A few weeks ago I was putting out some new beers at the store and my boss came up behind me and pointing toward two of them, “you know we have only a few weeks to sell those, right?”
He was pointing at a new beer from The Bruery, Eight Maids-a-Milking, a new one from Mikkeller, Santa’s Little Helper.I scoffed and pointed out that the beers wouldn’t go bad on December 26; in fact they’d be better as time passed and that I expected several of our customers to buy a few bottles and cellar them.Then—mindful of not maintaining a condescending tone with my boss-- explained that there are dozens of beers with names designed to recall the very best time of the year, but that they are better thought of as winter beers.I had hoped to sell them through the colder months (though geez, it’s 70 degrees in New York City on Christmas Eve).Lesser retailers might mark them down, but I expected to be able to educate our clientele that while certain beers that we cherish such as Maine Beer Company Lunch or any IPA brewed by the Grimm’s are best consumed as soon as possible, some beers benefit from a little aging and that is the case with many Christmas beers.
But, I wouldn’t want to discourage anyone that bought a Bruery bottle from drinking it on the spot.It’s pretty fantastic.Eight Maids-a- Milking is a Belgian Imperial Milk Stout, Yeah, they took everything you can do to a stout to make it just that much more amazing and did it with one beer.It’s rich and creamy with a light, yeasty mouthfeel and at 11.3% ABV, it packs a punch.When we sampled it out to the clientele, a few people loved it so much that they overcame sticker shock (the price tag is north of the $15) and bought it on the spot; others put it on their agenda for later.No one felt that St. Nick had put a deadline on them.
Earlier that day, we sampled out the Mikkeller to a similarly enthusiastic response.The Mikkeller is a Belgian dark ale that is matured in Grand Marnier barrels.Surprisingly the liqueur barrels add only a tasteful (sic) accent to a strikingly well brewed dark beer.It’s full of caramel and sweet bread overtones.It’s even pricier which daunted some customers, but not all.One of our regulars showed up brimming with glee.He had been to the Mikkeller bar in Copenhagen recently and tried the beer.He had only found the regular version in the city but not the barrel aged one.He took several bottles intent on cellaring some and serving some of the holidays.My boss was right behind him to grab a couple of bottles of each for his beer cellar.
These are two beers that offer more proof that the best Christmas beers should be thought of as holiday beers, i.e. brews that are perfect for any holiday: Christmas, New Year’s, the King Holiday, Valentine’s Day, President’s Day or even Easter.They’re good now and mostly likely they’re only going to get better.
Martin Johnson is a beer buyer and merchandising manager for Westside Market East Village in New York City.When not selling or drinking beer he writes about jazz and beer for the Wall Street Journal, basketball for Slate, beer for Eater and about a variety of cultural and culinary topics for The Root.
The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author's alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of Ora Media, LLC, its affiliates, or its employees.