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Monday, December 9, 2013

Revolution Brewing's 2013 Fistmas Holiday Ale

  • Style: Spiced Ale (Revolution calls it a red ale)
  • ABV: 6.1%
  • Season: Early winter (November through December)
  • Ease to locate: Revolution distributes in most of IL and parts of OH.  Here's a link to their beer menu page 
  • Color: Brown with heavy red and amber tints.  Slightly hazy with visible carbonation
  • Head: A festive 2 finger, light beige head with generous medium sized bubbles
  • Aroma: Pine hops with a bit of caramel malts and a hint of spice.  Nose opens as it warms, allowing the notes of anise and cloves to emerge
  • Mouthfeel: Moderate with great carbonation
  • Finish: Medium with a resin/ pine tail
  • Food friendly?: I actually enjoy this beer more with food than without.  Try it with some lightly spiced chicken or turkey chili.  Also serve it with a bacon friendly roasted chicken panini.  This is excellent with sharp cheeses, especially sharp provolone

 Apple user link : No one likes a skinny Santa

 I've always thought that the Santa in this show is a bit of a jerk.  Please don't tell him.  I'm still waiting for that pony.

For the next few weeks, I thought that I'd post about some local to the Midwest Christmas beers.  Of course two of them I've already reviewed (here's a link to 2012's Fistmus post.) but I think that they both deserve a repeat visit.  I've now passed the the one year mark for this blog (I know, it doesn't look a day over 364!) and funny thing is that as the year has gone on, I've discovered that my palate has changed considerably. In some ways it's grown sharper, able to pick out nuances that easily escaped my attention last year at this time.  My taste has also grown to include flavors that were once, lets just say, less than enjoyable to me (Hello, Mr. Sour.  So very glad to make you acquaintance finally.  Have you met Mr. Heavy Pine?) I think for those reasons alone, a second look is called for on my part.  Seasonal (holiday especially) beers are anticipated by beer geeks the way an eight year old child  might wait for Santa by her fireplace. Only we beer geeks wait in never ending lines in cold, dark, smelly parking lots for the chance of buying a few $30 plus bombers only to be told once you get to the front of the line that all they have left is the weird experimental beer that the master brewer came up with one late night after ingesting more than a safe amount of moderately priced Kentucky bourbon mixed with Fresca.  Or that could just be my experience.

My 2013 Fistmas Holiday Ale poured a lightly cloudy red amber brown with a two finger, just off beige, head.  I could see the carbonation rising steadily in my glass (as can you in the photo above.  Jinx!). The foam was a tight mixture of medium and slightly large bubbles which resulted in lots of pretty lacing creeping up the sides of the pint.  The head took it's time to settle into a thick, top layer film which stuck around for a good potion of the drink.  I could easily smell the pine hops on the nose, so much so that it was difficult at first to find another scent until my own nose grew accustomed to it.  Now, I'm willing to admit, I have never been a huge fan of pine flavored hops and probably never will be.  If I had my way, every IPA would use Citra, Galaxy or Crystal hops ( and what a boring, humdrum world it would be.  The Cohen Brothers would have to make a movie about a renegade band of underground brewers who smuggle Chinook hops in from Canada to brew pine scented DIPAs.  John Goodman would probably finally get an Oscar for his work.)  But over the past year, I've come to appreciate their presence in many beers, Fistmas included.  There was a small amount of sweetened caramel malts in the initial scent, but as the beer warmed, the beauty of the aroma came out to play.  The spicy bite of anise, cinnamon, cardamon and cloves emerged and made their holiday presence known.  The taste mirrored the nose almost exactly.  Lots and lots of pine, but nicely balanced by the malts and spice combination.  Honestly, if you grew up in the late seventies, early eights and happen to live in my household (and if you did, that means that you're most likely my brother and you owe me a Christmas present.  And stop touching my stuff) you would know the joy of  Jingle Cookies, a yearly December treat highly anticipated by my family.  This beer reminded me of those Christmas cookies in the best possible way.  The body was a moderate mouthfeel with a medium finish ending in a pine forward tail. The beer had a fresh element to it that carried from the nose, to the taste and worked in wonderful harmony with the body and finish.  A very well crafted, definitely on Santa's nice list, sort of brew.

Some Christmas beers are made to drink all on their lonesome own.  Maybe by a crackling fire.  Or at least in front of a high definition one on the TV.  I think that Revolution's Fistmas benefits from being served alongside of something good to eat.  Keep it relatively simple, maybe a steaming bowl of moderately spiced shredded turkey chili.  Or finally dig that panini press you received from Santa last year out of the back closet (again, just me?) and make a bacon, tomato, cheddar and roasted chicken pannini to go with the beer.  When I poured open my first can of Fistmas this year (yes, Virginia.  They come in cans now!  It's a Christmas miracle! ) I paired it with a few chunks of a sharpe Provalone cheese and the difference the food made was extraordinary.  It took it from just being a nice, holiday spiced red ale, to something that skyrocketed to the top of Santa's Nice list.  And that's a pretty good place to be this time of year.