12 Beers of Christmas 2012 – Day 9 – Page 24 Biere de Noel from Brasserie St. Germain

On the 9th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…

Page 24 Biere de Noel, Brasserie St. Germain, 6.9%

Page 24 Biere de Noel from Brasserie St. Germain.

Page 24 Biere de Noel from Brasserie St. Germain.

Up until this review this was a beer that I hadn’t tried, let alone seen prior to this holiday season. I really enjoy Belgian “Noel” beers for a variety of reasons. I love their complex malt character, the smoothness of their flavor, and their restrained Belgian yeast character.

Page 24 Biere de Noel in a glass.

Page 24 Biere de Noel in a glass.

This beer pours out a dark caramel color with amber highlights and a beige colored head. The aroma is fruity, like dates and bits of raisin. There’s a subtle peppery note as well. The flavor is of deeply toasted malts, with some caramel character, and fruity notes (dates, raisins, and plums). Hop bitterness is medium-low. I can also taste some Belgian candi sugar flavors. There’s a soft alcohol quality that permeates through this beer that is pleasant and not hot or harsh. This is a full bodied beer with medium-high carbonation and a dry finish.

Close up of the label of Page 24 Biere de Noel.

Close up of the label of Page 24 Biere de Noel.

What a wonderful little find! I picked this beer up in a bottle shop in Mountain View. Just happened to walk in and saw this beer on the shelf. It’s beers like this that reinforce why I love holiday beers.

Joyeux Noel!

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12 Beers of Christmas 2012 – Day 8 – Coming Home 2012 from Grand Teton Brewing Company

On the 8th Day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…

Coming Home 2012 Holiday Ale, Grand Teton Brewing Company, 10% ABV

Continuing in the tradition of spreading the wealth, this review of Coming Home 2012 was done with Andy Lee and Mrs. BetterBeerBlog. As much as I enjoy drinking good beers, the experience is almost always better with equally good company.

Coming Home 2012 Holiday Ale, from Grand Teton Brewing Company.

Coming Home 2012 Holiday Ale, from Grand Teton Brewing Company.

Peter: Cloudy reddish brown color with an off-white colored head. Soft alcohol aroma up front, slight fruity character, slight toasty malt notes. Flavor is a combination of toasty/caramel malt character, candy like fruit flavors, noticeable alcohol character, and medium hop bitterness. Body is full, carbonation is medium-high/high, finish is dry.

Coming Home 2012 in a glass.

Coming Home 2012 in a glass.

AL: Cloudy, orangish brown with great head. Citrusy, hoppy aroma. Sweet, alcohol taste. Delicious, sipping beer.

Story of Coming Home 2012 Holiday Ale.

Story of Coming Home 2012 Holiday Ale.

MrsB: Dark straw, really dirty blonde in color.  Good head retention especially after the pour but dissipates to a nice thin layer when it gets warmer.  Nice big balance of malt and hop forward aroma.  Aroma of alcohol is also very evident as it warms up.  Medium high carbonation, thick full body mouthfeel.  Nice raisin flavor, malty sweet with hop flvor in the blend with no hop bitterness.  Smooth, warming heat, dry, and resiny finish.

Barleywine, which Coming Home 2012 is an example of, is an interesting style. The category itself can be so broad that it overlaps with several other beer styles. Sierra Nevada’s Bigfoot is a barleywine but tastes more like a big double IPA. I’ve also tasted other barleywines that could be considered Russian Imperial Stouts. Coming Home 2012 seems to be more inline with what I think a barleywine should taste like.

That said, I personally think that this beer could use at least another year of aging. It tastes good now but I’d like to some of the malt character change slightly with the aging process. It’s a personal preference.

Grand Teton is a very solid craft brewery that I’m starting to see more of in the Bay Area. I’ve enjoyed several of their beers before and haven’t been disappointed yet with anything I’ve come across from them.

Kala Christouyenna!

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12 Beers of Christmas 2012 – Day 7 – Mouette a Trois from Karl Strauss Brewing

On the 7th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…

Mouette a Trois, Karl Strauss Brewing Company, 8.5% ABV

Mouette a Trois, a Holiday Fruitcake Ale, from Karl Strauss Brewing.

Mouette a Trois, a Holiday Fruitcake Ale, from Karl Strauss Brewing.

Like The Bruery, Karl Strauss Brewing Company produces a series of holiday ales inspired by the Christmas carol The 12 Days of Christmas. Unlike The Bruery, Karl Strauss adds their own Southern California twist. Mouette a Trois translates into “3 seagulls” and is probably inspired by the marine bird that is ubiquitous in the skies in and around San Diego.

Mouette a Trois in a glass. Pretty as a Christmas ornament.

Mouette a Trois in a glass. Pretty as a Christmas ornament.

Mouette a Trois pours out a clear, reddish-brown color with ruby highlights, and a beige colored head. The aroma is subtle, but is comprised of toasty/malty caramel notes along with a fruity character, and cinnamon, nutmeg, and gingerbread spices. This beer has caramel and toasty malt flavors. It’s fruity, like candied fruits, but I can’t tell which ones they are. There’s a spice character to the beer that reminds me of gingerbread. Hop flavor is low, hop bitterness is low/medium-low. The body is full, carbonation is spritzy, and the finish is dry.

Side label of Mouette a Trois from Karl Strauss Brewing.

Side label of Mouette a Trois from Karl Strauss Brewing.

Karl Strauss says this ale is their “holiday fruit cake” ale and I think they hit the nail on the head on all levels. This is by far the most interesting beer I’ve had this holiday season. It’s layered, complex, and changes character as it warms up. There’s a lot going on, and I’m glad that I can’t figure it all out. A little mystery, like a wrapped present under the Christmas tree, is a good thing sometimes.

Joyeux Noël!

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12 Beers of Christmas 2012 – Day 6 – Sleighr from Ninkasi Brewing Company

On the 6th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…

Sleighr (Dark Double Alt), Ninkasi Brewing, 7.2% ABV

Sleighr from Ninkasi Brewing Company.

Sleighr from Ninkasi Brewing Company.

Peter: Dark brown, with reddish hues, and a beige colored head. Aroma is fruity, like plums and dates, with toasty malt aromas. Flavor is slightly fruity (dates), with toasty malt flavors, slight grainy notes, and a noticeable alcohol bite in the finish. Hop bitterness is medium/medium high, carbonation is medium, finish is dry.

Very big malty flavor with a noticeable alcohol character. Fruitier than I would’ve expected from an altbier but still solid.

Sleighr in a glass.

Sleighr in a glass.

AL: Pours a dark brown color. Aroma reflects combination of ripe plums and a pleasant toastiness. Taste is of boozy maltiness, ultimately leading to a very pleasant, drinkable beer. A warming beer for sure.

Mrs.B: Off white head, retention was nice and fluffy in beginning of the pour and dissipates at the end.  Color is a nice brown.  Carbonation is high  with dry finish.  Smooth, sweet, malty and warming but no hoppy flavor but slight bitterness that shows up at the finish.  There is a date fruit flavor also that is in the aroma and flavor.

Altbiers are an underrepresented style in craft beer. They are typically balanced beers with enough hop bitterness to offset their robust malt flavors. Sleighr is a little more malty than the style says, but it’s the holidays! What’s a little more malt flavor and alcohol?

Froehliche Weinachten!

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12 Beers of Christmas 2012 – Day 5 – 5 Golden Rings from The Bruery

On the 5th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…

5 Golden Rings, The Bruery, 11.5% ABV

5 Golden Rings in a celebratory 750 mL bottle.

5 Golden Rings in a celebratory 750 mL bottle.

Southern California based craft brewery, The Bruery, came up with the fantastic idea of creating a line of holiday beers themed around the popular Christmas carol The 12 Days of Christmas. So far, I’ve been lucky enough to have tried each one and year 5 is no different.

5 Golden Rings, from the Bruery, in a glass.

5 Golden Rings, from the Bruery, in a glass.

5 Golden Rings pours out a cloudy copper color with an off-white head. The aroma reminds me of candied pineapples with a light spice character. The flavor is a mix of pineapple, light brown sugar,  honey, stone fruit, with peppery yeast notes. Hop flavor is floral, hop bitterness is medium. Body is full, carbonation is high, and the beer finishes dry with some alcohol astringency and warming.

A close up of the label for 5 Golden Rings.

A close up of the label for 5 Golden Rings.

When I first took a whiff of 5 Golden Rings, the blend of aromatics reminded me of my Mom’s holiday ham. I am instantly 10 years old again in my Mother’s kitchen chomping at the bit for the ham to finish cooking. It’s salty and savory flavors are enhanced by the glaze she uses, which is a combination of brown sugar and pineapple juice. These memories are further enhanced when I drink the beer. It is for this very reason alone that I love this beer, despite the fact that I’m not quite over being burnt out on that peppery yeast quality prevalent in many lighter colored Belgian ales.

Oh, and in case you haven’t seen this already, I’m embedding one of my favorite renditions of The 12 Days of Christmas as sung by the a capella band Straight No Chaser.

Maligayang Pasko!

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12 Beers of Christmas 2012 – Day 4 – Santa’s Butt Winter Porter from Ridgeway Brewing

On the 4th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…

Santa’s Butt Winter Porter, Ridgeway Brewing, 6.0% ABV

Santa's Butt Winter Porter from Ridgeway Brewing.

Santa's Butt Winter Porter from Ridgeway Brewing.

Santa’s Butt is one of many “Holiday” themed beers from Ridgeway Brewing. Many of these holiday beers showcase the twisted sense of humor the brewery has. Some of the other Ridgeway Brewing beers  include Bad Elf (English IPA), Very Bad Elf (English Pale Ale), Criminally Bad Elf (English Barleywine), Insanely Bad Elf (English Strong Ale), and Reindeer Droppings (English Pale Ale).

As with Fireside Chat, I had the pleasure of reviewing this beer with Examiner.com Craft Beer Writer Andy Lee, and Mrs. BetterBeerBlog. Here’s what we thought.

Santa's Butt Winter Porter in a glass.

Santa's Butt Winter Porter in a glass.

Peter: Clear brown color, with an off-white/beige head. Aroma has caramel notes, slight cola, nutty, and very light toast. Flavor is caramel, slight nutty flavors, and some toasted malt flavors. Hop bitterness is low/medium-low. Slight fruity flavors. Body is medium-low, carbonation is medium, finish is on the dry side.

AL: Brown in appearance with a short-lived head. Tastes like Korean hot tea (boricha) but carbonated. Pleasant, easy-drinking beer. Amused by the label artwork and beer name.

MrsB: Off white head with low head retention. Aroma reminds me of shaved ice syrup, sweet, malty aroma with some toastiness. Low medium body with medium carbonation, low bitterness with no hoppy flavor. It’s a nice drinking beer at 6% that does not presents itself as a porter, not hot or hint of any alcohol which it should not have.

Overall Thoughts

We all thought this was a malt forward beer with a straight forward flavor profile, reminiscent of a stronger brown ale. Very English. Not a bad beer but there are a lot more complex and interesting holiday beers out there.

The story behind "Santa's Butt" as printed on the label.

The story behind "Santa's Butt" as printed on the label.

This was brought to the tasting party by Lee, and I suspect he was drawn in by the name and the artwork on the label. I can’t really blame him, when looking for holiday beers to try, witty names and/or catchy label artwork can go a long way to making a purchase.

That said, I think having “catchy labels” with “witty names” (debatable if they’re actually witty or not) is what this brewery is known for. I was hoping for a bit more complexity in the beer, especially since it was a “winter porter” but it ended up being very “English”. As I said, it wasn’t horrible but there are much better holiday beers our there.

Merry Christmas!

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12 Beers of Christmas 2012 – Day 3 – Tsjeeses Reserva from De Struise Brouwers

On the third day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…

Tsjeeses Reserva, De Struise Brouwers, 10% ABV

Tsjeeses Reserva Winter Ale in the bottle.

Tsjeeses Reserva Winter Ale in the bottle.

Admittedly, I don’t know too much about this brewery. Based upon a quick Google search, they seem to make some pretty fantastic beers. They’re on the RateBeer Best Beers of Belgium 2011 several times, so they must be doing something well.

Tsjeeses Reserva Winter Ale in a glass.

Tsjeeses Reserva Winter Ale in a glass.

Tsjeeses Reserva pours out a clear copper color with an off-white/beige colored head. The aroma has some dark fruity character, slight yeasty pepperiness, and slight honey-like character. The flavor has some dark fruit character (dates), with slight caramel and toasty malt flavors, and is sweet. There’s also a soft alcohol character. Hop bitterness is low/medium-low. This is a full bodied beer, with high carbonation, and a dry finish. There’s some alcohol warming in the finish but it’s not boozy.

Tsjeeses Reserva Winter Ale side label.

Tsjeeses Reserva Winter Ale side label.

One of the reasons I love this time of year is because of all the great holiday beers that Belgian breweries make. They just seem to have holiday beers down to an art form, delicious!

Zalig Kerstfeest!

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12 Beers of Christmas 2012 – Day 2 – Fireside Chat from 21st Amendment Brewing

On the second day of Christmas my true love gave to me…

Fireside Chat, 21st Amendment Brewing, 7.9% ABV

Fireside Chat is the holiday seasonal from San Francisco brewery 21st Amendment Brewing. Like the craft beers I reviewed on Day 1, this is also a spiced beer. The graphics on the canned 21st Amendment products are fantastic, full of character and fun. I think the graphic of FDR (I think it’s FDR) sitting by a fire and enjoying a smoke and a snifter is apropos for a beer like this.

I was fortunate enough to have reviewed this beer with Mrs. BetterBeerBlog, and with my fellow craft beer blogger Andy Lee. Here are our thoughts.

Fireside Chat, from 21st Amendment, in a can!

Fireside Chat, from 21st Amendment, in a can!

PeterFireside Chat pours out very dark brown, with a beige/tan head. Spices in the aroma, like nutmeg and allspice. Slight chocolate? Malty flavor, some chocolatey, toasty, and very light caramel. Hop bitterness is low. Body is medium, carbonation is medium-high, finish is dry-ish.

Fireside Chat, from 21st Amendment, in a glass.

Fireside Chat, from 21st Amendment, in a glass.

Andy Lee (AL) - Pours dark brown with a tight, bubbly tan head. Aroma is light, sugary spices. Flavor reflects the aroma of sweet spices. Pleasant mouthfeel. Very drinkable.

Mrs. BetterBeerBlog (MrsB) - Good tan head, with nice retention of small bubbles.  Brown in color. Chocolate, spices, hot, malty in the armoma. Medium high in body, you can taste and feel the heat with bitterness that you can feel in the middle to the end of the drink and bitterness that lingers. Taste of spices mainly of anise which sticks to the tongue.  Dry finish.

If you visit the 21st Amendment Brewing website, it says that they use cocoa nibs to brew this beer, which explains the chocolate notes I picked up on. It’s a subtle touch.

Feliz Navidad!

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12 Beers of Christmas 2012 – Day 1 – Our Special Ale from Anchor Brewing

I love the holidays. If you’re able to get past the blatant consumerism, it’s a pretty cool time of the year. We’re all supposed to be kinder to each other and more supportive of those less fortunate than ourselves. It’s also a time of the year when we get to spend more time with our friends and families.

In addition to all the above mentioned reasons, I love this time of year because of all the great craft beers made to ring in the season. I take the time to gather as many of these beers as I can afford and review them in a series of posts I call, “The 12 Beers of Christmas”. In reality, it’s just a great excuse for me to go out and try as many of these beers as possible. That said, let’s get this party started with an oldie, but goodie!

Our Special Ale 2012, Anchor Brewing, 5.5% ABV

Our Special Ale 2012 in a bottle.

Our Special Ale 2012 in a bottle.

Our Special Ale is the Winter seasonal from Anchor Brewing Company. This holiday ale is an example of a spiced beer and is the 38th in the series! What’s pretty cool about the series is that they change up the recipe for this beer every year, just like they do the labels. If I could afford it, I’d pick up a collection of the entire set.

Our Special Ale 2012, in a glass, from Anchor Brewing.

Our Special Ale 2012, in a glass, from Anchor Brewing.

Our Special Ale pours out a dark brown in color, clear, with a beige/tan colored head, and ruby hues. The aroma is herbal, with spices, and a little musty. The flavor is malty, with deep toasty notes and some caramel. The spice character is reminiscent of nutmeg, allspice, and a hint of ginger. Hop flavor is citrus, hop bitterness is medium. The beer has a medium-low/medium body, with high carbonation, and a dry finish.

Close up of Our Special Ale 2012 label.

Close up of Our Special Ale 2012 label.

I think this may be the year that I almost reverse my stance on spiced beers. I’m at the point where I don’t mind them so much and this beer has gone a long way to changing my views.

Gingerbread Ale, Bison Brewing Company, 6.0% ABV

Gingerbread Ale, from Bison Brewing.

Gingerbread Ale, from Bison Brewing.

Speaking of spiced beers, I wanted to review the Gingerbread Ale from Bison Brewing. It’s not a winter seasonal, per se, but their pumpkin beer alternative. The very first time I tasted this beer was during a beer festival. At the time, I liked it because it was different from all the pumpkin beers out at the time.

Gingerbread Ale, from Bison Brewing, in a glass.

Gingerbread Ale, from Bison Brewing, in a glass.

Gingerbread Ale pours out a clear dark brown, with a beige head, with amber/ruby highlights. The aroma is of spices, like ginger, allspice, slight nutmeg and cinnamon. The flavor is malty with a toasty character, light caramel notes, and spices (ginger, allspice, nutmeg and slight cinnamon). Hop bitterness is medium-low. This beer has a medium-low body, high carbonation, and a dry finish.

This is an easy drinking beer and makes for a fantastic alternative to all the pumpkin spiced beer that are out on the market. Or if you wait long enough, you can ring in the holiday season with this wonderful craft ale.

Last Call

So far, this year’s 12 Beers of Christmas is off to a great start! If you’ve had either of these beers before, I’d love to hear your thoughts about them in the comments section below.

Happy Holidays!

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Celebrate the Repeal of Prohibition!

Prohibition, also known as the Noble Experiment, was a dark time in American history. This 13 year ban on the sale, manufacture, and transportation of alcohol had well meaning roots, but instead, fueled corruption in government and law enforcement, as well as gave rise to organized crime. Thankfully, the repeal of the 18th Amendment with the 21st Amendment on December 5, 1933, coupled with the signing of the Cullen-Harrison Act, restored alcohol back to America. We’ve been imbibing ever since.

Craft beer drinkers have never really needed an excuse to celebrate, but now having one,  how will you be celebrating? The short and easy answer, would be with a pint of locally produced craft beer. I’ve always been a proponent of locally produced craft beer for several reasons. One of the most important reasons is to support the men, women, and small businesses of the craft beer industry in your immediate area. Another great reason is that fresh craft beer is usually the best craft beer. It’s hard to get any fresher than enjoying craft beer from your local craft breweries.

But if you can’t purchase your favorite brews directly from your local craft breweries, another great way to celebrate Repeal Day is by patronizing your local craft beer establishments. The craft beer scene in San Jose is still growing but I’ve seen craft beer being sold in places I normally wouldn’t have thought of. Several local liquor stores I’ve visited have inventories that I wouldn’t have thought possible, even as recent as 2 years ago. Grocery stores are starting to carry more craft offerings as well. And while many specialty bars and restaurants will undoubtedly be having specials for the day, I’d like to focus on local craft beer bar Original Gravity.

Repeal Day at Original Gravity

Who: Original Gravity Public House
What: “Prohibition Ends At Last!”, featuring 21st Amendment Brewing
Where: Original Gravity Public House, 66 South 1st Street, San Jose, CA 95113
When: Wednesday, December 5, 2012 @ 3:30pm
Cost: No cost to get in, just pay for the pints you drink.

Featured Craft Beers

It’s no surprise the craft beers from San Francisco brewery, 21st Amendment Brewing, will be featured. The brilliantly named company produces some fine ales. If you’re not already familiar with them, this would be a great start. Original Gravity will be pouring:

  • Bitter American (Extra Pale Ale)
  • Brew Free or Die (IPA)
  • Hop Crisis (Imperial IPA)
  • Fireside Chat (Winter Spiced Ale)
  • Marooned on Hog Island (Oyster Stout)

With the exception of Marooned on Hog Island, I’ve had the pleasure of drinking all these beers before. Bitter American is one of my personal favorites as it really opened my eyes to how excellent session beers can be.

Whether you’re raising a pint of craft beer, a glass of wine, or an old fashioned with your favorite bourbon, I wish you a Happy, and Safe, Repeal Day!

Mabuhay!

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