Barrel or no barrel? For me this is a no-brainer. I love barrel-aged beers. Today, we’re tasting Hoppin’ Frog Brewing Co. of Akron, Ohio. The Frosted Frog Christmas Ale and Barrel Aged Frosted Frog Christmas Ale.
First up, the regular Frosted Frog Christmas Ale. It pours fox-tail brown with a thin head of foam. There’s gingerbread on the nose. Spices dominate this beer. It’s ginger snap cookies in a bottle, with sharp cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg spices on a sweet, malty base.
Now for the barrel aged version. This one pours a bit darker and murkier with no foam. The sharp ginger aroma from the regular version is dialed back with a hint of vanilla from the barrels. Barrel aging adds a lot of depth to the overall flavor profile. It’s become gingerbread cake with more malty roundness. Both beers are 8.6% ABV and 12 IBU.
You’ve got to like this style of cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg spice-dominated beer to drink local Christmas beer in Ohio. I’ve termed this flavor profile “Ohio style” because many of the breweries in the region shoot for it, and breweries in other regions don’t.
I’ve been wanting to taste the first American Trappist Brewery’s Christmas beer. The Elves contacted my friends at Belgian-Style Ales who fixed me up with a few bottles of Spencer Trappist Holiday Ale. It was worth the wait.
Holiday Ale pours mahogany red with a health white head of foam. The aroma is ginger, cinnamon, coriander, all spice, cloves, Belgian yeast, and raisins. The aroma immediately reminded me of the Ohio Christmas beer style, which predominantly ginger, cinnamon, and honey, except Holiday Ale has more spices.
Diving into the glass, the beer hits with spices first: ginger, white pepper, and cloves, then move to a sweet, burnt sugar, medium body. As it warmed, I tasted fruit, raisins and bitterness from the hops. At 9% ABV the alcohol is well integrated.
Spencer is a Trappist monastery in Spencer, Massachusetts, USA. Trappist communities observe the Rule of St. Benedict, a 6th century guide for monastic life, that stresses the importance of ora et labora or “pray and work.” Monks are encouraged to be self-supportive and offer charitable assistance to others by producing and selling goods to the public. The monks at Spencer decided to become the first American Trappist brewery.
Read more about Trappist beer in the excellent book, Trappist Beer Travels: Inside The Breweries of the Monasteries.
Berkshire Brewing Company of South Deerfield, Massachusetts brews up a different Christmas treat each year under the label: Holidale Ale. I’m reviewing the 2016 version delivered by the elves a year after its release.
The 2016 Holidale Ale pours copper with a fine cream head on top. It’s loaded with sediment drifting through the glass. It smells slightly tart, like cooked cherries with a bit of yeast. The initial taste is brings a grapey flavor and a wee bit of pucker from the gooseberries added in the secondary fermentation. There a sweetness from the alcohol, some dried fruit characteristics, and wild yeast. Not much in terms of hops flavor notes, but the hops were definitely present.
It’s listed on Untapped as a Double IPA, but it’s more like a barleywine with berry and spice notes to it. I can’t find a ABV for this beer, but it’s 8%+, but doesn’t drink very boozy. Look for this year’s Holidale Ale and see what Santa has for you.
There is massive interest in beer Advent calendars – celebrate the season with beer a day for December 1st through 24th. Costco carries the most widely available beer Advent calendars, but it’s not available at every store.
Costco’s 2017 Brewer’s Advent Calendar is a boxed set of 24 German different beers in
Saint Arnold Brewing from Texas makes a malty Christmas Ale, so when I saw their hoppy, spiced version Sailing Santa I had to try it.
Sailing Santa pours orange-auburn with a white head of foam. Spices hit your nose on sniffing this brew. I smell ginger, cloves, cinnamon, and dried orange peels. The taste is all those spices, on a zingy hop base. Hops and a lot of ginger give a
Here’s a rarity in Northwest US Winter Ales, a proper spiced Ale. It comes from Silver City Brewery in Bremerton, Washington. Nutcracker Spiced Ale has been a small-batch, draft-only brew every Christmas since 2005. This year, we’re they’ve bottled some celebrating the brewery’s 20th Anniversary.
Nutcracker pours burn caramel, amber color with a thin head of tan foam that skirts to the edges of the glass. On the nose, there’s sweet Belgian yeast and malts, no spice. Tasting, I get rich caramel and chocolate malts, sharp Belgian yeast that adds spice, and fruits like prune, dark cherry, and stewed orange peel. It’s sweet, but far from too sweet. And the 10% ABV is well hidden behind all the flavor. The best part is the long finish that lingers.
Silver City makes another favorite Christmas beer, their Old Scrooge and Bourbon Barrel Aged Old Scrooge.
Winter and sweaters just go together. Portland, Oregon brewery Ex Novo created a Winter Warmer called Liquid Sweater. It warms you up!
This is a proper Winter Warmer, caramel colored with a thin head of foam, it’s a medium-body with lots of malts. On tasting it is bready malts, lite caramel, and a bit of dark fruits. It’s not too sweet. The generous dose of Willamette hops balance the beer nicely. It clocks in at 50 IBU and 7.0% ABV. Liquid Sweater is a fine example of an English Strong Ale, albeit on the malty side of things. You won’t need a wool sweater to stay warm drinking this beer.
Ex Novo Brewing Company began in July 2014 as a nonprofit brewery donating 100% of net profits to organizations building a better world and bringing hope to places where it is scarce.