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!
I do not have any Christmas Party nightmare stories. I never got drunk and made a pass at the boss’ daughter. I never tried to grope the secretary. Never dropped my drawers to photocopy my naked ass. There are no pictures of me with a lampshade on my head nor dancing shirtless in a fountain in sub-zero temperatures. I have never stumbled home and passed out beneath the Christmas tree.
While I have never wrecked the halls, that did not stop me from enjoying the heck out of Full Sail’s Wreck The Halls Christmas Ale.* Generously hopped with Centennial Hops, giving it a nice citrus bitterness, this beer has a nice caramel malt richness for balance. It has none of the spices traditionally associated with Christmas beers, and I am ok with that. Think of it as a rich, malty, India Pale Ale, and you will be close to the mark. It is only 6.5 % ABV, so feel free to knock back a few of these as you trim the tree, 7/10.
Earlier Post: The First Day of Christmas
*Holy Cow! That transition was AWESOME! Seriously, read that again: While I have never wrecked the halls, that did not stop me from enjoying the heck out of Full Sail’s Wreck The Halls Christmas Ale.* Do you see what I did there? Do you!?!? I crack myself up sometimes.
Let’s get this out of the way first: Yes, I am well aware that the First Day of Christmas is December 25, and the Twelve Days culminate on January 4 on the Feast of the Epiphany. I am starting the Twelve Days today because it is my blog and I set the rules around here. So you pedants can just climb down from your high horses and cut me some slack.
Saint Arnold‘s Sailing Santa is a blend of their Elissa IPA and their Christmas Ale. As both are fine beers in their own right, I expected this to be a good one, and it is a fine drink. It has some nice piney hops, and along with some dark fruit and brown sugar sweetness to it. It had a mild Christmas spiciness to it, with some nutmeg and cinnamon, but that was very muted. This was very smooth and drinkable considering the 8% ABV. Sailing Santa was quite enjoyable and a worthy brew to kickoff the Twelve Days of Christmas, 7/10.