasn't my favorite holiday beer this season (that privilege goes to Sierra Nevada's Celebration Ale. Beer Geek me, please!). But all in all, it was definitely worth trying and certainly has it's own place in the ever growing holiday beer market. A few years ago, I spent a dank, rainy December day wandering around Montreal's historic Old Port area. It was the sort of day where the chill settles into your bones for a nice long winter snooze. I ducked into an adorable crepe cafe for dinner where the waitress convinced me to order a house made mulled wine. At least that's what I think she said. Everyone spoke French there and I had absolutely no idea what was happening for most of the trip. Anyway, l ordered the warm wine and anticipated a quaint old world dinner experience. Let's just say that I enjoyed the hell out of the mushroom & chicken crepes and drank more water than wine that night. So I wasn't expecting anything particularly wonderful from a glogg influenced beer. 2Xmas isn't food friendly to say the least. At the Christmas party where I was first introduced to this beer, I actually had to put it aside for a bottle of water when the food was served (shades of Montreal.). But the point is that after I was done eating, I went back to finish my glass.  Will I drink it now that the tree is down and the fruit cake is safely stored away for the year? Probably not. But I've realized something very important. I may not care for instant coffee or instant pudding. But instant karma? Sort of tasty.