The selflessness and giving spirit of the Christmas holiday is definitely in the air. So many wonderful gifts and opportunities have presented themselves lately that I feel very lucky and truly humble. This last week has been all about the very rare and hard to come by.
We begin with something that you can’t even buy in America. For fear of reprisal and hurt feelings from those who were not deemed worthy enough to share with, we’ll call my first benefactor Mr. X. Mr. X surprised me at my store with Trappist Westvleteren.
This is the sole Trappist brewery that doesn’t import to the US. This is the religious order that when you’re visiting their monastery they make you sign a waiver that their beer will not be taken to foreign lands and re-sold for a premium. These are the beers universally regarded as the finest on the planet. I wasn’t given just one (to share with Mr. X, natch) but three.
I am eternally grateful that Mr. X decided to even display those bottles to me much less actually open them for us to enjoy. The Westie Blonde was grassy, citrusy, yeasty goodness; the 12 was carob and raisin and caramel for days… but the big winner, for me, was the 8. A classic Belgian dubbel elevated to rarefied heights, 8 began with a tart and almost funky nose but gave way to amazing flavors of dates, apples, fig and brown sugar. Absolutely magnificent.
My next Christmas elf brought presents for all the good little boys and girls visiting The Avenue Pub in New Orleans. Their dedication to great beer combined with their friendship with Brasserie Cantillon – a lambic producer from Belgium – ensured that The Crescent City would be fortunate enough to be one of the 30 locations around the globe to participate in the 2012 Zwanze release. Zwanze is Cantillon’s one-time-only, whimsical take on gueuze lambic. This year’s was fermented on macerated rhubarb. This and seven other rare gueuze choices plus wine made from the grape inspiration for last year’s Zwanze made for one happy beer columnist.
So now it’s my turn to offer something rare and sublime. Maracaibo Especial is Jolly Pumpkin’s winter seasonal and is really lighting up my Christmas tree, so to speak. Mahogany brown with a tan head, it starts off with a tart and off-sour nose much like the Westvleteren 8. They claim this beer is made with cocoa, cinnamon and orange peel but I get a different spectrum of flavors all together! Apple pie made from Macintosh, plums, toffee, sour cherry and some pepper all delivered in a smooth-texture package with abundant natural carbonation.
This is definitely one for serious beer aficionados. Hopefully you’re on Santa’s nice list this year.