Mr. JK is quite the generous soul. Mr. JK was being his usual generous and jolly self during Christmas 2010 when he gave Tilting Suds an oak whiskey barrel and some ‘raw’ spirits to age in the barrel. I barreled the whiskey just before Christmas, 2010. The liquor was clear when I poured it in the barrel; It was also as smooth as jet fuel. On New Year’s Eve, 2010, I poured off a bit to sample it. It had taken on some color but was still harsh firewater, nearly undrinkable. I sampled it again on Saint Patrick’s Day and Independence Day. Each successive sample took on more color and flavor, but the firewater aspect hardly mellowed at all. I decided that I would leave the whiskey in the barrel until after Thanksgiving to give it time to cool off, so to speak. This was a tactical error on my part. While my plan to mellow the whiskey was a sound one, what I did not count on was the Angels being so parched that their share would drain nearly the entire barrel. After just under a year in the barrel, between evaporation and the oak absorbing the liquid, what started as 1500 ml of whiskey* was reduced to this: Read the rest of this entry »
Special Post-Boxing Day Edition of the Twelve Days of Christmas: Jester King Black Metal Stout Aged in an Oak Whiskey BarrelDecember 27, 2011
Of the many film versions of a Christmas Carol, the version starring Alastair Sim is easily the best. (Watch the whole film here)* His mixture of humor and pathos, along with classical acting chops, makes his the best Scrooge of all the film versions. When I read A Christmas Carol, I see Alastair Sim. When I see Alastair Sim in other movies, I think “what is Ebeneezer Scrooge doing in this film?” His is the definitive version, the standard against which all others are measured, and all others are found lacking.
I just saw the 1938 version with Reginald Owen. It was good, but he was not as natural playing Scrooge as Sim was. There was too much ‘acting’ going on for me to get lost in the movie. I have the same complaint with the version that starred Patrick Stewart a few years ago. I like Patrick Stewart, but his portrayal of Scrooge is just a showcase for his acting skills, almost as if he figures there is no way he will ever be allowed to play King Lear on American television, so he might as well stretch out with the role of Scrooge.
How long before Kenneth Branagh does a version? Ewan MacGregor is too young and too Scottish, and Hugh Grant is too much of whoopsie to pull it off, but Branagh could do it, and do it well. Gary Oldman would just scare the kiddies shitless, so he is out as Scrooge, although he could play Marley’s Ghost in the Branagh version. Add Alan Rickman as the Ghost of Christmas Past, Brian Blessed as the Ghost of Christmas Present, Hugo Weaving as the Ghost of Christmas Future (He did just fine hiding his face in V for Vendetta, so he could do this Ghost) Alan Cummings as Bob Cratchit, with as special appearance by Stephen Hawking as Tiny Tim, and we have ourselves one hell of a film. This needs to happen.
For the Eleventh Day of Christmas, I cracked open a bottle of Stone Brewing’s 11.11.11 Vertical Epic.* This ale is brewed with Belgian Yeast, which gives it a funky aroma and some banana flavors. Cinnamon and New Mexico Green Chilies were added to the boil, with the heat from the cinnamon noticeable on the front end, and the mildest heat from chiles in the aftertaste. The cinnamon and the chilies complement each other, and neither overpowers this beer, as is often the case with chili pepper or cinnamon infused beers. There are plenty of hops here as well, adding layers of flavor. This is another wonderful beer from Stone, 8/10.
*Do you see what I did there? Eleventh Day of Christmas paired with 11.11.11? I am on a roll!
After the first Tilting Suds Christmas Playlist got rave reviews (JPE: EXCELLENT! THIS IS JUST WHAT I WAS LOOKING FOR! Diane: BEAUTIFULLY ECLECTIC! President Barack Obama: THE TILTING SUDS CHRISTMAS PLAYLIST IS WHAT THE COUNTRY NEEDS TO RENEW THE AMERICAN DREAM!), I could not hold back from putting together a second volume. Let’s jump right in: Read the rest of this entry »
I am a huge fan of Sierra Nevada. Their beers are consistently good to great, with one notable exception, giving them a Hall of Fame batting average. The Celebration Ale is one of their better beers. There is nothing especially Christmassy about this beer as there are no spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, or cardamon; it is not particularly heavy; nor is the 6.5 % ABV is all that high. In fact, the only signifiers that this is a Christmas beer is the end of the year release date, and the poinsettias, pine trees and snowbound cabin on the label. I am not complaining as this malty and hoppy IPA is one of my favorite harbingers of the Holiday Season, along with Advent Calendars, the Alastair Sim version of A Christmas Carol, and Christmas cookies, loads and loads of Christmas cookies. My only gripe with this beer is the limited availability as I would drink this all year long. It is that good, 8.5/10.
Clearly not a Christmas beer, just based on the Day of the Dead label design, but I am including it here because I have only recently tried it, and if you look closely at the photo, there is a small Christmas tree visible in the background. The Santo is Saint Arnold’s version of a German Kolsch, and hews quite close to that traditional style. Saint Arnold says it is darker than a traditional kolsch and I suppose that is true, but the profile (malty, light bodied, mild floral hops) is 100% Kolsch. While I liked it, I am not a huge fan of German style beers, but if you are, you will probably enjoy it more than I did, 6.5/10.
I have never had a brown ale that I loved. I have never had a brown ale that I hated. Brown ales are the mediocre middle children of the craft beer world. Damn near every brewer makes one, and whenever I have one, I am always slightly disappointed. Not because whatever brown ale I am drinking is bad, but because I could have had something better.
Winterbraun by Lost Coast Brewing is a chocolatey smooth brown ale, with some notes of coffee and dark fruit. It pours a rich, velvety blackish brown with ruby highlights, and a cappuccino colored head. It has a nutty aftertaste and and there is the mildest of nutmeg flavors here. Do I love this brown ale? No I do not, but I do like it more than most brown ales, and would gladly drink this again, 7/10.
Pouring an opaque brown with a frothy head that lasts to the final sip, New Belgium’s Snow Day Winter Ale opens with a blast of earthy pine needle hops. Those resinous hops are overwhelmed by the roasted coffee and cocoa malts as you take your first sip. The aftertaste is slightly bitter, mixed with roasted wheat, almost like pumpernickel bread. If you look beyond the ubiquitous Fat Tire (which is ‘meh’ at best), New Belgium makes some nice beers, and this is one of them, nice, tasty, and just enough alcohol (6.5% ABV) to warm you on a cold winter night, 7/10.
Silent Night 2:08 Bing Crosby – Recorded at the end of World War II. Just a beautiful rendition.
Christmas Must Be Tonight 3:37 The Band -Not sure why, but I have been listening to the Band a lot lately. Although they appear to have been largely forgotten, The Band have a timeless quality about them. Their music does not sound dated at all, unlike many of their contemporaries. This has been my favorite Christmas song of late. I think that is Rick Danko singing lead.
The Little Drummer Boy 3:09 Joan Baez – Her angelic voice is perfect for Christmas songs, and her phrasing on this is exquisite.
New York Is A Christmas Kind of Town 3:01 Marah – This should be a modern Christmas classic. Marah should be huge superstars. And I should be dating former supermodels who have ditched their ex-hockey player husbands and need someone to squire them along the Amalfi Coast. Some shit that should be, is not, yet the world still spins on it’s axis.
Please Come Home For Christmas 3:23 Willie Nelson – When Willie dies, this country will go into shock. He is a national treasure. He makes this seem so effortless.
My Christmas Prayer 3:25 Saint Etienne – I know this band is a hipster fave, but I do not know of them beyond this song. There are too many bands for me to check out, so unless someone points me to the high point of their oeuvre, or better yet, puts together a greatest hits playlist for me to download, this will be all I know of them.
Nothing But A Child 4:23 Steve Earle – A quiet song from Copperhead Road. A retelling of the Biblical story of the Birth of Jesus, it is similar to Christmas Must Be Tonight by the Band.
1967 6:12 The Beatles – The Beatles sent Christmas records each year to members of their fan club. These Christmas records were always loose and unrehearsed and fun. 1967 was the year the Beatles discovered acid. Madcap hijinks ensued.
Away in a Manger 1:11 Josh T. Pearson – Pearson is from Denton, Texas, and was in Lift To Experience, who were an incredibly cool band. This is from an EP of Christmas songs he did. This is a spare and quite beautiful rendition of the song.
Run Rudolph Run 3:15 Keith Richards – Keith covers Chuck Berry. I am not sure who else is playing on this, but it is a crackerjack band.
Fairytale of New York 4:44 Jesse Malin & Bree Sharp – You all have, or should have, the Pogues version, so check out the Jesse Malin & Bree Sharp cover. Not as good as Shane and Kirsty, but what is?
Go, Tell It On the Mountain 4:25 Seryn ft. Mark Apel – Another band from Denton, Texas, which seems to have a fertile underground that I need to start exploring.
Peanut Brittle Brigade (March) 4:41 Duke Ellington – Swinging arrangement of a number from the Nutcracker Suite.
Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer (Album Version) 4:20 Texas Tornados – The Great Doug Sahm and friends (including Freddie Fender, Flaco Jimenez, and Augie Meyers) tackle the old classic
Christmas, Don’t Be Late 2:51 The Shalitas – The Shalitas floated around the Marah camp for a bit. They never broke free of that orbit, and their records were not as good as their live show, but this a fun song for the holidays.
As always, if you like these songs, please go and support the artists by buying their records and seeing their live shows (if they are still around to play live).
DOWNLOAD the Playlist here.
Ringing bells are a staple of Christmas cliches. The church bells ringing on Christmas morning herald Srcooge’s redemption. Shane Macgowan and Kirsty MacColl, after a night of drinking and fighting, note that “the Bells are ringing out/For Christmas Day”. And, as Zuzu pointed out, when the bells ring out for Christmas, an angel gets its wings.
The weird thing is that I do not remember ringing bells being a big part of my Christmas Mornings. I am sure that is due in part to growing up in the suburbs, with the nearest church being about a mile away, so even if the church rang the bells all morning, I would not have heard them. The only time I distinctly recall bells ringing on Christmas morning was the year I was in London for Christmas. I walked outside that morning, and the air was filled with the peals of church bells.
Bell’s Christmas Ale* pours a hazy ruby red with a nice head and good lacing. It has a mild honey like aroma, with some piney hops as well. The malts are plum like, with the bitterness of the hops in the aftertaste balancing that initial sweetness. Unlike many Christmas beers, there are no spicy flavors. It clocks in at only 5.5% ABV, so you can drink several of these while assembling your turducken. You are making a turducken, right? And doing it from scratch, none of this mail order or store bought crap, right? If you are, enjoy this fine beer, 7/10.
*HOLY CRAP! ANOTHER BRILLIANT TRANSITION! RINGING CHRISTMAS BELLS TO BELL’S CHRISTMAS ALE! I AM EN FUEGO!