The First Beer of Christmas: Full Sail Wassail, Hood River, Oregon – I had this on tap at the Ginger Man. Dark velvety brown with ruby highlights and a fluffy white head. This was mildly sweet, with a caramel taste and some dried fruit and spiciness as well. Very good, 7/10.
The Second Beer of Christmas: Anchor 2010 Christmas Ale – The Grand Daddy of American Christmas Ales, with an ever evolving recipe. I had this on tap at the Ginger Man, and this year’s version has a spicy ginger aftertaste, which I liked, but everyone else who tried it with me hated. Not as good as years past, but still a fine Christmas Beer, 7/10.
The Third Beer of Christmas: Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale – This beer has none of the usual markers for a Christmas beer. It has no spiciness, no malty sweetness, none of what I normally associate with with Holiday brews. While it is not especially ‘Christmassy’, the Celebration Ale is a great fucking beer, a hoppy IPA tasting brew that I wish was available all year, 8.5/10.
The Fourth Beer of Christmas: Tommyknocker Cocoa Porter Winter Warmer, Idaho Springs, Colorado – With a strong cocoa aroma, and a dark chocolate aftertaste, this would have been an absolute winner if it had some body to it. It was just too thin for my taste as I like my porters to be a bit chewier. Not bad, just not good enough, 6/10.
The Fifth Beer of Christmas: Samuel Smith’s Winter Welcome Ale – Like Dickens with A Christmas Carol, Jimmy Stewart with It’s A Wonderful Life, Phil Spector with his Christmas album, and Billy Martin and his car wreck, Samuel Smith’s Yorkshire Brewery is inextricably linked with Christmas by their Winter Welcome Ale. Slightly spicy, with a caramel malt body and mild hoppiness, this a well balanced and smooth drinking beer, 7/10.
The Sixth Beer of Christmas: Deschutes Jubelale, Bend, Oregon – This poured a nice ruby and chestnut brown with a fluffy tan head. Some spicy banana aroma and flavor, and some cinnamon and cloves, balanced by some earthy hops and molasses sweetness. Cool label too, 8/10.
The Seventh Beer of Christmas: Real Ale Shade Grown Coffee Porter, Blanco, Texas – The coffee flavor is mild and is balanced by some bitter dark chocolate and sweet cocoa flavors. This was very smooth and velvety out of the bottle, 7.5/10. I also had this drawn from a cask, and it was fantastic, even smoother than from the bottle, and the flavors were more complex and interesting, 8.5/10.
The Eighth Beer of Christmas: Harpoon Winter Warmer, Boston, Massachusetts – Bleh. Meh. P’Tooey. Thin, bitter (and not in the good way), overly spiced, just crappy all around. 5.5/10, and I am being generous, in keeping with the season.
The Ninth Beer of Christmas: Choc Brewing Winter Baltic Style Porter, Krebs, Oklahoma – Pouring a deep brown, almost black, this porter has some mild coffee and chocolate aroma, but those notes are amped up considerably when you take the first sip. There is a pleasant licorice aftertaste and just a hint of smokiness. I was going to give it a 7.5 score, because I really liked it, but I am docking them a half point because their website is a god damned pain in the ass to navigate, so 7/10 it is.
The Tenth Beer of Christmas: Big Sky Brewing Powder Hound Winter Ale, Missoula, Montana – Clear and golden, with some nice flowery hops and malty backbone, this is a very good beer, 7.5/10, but like the Celebration Ale, it does not strike me as a Christmas beer. There is nothing seasonal about it, nothing festive, no colored lights. I’d like to drink it all year long, but it is only available when the nights are long, which is a shame.
The Eleventh Beer of Christmas: Rahr Winter Warmer Ale, Fort Worth Texas – I had this on tap. It pours a dark ruby color, almost opaque. Lots of cinnamon and nutmeg are noticeable in the nose, and those are also the dominant flavors, with some raisin and plum as well. Nothing special about this, 6/10.
The Twelfth Beer of Christmas: Avery Old Jubilation Ale, Boulder, Colorado – Dark and brown with tan head, this had some subtle coffee and licorice flavors, with just a hint of cinnamon and hoppy bitterness on the back end. The 8.3 % ABV was masked by the complex flavor profile, although there was a noticeable warm glow in my cheeks as I drank it. I’d love to find this on tap, or better yet a cask, but it was damn good in the bottle, 8.5/10.The Ghost of Past Christmas Beer: Saturnus Winter Ale, Bardo Rodeo, Arlington, Viriginia – I am not one of these old guys who thinks everything was better in the good old days, but in this instance, things really were better. The Saturnus Winter Ale (and what a great name that was) was a high ABV dark beer, that was brewed by the mighty Bardo Rodeo with pine needles to give it a distinctive flavor. It was never on tap for more than a few days because it sold out so quickly. That stuff was fantastic!