CHRISTMAS #BEERS – 2011 “HOPPY” HOLIDAY EDITION

December 20, 2011

Christmas. The moment of the year when even a notoriously cynical Grinch such as myself shelves the snotty personality for the warm fuzzies of family time. To me, Christmas is an amalgamation of experience. I may have long ago traded the unbridled anticipation of the countdown – one that intensified with each flip of the advent calendar – for a more mature” looking forward to,” but the culmination of experience still brushes the coal dust off my skeptical heart.

I’m not talking the presents, here. My fondness is for the smell of the tree once brought into the house. The standing rib roast with potatoes and Yorkshire pudding. The glow of the tree on a dark night, decorated with decades of treasured memories. The fact that my parents still put out presents from “Santa.”

No matter which religious background anyone comes from, or not, is it really such a bad thing to celebrate a time for family and togetherness or to reach out to those in need? This is what I feel is essential to the holiday, not doorbuster sales and skyrocketing credit card debt. No matter how nutty or bizarre or combative your family may be, take this time to reflect and enjoy what you have.

I’m going to crack open a couple of beers that embody the warmth and experience of the season: Sweetwater Festive Ale and Anchor Christmas (aka Our Special Ale). Festive is a muddy dark brew the guys at Sweetwater made with cinnamon and mace… the dried covering of nutmeg, not the spray, weapon or Jedi. This ale hearkens to the sweet and spice of Christmas, whether it’s fruit cake or the bowl of Christmas candy that, if not eaten within a week or so, fuses together into one big lump. Its advertised spices come through big along with toffee, some chocolate, dried fruits and brown sugar. A semi-potent 8.6% alcohol content helps this live up to its designation as a winter warmer. Allow Festive to approach room temperature and you’ve got a beverage that’ll make you forget mulled wine on a cold night.

Anchor Christmas is not nearly as malt-forward as the Festive but a very nice hop profile shows through with the grain and spice that reminds me of Christmas trees and fresh-baked goodies. Another winter warmer, Anchor’s holiday offering pours dark brown with a tan head leaving behind good lacing. Scents of evergreen and allspice mingle with some cinnamon and nutmeg of its own. Flavors are nicely balanced between sweet and bitter and all sing Christmas like a carol: ginger, cranberry, toffee, vanilla, fig and citrus with some pine from the hops.

Merry Christmas and “hoppy” holidays, everyone!