Waiting in line for my Gingerbread Latte the other day, I heard the delightful strains of "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" wafting through the air. I absolutely loath this song, and started muttering to myself, in true crackpot fashion, "God isn't it too early for this crap?"
It dawned on me pretty quickly, that no, it ain't. Merry frickin' Christmas, everyone! "The Holidays" is here! Amongst all the stress of shopping, abhorrent music, family-driven guilt, and special, Holiday-themed television shows ("Join us as The Situation and JWoww learn the true meaning of Hanukkah..."), there do shine some bright lights on these cold winters' nights-- Christmas Beers! Following close on the heels of Oktoberfestbiers, the Christmas subset of Winter Seasonals run in a wide range of styles, from Sierra Nevada's Celebration IPA to Delirium Noel. Amongst these well worn winter travellers, there are a few new additions to the DC areas yuletide selection: Here are a few that I have come across in the past couple weeks.
Appearance: Transparent, reddish-brown with a light, short-lived head. Lots of bubbles!
Aroma: Dry, grainy and mild, with bright spice notes of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, and citrus.
Taste: Vibrant, with tingly effervescence on front (you can still hear the bubbles minutes after pouring). The attack is dry and sharp, with malty undertones and flavors of bright orange peel and a hint of hops. More cinnamon and clove come forward on the round, creamy mid-palate, leading to a dry finish with a wallop of spice, with an almost chalky texture persisting after swallowing.
This beer is a good deal drier than most holiday beers, and has a gorgeous sparkle. If you are a fan of a lighter Pilsener style, but want something with a bit more festive umph, this is a great selection, which is still pretty widely available in the $10 to $13 per six-pack price range.
Great Lakes Christmas Ale
Style: Winter Warmer
Appearance: Clear russet-gold with light, short-lived head.
Aroma: Sweet and spicy, with notes of Cinnamon-sugar, grains, caramel and red fruit preserves.
Taste: Tangy, sweet and slightly sour on the front, complimented with hearty mulling-spice flavors. Medium bodied and very slightly creamy, with malt and toffee notes in the middle, leading to a very slightly sweet, nutmeg and cinnamon accented finish.
This beer has a lot going on, and is definitely one to sip and mull over (har). Sour, malt, and spice characteristics mingle beautifully, and it is far less sweet and syrupy than the ABV would imply. Unfortunately, this low-production ale is in hot demand. The distributor's first drop came and went very quickly; a second drop was made this week to select retailers, and most of them are keeping it under their respective hats. If you don't mind paying $15 + for a six-pack, ask your favorite retailer what he has kicking around the back room. Otherwise, keep an eye out for this on draught in the coming weeks; I'm sure if the better beer bars in town have any, they will release it soon.
Appearance: Dark brown, opaque, with red highlights, and a full, foamy, off-white head.
Aroma: Dark and roasty aromas of dried oats, with sour fruit, mulling spices, and just a hint of sweet maple.
Taste: The attack is wine-like and sour, featuring flavours of fermenting fruits and sour citrus, along with a hint of grain and a bit of spice. Maintains a dry character in the middle, though sweeter fruit flavors come through, leading to still more fermented-fruit flavors, accented with clove.
Though not labeled a Christmas Beer, the Fireside Chat's packaging does feature a kick-ass picture of FDR chillin after what must have been one of his more upbeat radio addresses, and that's good enough for me. If you like a heavy, mildly-sour, slightly-spicy beer that lacks the intense sweetness of most heavy winter brews, give this one a go. It comes in a convenient, fridge-friendly can, and is easy to find for about $11 a six-pack.
If you need a a little Christmas, right this very minute, or just a momentary booze-induced escape from the holiday nightmare, I hope I have provided a little bit of inspiration. Whether you revel in or revile this time of year, act fast, as the season -- and these beers -- will be gone before you know it.