In case you were busy doing your own holiday stuff and not reading this blog, on Christmas we finished a series on beers that we consider legendary and well-worth drinking. There were two or three winter/holiday-themed beers in the lineup, but the selection was all over the place in terms of style and origin. Then, after producing posts for twelve days straight, we disappeared for about a week-and-a-half. The results of which hiatus include 110 pounds of new base grains in our home brewery—A.K.A. the garage—and a Vienna lager chillin’ in same. The results of our attempt at that somewhat obscure style will be apparent in about 45 days or so. Either way, I plan to tell you all about it, so stay tuned for a Vienna lager-themed post. In the meantime, I’m returning to my weekly(ish) posting schedule, and kicking off the new year of writing with a recap of the 12 Beers series.
- Ommegang Hennepin. This is the best example of a farmhouse saison that I’ve tasted to date; that probably has something to do with its being produced by the best brewers of Belgian ales this side of the Atlantic—except for Joseph’s Abbey, in Massachusetts. Other than that, Hennepin’s claim to fame is being named after the “Franciscan missionary” who ‘discovered’ Niagara Falls—which is to say, he was the first white guy to see it first-hand and write about it.
- Tröegs Troegenator. We didn’t wait for Lent to enjoy this delicious Doppelbock. I wouldn’t rate it above Paulaner Salvator, since it’s not quite as thick or complex, but Troegenator is still a good example of the style. It’s always nice to see a smallish brewery that really knows their craft. After writing our first review on Troegenator, we got some in a growler; it wasn’t as good as the older, canned batch, and it still had a hint of fusel alcohols. Word to the wise: Doppelbock is a pretty big beer, and definitely better with age.
- Firestone Walker Union Jack. If you like IPAs at all, you’ll probably appreciate this crisp, hoppy libation. I used to think I hated American IPAs, with all their hop bitterness, but that was before I discovered how nice and relaxing hops are, and also learned to appreciate the flavors and aromas that different varieties bring to beers. In the case of Union Jack, the most prevalent hop is Cascade, with its clean, sharp, citrus notes. Yep, this one’s a keeper.
- Innis & Gunn Rum Aged. I didn’t really know what Scottish Ale was supposed to taste like until I tried Innis & Gunn. Plenty of American brewers make the style, some with great commercial success. But none that I’ve sampled thus far have quite the rich maltiness and nutty character of examples from Scotland. Sorry, but it’s true at this point. Actually, I’m pretty sure it has to do with boiling part of the wort down from a gallon to a quart, and then adding it back in, or something like that. I don’t think most American brewers employ that method, though if you’re one who does, feel free to let me know about it. That’s what we’ve got a comments section for. Anyway, the Rum Aged has some agreeable oaky toastiness, and the aroma and flavor from strong British rum.
- Southern Tier 2XMas. If normal Glögg were a beer and not a wine, it really would taste like this. I like Christmas beers in general, but in terms of spiced deliciousness, this one takes the figgy pudding. It’s got a drier flavor than you might expect from a spiced beer; it bears no resemblance to a spiced cider in terms of sweetness. 2Xmas is pretty strong, which makes it a good winter warmer, and pairs nicely with smoked foods. Until we tried the Samichlaus, this was king of my Christmas beer list.
- Lion Stout. Thick and sweet, this export/tropical stout from Sri Lanka is high on my list of favorite stouts. And that’s saying something, because I basically cut my beer teeth on stouts, both imported Irish and American produced. Lion Stout is like the beer version of a chocolate shake, but it’s got enough mineral and tobacco notes to keep it balanced. If you’re looking for an Irish-type stout, this isn’t it, but it’s sure delicious with a spicy coconut curry.
- Weihenstephaner Vitus. Claim to fame: winning the World’s Best Beer award in 2011, and a bunch of other best-in-category sort of awards in other years. And if that’s not enough, there’s its heritage. The Weihenstephaner brewery is almost 1000 years old, which I think is super cool. If you’re in the mood for a world-class Weizenbock, you can’t go wrong with this one.
- Moortgat Duvel. The iconic and original Golden Strong Ale, and the standard by which all others of the style should be measured. Need I say more? Legendary beer. Try it.
- Ommegang Three Philosophers. Besides Duvel, the beer that convinced me that I don’t hate Belgian ale styles. I know, hating them is kind of heresy, but a few less-than-ideal homebrewed examples had just about soured me on the idea of Belgian-type beers. Thankfully, I’ve come to my senses. Three Philosophers is also the child of a Portland (Oregon, not Maine) home brewer’s wish list, and the brewing geniuses at Ommegang. Sante!
- Aventinus Eisbock. Take a Doppelbock, freeze it, then harvest the stuff in the middle that’s not ice, and you’ll have an Eisbock. Basically, anyway. This stuff is concentrated deliciousness, and as such, will make you very happy. At least, it made me very happy. This particular example is made from a Weizendoppelbock, so a good portion of that thick, rich maltiness comes from wheat. Obviously, you should not drink this if you have celiac disease, or are inclined to complain about gluten. Just leave it on the shelf for me, instead.
- W. Lees Harvest Ale (2012). The mother of all Single Malt and Single Hop ales. Made from the first delivery of Maris Otter malt and East Kent Golding hops from the year’s harvest, and brewed to barley wine strength, this is a fantastic beer to drink when you find it, or if you make yourself wait, to cellar for later. Simply one of the best beers I have ever tasted. Kind of rare, but if you can get it, do so.
- Schloss Eggenberg Samichlaus. This stuff is superlatively awesome; the nectar of the gods, or at least of Saint Nick. It’s brewed in an actual castle, once per year, and lagered for about ten months. The result is a thick, malty, very strong beer that should be savored like a fine brandy, and possibly enjoyed with an almost equally rich chocolate dessert.†
I really like all of these beers; that’s why they’re in the list. But I can’t say enough nice things about the last three, especially. So I’m going to stop now, and let you get on with enjoying some great beers.
Berketa, Rick. “Historic Accounts of Niagara Falls – 1604 to 1877.” Niagara Frontier. Niagara Falls Thunder Alley.
“Eisbock.” German Beer Institute: The German Beer Portal for North America. German Beer Institute.
† Michael, Jackson. “Mine’s a Pint of Santa Claus.” Michael Jackson’s Beer Hunter. Real Beer Inc., 7 Dec. 1991.
“Niagara Falls – Fr. Louis Hennepin.” Discovering Lewis & Clark. Lewis & Clark Fort Mandan Foundation.
“Spencer Trappist Ale.” Spencer Brewery.