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Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Begyle Brewery's Christmas Ale

  • Style: Spiced Ale
  • ABV: 7.0%
  • Ease to locate: Grower fill at the Begyle Tap room & on draft at various places around the city.  Here's  a link to their Beer Menu page for locations.
  • Color: Oaky reddish brown, slightly see through with golden highlights around the edges
  • Head: One finger just off white foam with spotty, delicate lacing
  • Aroma: Spices dominate (cloves, cinnamon & ginger) Bit of malty bread and a little herb hops
  • Mouthfeel: Medium body with good carbonation.  Dry & easy to drink
  • Finish: Almost long.  Begins spicy & sweet, ends with the ginger  & clove notes
  • Food: Perfect Christmas Cookie drinking ale.  Exchange away.
Apple User's Link: Just a couple of misfits
Beer & cookie pairings make the season magical.  OK, maybe not magical, but while you float down the path of a beer & cookie induced sugar coma, you're less likely to notice

There are no Easter beers.  I have never been poured a 4th of July Ale nor had a tasting of a Labor Day Stout.  But for some reason, Christmas Ale is not only a thing, its a thing that I eagerly anticipate as soon as the Halloween candy is placed in a bowl.  I stow away my excess Marzens (or give them away.  Little cousins and bosses' 21 plus old nephews make great storage bins this time of year) to make room for all of the lovely spiced ales that will grace my beer cellar.  I especially love the local breweries who take the time to brew a one off spiced ale for growler fill only.  Its often a beer that they are excited by and when a brewer is excited to brew something, I'm more than excited to try it.  Thrilled, mostly. Ecstatic, even. My favorite one this year was by the Down the Hatch family house brewery, the good folks over at Begyle Brewing.

My Begyle Christmas Ale poured an oaky reddish brown color with golden highlights around the edges when held to the light. It looked like Christmas in a glass to me.  A one finger of just off white ivory head quickly formed in the snifter and took it's sugar cookie sweet time in settling to a thin film covering the surface.  Spotty, delicate tiny webs of lacing clung to the sides of the glass.  I absolutely loved looking at it.  The nose was lovely as well.  The aroma of Christmas spices dominated the scent.  I could smell the nostalgically emotional Christmas keystone notes of cloves, cinnamon and a hint of ginger without even trying.  A bit sweet with a bready malt character that was tempered by the aroma of herbal hops rounded out the nose nicely.  The taste was well balanced , with the baking spices melting into the roasty, malty sweetness and herbal bitterness.    The ginger was slightly more pronounced on the tail of the taste than on the nose.  I loved the medium body with a well thought out dryness that made drinking this spiced ale a very easy thing to do. The finish was long; beginning with the baking spices and smoothly sliding to the hint of ginger which gently lingered on the back of the swallow. 

 Christmas time is a season of gatherings.  And what makes a gathering a gathering?  Beer and cookies, of course.  I'm slightly known around these parts for bringing a tray of cookies to most bottle shares.  Good cookies will take you far in this crazy, mixed up world that we drink in.  During the holiday season I make it a point to pay a bit more attention to being certain that the cookies pair perfectly with the beer.  My favorite go-to beer pairing cookie of all time is the simple, classic Snickerdoodle Cookie.  Snickerdoodles are basically sugar cookies with the element of cinnamon.  The notes of cinnamon, sugar and grain (flour) work with a wide variety of different beers, from Stouts to Belgians to Brown ales (personally I'd steer clear of IPAs here.  However I do love a nice Lemon Ricotta drop cookie with a glass of Revolution Brewery's AntiHero for future references.)   Another option for a spiced ale, such as Begyle's Christmas Ale, is a seasonal favorite such as Eggnog Cookies.  The creamy nog character of the cookie is a wonderful match for the slight sweetness of the malts in this ale.  There are a myriad of cookie recipes out there this time of year and I guarantee that a majority of them are simple to bake and even easier to please a crowd of party goers with.   Once you realize how much fun it could be to pair your beer with the proper cookie, the annual cookie exchange party becomes exponentially more fun, believe you me.