Thursday, December 18, 2014

It's The Most Wonderful Time of the Beer: Brew Kettle Winter Warmer

Tonight's selection is another one I purchased Thanksgiving weekend in Cincy:  The Brew Kettle's Winter Warmer.  Like Great Lakes Christmas Ale, it is another solid Christmas ale from Northeast Ohio.  The Winter Warmer has a good amount of spice to it, featuring ginger, cinnamon, honey, and orange and lemon peel.  While it's 8% ABV, it tastes much lighter than that, so it goes down pretty easily.

Name:  Winter Warmer Spiced Christmas Ale
Brewery:  The Brew Kettle Production Works
Location:  Strongsville, Ohio
ABV:  8.0%
IBU:  24
Good for drinking if:  you're frantically addressing Christmas cards while watching two of the worst teams in the NFL play each other on Thursday Night Football, and you need something to take the edge off.

Rating:  4 stars (out of 5)

It's The Most Wonderful Time of the Beer: Southern Tier 2xMas

Last night, I dined at legendary Chicago rib haven, Twin Anchors.  While I generally prefer smoked ribs to baked ribs, I do love me some Twin Anchors ribs.  They fall off the bone, and all of the restaurant's BBQ sauces are great.  But you didn't come here to talk about ribs.  Or maybe you did, in which case, I'm sorry to disappoint you.  Feel free to take me to Twin Anchors or Smoque to remedy this problem.

Anyway, Twin Anchors has a rotating Christmas brew selection on tap, and I don't if you know this about me, but I like winter beers.  On this particular night, the tap was Southern Tier's 2xMas, which is one of my favorite Christmas ales.  Inspired by Swedish glögg, 2xMas billed as a "doubled spiced ale," and that is an accurate description.  This beer smacks you in the face with holiday spices.  We're talking cinnamon, cloves, figs, orange peel, and cardamom.  I don't actually know what cardamom is, but I do know that it tastes good as part of this beer.  On top of the spice, like glögg, 2xMas is strong, clocking in at a solid 8% ABV, and it tastes heavy, which I like.  Sometimes you should know if you're about to time travel.  All in all, this is one of the better spiced winter beers out there, and I highly recommend it.

Name:  2xMas
Brewery:  Southern Tier Brewing Company
Location:  Lakewood, New York
ABV:  8%
IBU:  N/A
Good for drinking if:  you feel like having a julekake before eating a full slab of ribs, but you just don't have the time, energy, knowhow, proper utensils, oven, or desire to make a julekake.
Rating:  4.5 stars (out of 5)

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Retro Video of the Week: "The Chanukah Song" by Adam Sandler

Today is the second day of Chanukah and Chanukkah, as well as Hanukkah.  No matter how you spell it, there can be only one Retro Video of the Week that I can post to honor all of my Jewish friends:  Adam Sandler's original version of "The Chanukah Song."  It originally aired on Weekend Update on Saturday Night Live twenty years ago, on December 3, 1994.  That makes me feel really old.  Hell, the Seattle SuperSonics don't even exist anymore.  OJ Simpson is still not a Jew, as far as I know.

As an added bonus, here is a link to an article that has embedded the classic SNL sketch featuring Jon Lovitz as "Hanukkah Harry."

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Tuesday Top Ten: Things to Look For During the Christmas Story Marathon

We are only 9 days from Christmas, which means we are slightly less than 9 days from TBS's annual 24 hour A Christmas Story marathon.  Since I'm not sure if I'm going to have time to post a Tuesday Top Ten next week, I needed to post this today.  If I didn't, I wouldn't be able to live with myself come Boxing Day.  I came across this article on Mental Floss called "25 Things to Look for While Watching the 24-Hour A Christmas Story Marathon."  It has a lot of random facts, cameos, anachronisms, and Easter eggs that you can use to annoy the shit out of your relatives on Christmas.

It's The Most Wonderful Time of the Beer: SweetWater Festive Ale

One of my purchases during my winter beer purchasing binge whilst visiting Cincinnati a few weeks ago was SweetWater Festive Ale.  It's another one of those beers that I chose because (1) it was a winter beer and (2) I had never heard of the brewery.  SweetWater Brewing is located in Atlanta, which is no longer burning, apparently.  Their winter warmer, Festive Ale, is very delicious.  It's on the strong side, and its taste is heavy enough to let you know that it's 8.6%.  Dark, roasted, and malty, Festive Ale has some faint hints of cinnamon and mace, which, in this case, is a spice related to nutmeg.  I think that's a good thing because it would be weird if it was a beer flavored with pepper spray or a medieval weapon everyone confuses with a flail.

Name:  Festive Ale
Brewery:  SweetWater Brewing Company
Location:  Atlanta, Georgia
ABV:  8.6%
IBU:  23
Good for drinking if:  you are catching up on Sonic Highways, for tomorrow, you will dine on ribs.

Rating:  4.5 stars (out of 5)

It's The Most Wonderful Time of the Beer: Samuel Adams Winter Lager

Last night, I had a meeting at an ale house in the Old Town neighborhood.  I was hoping that I wouldn't have to double up on breweries for It's The Most Wonderful Time of the Beer, but the only winter beer available was Samuel Adams Winter Lager, which was on tap.  Winter Lager is another winter beer staple, first brewed in 1997.  Unlike some of their other seasonal brews, this is available outside of sampler packs, so you can get it in six packs, twelve packs, and on tap.  Winter Lager is a very drinkable bock, with a nice malty flavor, as well as some hints of cinnamon, orange, and ginger, although none of them are front and center, as they can be in winter beers.  

It's not my favorite winter beer, but it is still very good, and I'm never going to complain if I have to drink it, unless maybe I'm being held hostage and my captors force-feed me lots of Winter Lager as my only sustenance over the course of several days.  In that limited circumstance, I might complain if, a couple days after I escaped (by using reverse Stockholm Syndrome psychological techniques and karate), someone was like, "Hey brah, here's a Samuel Adams Winter Lager.  Catch."  After it soared four feet over my head and shattered against the wall, I'd say, "No thank you, Johnny Manziel.  I'm not ready for Samuel Adams Winter Lager yet, on account of the physically and emotionally taxing hostage situation I recently endured, where my captors force-fed me nothing but Winter Lager as my only sustenance over the course of several days, before I escaped using reverse Stockholm Syndrome psychological techniques and karate.  Can I please have another type of beer?"

Regardless of the situation you might find yourself in, this is another safe beer to bring to a holiday party because it's not too heavy or too spicy, and I think it's pretty universally liked, meaning someone who doesn't normally drink winter beers can drink this and enjoy it.

Name:  Samuel Adams Winter Lager
Brewery:  Boston Beer Company
Location:  Boston, Massachusetts
ABV:  5.6
IBU:  22
Good for drinking if:  you want something that goes down easy while you are watching the Bears once again get demolished on national television and simultaneously watching Matt Forte fail to score 25.8 points in a PPR fantasy league, thus relegating you to the third-place game and crushing your last hope in the one league you thought you could win.
Rating:  4 stars (out of 5)

Sunday, December 14, 2014

It's The Most Wonderful Time of the Beer: Firestone Walker Velvet Merlin, Breckenridge Christmas Ale, and Magic Hat Starlit

Here are my beers from the last few days.

Firestone Walker Velvet Merlin
Friday night was my company holiday party, after which a bunch of us went to a co-worker's apartment for some continued boozing.  Having had enough whiskey over the course of the night, I decided to drink a beer.  I like beer.  It was a stroke of luck that the guy happened to have some winter beers, including Firestone Walker's Velvet Merlin, an oatmeal stout.  I don't think I've ever met an oatmeal stout I didn't like, and this is one of the better ones I've had.  It's smooth, creamy, and easy to drink, with some chocolate and coffee flavor.  It was a good beer to have at the end of the night.  Plus, it has one of the best names ever given to a beer.

Name:  Velvet Merlin Oatmeal Stout
Brewery:  Firestone Walker Brewing Company
Location:  Paso Robles, California
ABV:  5.5%
IBU:  27
Good for drinking if:  you need something a little lighter than scotch to end the night.
Rating:  4.5 stars (out of 5)

Breckenridge Christmas Ale
Last night, Jester and I went to two holiday parties, and I drank a variety of winter beers, none of which I captured photographically for some reason.  At the second party of the evening, someone brought one of those five-liter mini kegs of Breckenridge Christmas Ale.  Whoever thought to bring this mini keg should be given a pat on the back, or at least a beer.  I think Breckenridge makes some pretty damn good beers, especially dark ones.  I especially enjoy their 72 Imperial Chocolate Cream Stout, Vanilla Porter, and Oatmeal Stout.  Their Christmas Ale is one of my favorites, too.  It's pretty strong (7.4%), with a nice malty, caramel flavor.  Unlike many Christmas ales, it doesn't have winter spices, like cinnamon or nutmeg, but it doesn't need them.

Name:  Christmas Ale
Brewery:  Breckenridge Brewery
Location:  Denver, Colorado
ABV:  7.4%
IBU:  22
Good for drinking if:  you want a really good winter beer without a lot of spice.
Rating:  4.5 stars (out of 5)

Magic Hat Starlit
Tonight, I tapped into the Magic Hat winter sampler pack I bought a couple weeks ago.  The most intriguing of the beers in the sampler pack was the Starlit Star Anise Porter.  I'm not sure exactly what I was expecting, since the word "anise" is in the name of the beer, but Starlit does, in fact, have a pretty strong anise flavor to it.  I don't really like anise, so I'm not sure why I thought I would like this beer.  It is a porter, so it does have some redeeming qualities, but a little bit of anise goes a long way, and it's impossible for me to taste anything else.

Name:  Starlit Star Anise Porter
Brewery:  Magic Hat Brewing Company
Location:  South Burlington, Vermont
ABV:  5.8%
IBU:  28
Good for drinking if:  you've ever thought to yourself, "you know what would make this beer taste better? Sambuca."
Rating:  3 stars (out of 5)

Thursday, December 11, 2014

It's The Most Wonderful Time of the Beer: Leinenkugel's Winter's Bite

After beers from Belgium, Colorado, New York, and Massachusetts this week, I decided to bring it a little closer to home tonight, with Leinenkugel's Winter's Bite Cocoa Spice Black Lager, which you can find in the Leinie's Winter Explorer Pack.  I enjoy black lagers, and this is a pretty good one.  The cocoa flavor isn't too strong, but you still get a nice little chocolate note.  I hate the fact that I just said "note," but there it is.  Winter's Bite also has some spices (tastes like nutmeg and cinnamon) that complement the cocoa.  Chocolate or cocoa-flavored beers usually lean to the heavy side, but this is pretty light and easy to drink.  I couldn't find any ABV info on the bottle, the Leinie's website, Untappd, or anywhere else, so you can assume it is somewhere between 3% and 10% ABV.

Name:  Winter's Bone Cocoa Spice Black Lager.
Brewery:  Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Company
Location:  Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin.
ABV:  N/A (as in not available, not non-alcoholic)
IBU:  N/A
Good for drinking if:  you like what you're drinking and you're not sure how strong it is, so you're gonna pretend it's as strong as Michelob Ultra, drink the shit out of it, and see where the night takes you.
Rating:  4 stars (out of 5)