Merry Christmas!I’ve had a bit of a rough one, since I got sick the weekend before Christmas and am just now getting out from under it!Apart from trying to hack up a lung now and then, it could have been far worse and thank goodness I didn’t have to travel this year!
Christmas brings a slew of seasonal releases and I wanted to talk about a few of my favorites.First and foremost is Sierra Nevada’s Celebration Ale.
It’s honestly not Christmas without this beer, in my opinion.I am sure you each have your own favorite, but this one’s mine.It used to be one of the hoppiest beers you could get, if you can believe that!It’s still a pretty assertive beer, but it’s no double IPA.The beauty of Celebration Ale is the great balance it has, just enough malt richness to balance out the distinct hop bitterness and flavor.One change they made a few years back is that they now brew it with wet hops and the flavor profile has become a lot more rounded as a result.Hop bitterness is dialed back a bit, but hop flavor comes to the fore and is well blended with the sweetness of the crystal malts that give the beer its deep amber hue.It’s actually a better beer than it used to be (in my opinion) and reflects Sierra Nevada’s continual effort to better their existing beers while offering new ones as well.
As I write, I’m enjoying a Stone Enjoy By 12-25-15 (my last.) This is a true Double IPA, with 9.4% ABV (compared to the more modest 6.8% of Celebration) and a significantly more pronounced hop assault… In a good way.The flavor is resinous and leans to the dank side (see what I did there Star Wars fans?) without being overpowering.Alcohol is well integrated, but you can both feel it and smell it when you’re enjoying the beer.I’m looking forward to sampling my Stone Enjoy After 12-26-15 at some point in the next few weeks… That one adds Brettanomyces to the equation!
The last beer I need to mention is one I’ve talked about before in the context of a blend, Saint Arnold Christmas Ale.It’s a rich and malty counterpoint to the beers I’ve talked about so far.No less enjoyable, it features a rich malt sweetness with a substantial 7.0% ABV that you’ll easily miss in the wash of flavors.I cannot tell you how many times I’ve been asked what the “secret ingredient” is this year.There isn’t one.Apart from refinements to the brewing process at Saint Arnold (and whatever yeast/hop variations might occur from year to year) there hasn’t been a change to their award-winning recipe.I had the privilege of leading the Saint Arnold Christmas Ale pub crawl for many years and Monday last, I celebrated the life of a good friend gone too soon, Jason Mustachio, who I often hung out with behind the bar at the old brewery location.
The photo you see is me and Jason, as Saint Arnold (me) and Saint Nicholas (Jason.)No matter where you are and what you’re drinking, raise a toast to those friends we have in beer, they are never here long enough.Have a happy new beer… er, year!
Bev Blackwood II is the Southwest Brewing News Contributing Editor for Texas and has been covering Texas beers for 17 years An award winning home brewer, Bev has also brewed professionally at St. Arnold Brewing Company and was part of the team that brought home Saint Arnold’s first Great American Beer Festival gold medal in 2007. A long time member of Houston’s premiere homebrew club, the Foam Rangers, Bev teaches their Beer Judge Certification Program course and has also taught at Rice University’s Glasscock School of Continuing Studies.
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.