Shiner (Spoetzl Brewery) “Holiday Cheer”

December 13, 2011

For those who went searching in vain for the Abita Select Oyster Stout last week, I apologize. Turns out I wasn’t the only one who fell for this amazing ale and the limited supplies disappeared quicker than Halloween candy left on an unattended porch. It’s bound to happen from time to time as I write this over a week in advance. It was certainly not my intention to lead the readers on a wild goose chase.

It almost happened again, sorry to say. I wanted to talk about the Christmas Ale from Bell’s Brewery. As far as I am aware, the highly-allocated amount on draft available in Pensacola proved to be far too tasty for people to stay away from. It, too, vanished like Andy Dufresne. Semi-obscure literary and cinema references aside, the real dilemma is the supply issue. It seems as if the moment we discover a tasty holiday beverage, it’s gone.

I suppose that’s part of the fun, to see if you can score some of the rare and limited editions that are released from time to time. Perhaps we, the beer community at large, needs one of those tracking websites like the “culinary delight” whose name rhymes with “Sick Crib” has.

Back to the Bell’s Christmas Ale. Much of what endeared me to the beverage was brewery owner Larry Bell’s insistence that none of the traditional Christmas spices go into the beer. He, instead, wished his holiday creation to complement the food and mood of the season, not recreate it inside a bottle. This is a decision I can applaud for two reasons: he’s not kowtowing to popular trend and his beer doesn’t taste like liquid potpourri.

As we look elsewhere for a satisfying yuletide beverage that eschews the “norm” and still delivers a flavorful beer no matter what time of year it is, we find ourselves with our old friends at Spoetzl Brewery. Their Shiner Holiday Cheer is that unexpected present under the tree; the one that doesn’t look or feel like anything that was on your list or hinted at over dinner. It’s amber-brown in color with some ruby highlights around the edges and a decent tan head that leaves minimal lacing. The label claims it to be brewed with peach and pecan and, by golly, that’s precisely what you’re gonna get! It’s easy to overlook the vanilla, molasses and caramel malt under the beautiful peach scents. More peach shows up with wonderfully-balanced flavors of roasted pecan and malt keeping the tart fruits in check. With but a slight bitterness from the German hops, Holiday Cheer finishes surprisingly light and crisp for such a dessert-like beer.