Hootenanny Ribs

Hootenanny Ribs
3-2-1 rib perfection on my Traeger Pro 34 wood pellet grill

Saturday, December 19, 2015

The Twelve Beers of Christmas 2015

The holiday season is upon us meaning that it is time for my annual Twelve Beers of Christmas for 2015. Every year since 2008 great beers have been carefully selected to be elevated to this very select list. Obtained through trades, gifts from friends, purchased when traveling, by whatever means necessary to make certain that by Christmas there are great brews I have not yet tasted, saved for this exclusive anticipated event. This year's selections are a mixture of barrel-aged, sour, Brettanomyces yeast, and rare beers, highly coveted, saved for this occasion, including a couple of highly regarded Tennessee goodies to help give this dozen a local flavor.

Here are my Twelve Beers of Christmas 2015:

1. St. Bernardus Abt 12 Oak Aged

St. Bernardus Abbey Ales are world class. For the past several years St. Bernardus Christmas Ale has been paired with our family Christmas dinner, always stellar, always pleasing. When this oak aged Belgian Quadrupel was purchased, it immediately moved to the top of the Christmas dozen.

From the brewer:
"St.Bernardus Abt 12 Oak Aged is brewed with that same original recipe and then matured for 6 months in Oak Calvados barrels before it is bottle conditioned. This maturation on oak barrels gives the beer a deeper and richer taste." 

2. Modern Times Universal Friend

Every beer I have tried from San Diego's Modern Times has been very good. This grape-based saison was a birthday/Hootenanny gift from Jason. I know it will not disappoint. 

Brewer's description:
"Universal Friend is a saison made with Pinot Grigio grape must. This light and crisp ale imparts aromas of clove, grape, citrus, and a little sweetness that all carry into the flavor."

3. Unknown Brewing 1.5ish

"A Belgian Style Red Rye Ale aged and soured in French Oak Cabernet barrels with strawberries and vanilla beans."    

Yes, please. This Unknown Brewing ale is another birthday/Hootenanny gift, this one from good friend Pfoxy John aka Beer Santa. Looks like a lot going on with this beer: a barrel-aged sour with strawberries and vanilla beans... Sounds like dessert.

4. Central Waters Kosmyk Charlie's Y2K Catastrophe Ale 2012

There has to be some barleywines in the twelve. This one is another beer present from Pfoxy John, Godfather of the Wisconsin Beer Mafia. Guaranteed to warm one up on a cold winter's night. The only catastrophe will be if it accidentally spills.

Central Waters says:
"This Catastrophe is aged one year in our cellars, delightfully fruity and smooth enough to help you slide over the worst Y2K glitch."

5. AleSmith Barrel Aged Olde Ale 2014

AleSmith Brewery produces some of the best ales in America. The Barrel-aged Olde Ale makes the fifth different offering from this fine brewery that has been including in the annual twelve. It is aged in bourbon and brandy barrels. Thank you Todd for another rare barrel-aged AleSmith.

"AleSmith Barrel Aged Olde Ale is matured in both premium bourbon barrels and brandy barrels to add vinaceous complexity to its rich, malty profile. Notes of oak, vanilla, and bourbon compliment the beer's dried fruit and burnt toffee character to make this limited release worth the wait."

6. SweetWater The Pit & The Pendulum

I have said it many times before - I love peaches, and I am a sucker for peach beers. SweetWater beers are usually on point. Southern, peaches, Brett, Belgian yeast, I am all for that. 
  "The perfect balance of three distinct divergences. Allowed to initially flower with Belgian ale yeast, The Pit & The Pendulum was then incarcerated with Brett and freshly puréed peaches to intensify the trifecta of its persona."

7. Sierra Nevada Into The Woods Barrel-Aged Old Ale

This barrel-aged goody was obtained during a recent trip to Sierra Nevada's immaculate Mills River, NC facility. As one of the top breweries in the United States, Sierra Nevada brews some fantastic beers. This one should be no exception. It should be big, boozy, strong and delicious. Definitely a sipper.


8. Yazoo Embrace The Funk Deux Rouges Cassis (Purple Wax)

Embrace The Funk's Brandon Jones (l) and myself at ETF Release.

Brandon Jones is concocting some amazing award-winning elixirs at Yazoo Brewing in Nashville. I am honored to have received several of these outstanding brews from the Wrangler of Funk himself. This Deux Rouges Cassis was purchased at an Embrace The Funk special release this past September. Yes, there was hot chicken at the event.  

9. Black Abbey Barrel-Aged Potus 3 (Batch B69 MCS JC)

"Potus 3 is a Colonial Farmhouse Ale from a recipe brewed at Monticello during Thomas Jefferson's time. The base saison conveys lots of pepper and spice with the barreling imparting a Sauvignon Blanc-type grapey-ness with some tart and a hint of salt."

Another standout Tennessee brewery. Drinking local means drinking fresh and putting tax dollars back into your area. That is good business. #DrinkLocal
According to Carl Meier at The Black Abbey Brewing Company, the batch code is:

B69 is for barrel tracking.
MCS is where the barrel came from, in this case McScrooge's in Knoxville.
JC is for the type of barrel, with the code indicating "J" for Jefferson, "C" for Cabernet, with the barrel being a Cabernet barrel that also held Jefferson's Reserve Bourbon, thus keeping with the Potus 3 theme.

10. The Bruery Tart of Darkness 2013

Another west coast offering from another stellar brewery. Sour porters and stouts are among my favorite styles. The Bruery has mastered sour and funky ales. This 2013 cellared selection should be outstanding; been holding to this one since it was released.

"We brewed a stout but we then decided to throw it into oak barrels...and added our special blend of souring bacterias and yeasts. The result is a perfectly tart yet awesomely dark and roasty sour stout. Not a style you see too often - and in our opinion, not a style you see often enough."

11. Dominion Millennium Oak Aged Barley-Wine

Barleywine number two on the list. This Dominion ale was gifted by DC Dave aka Foam Fan. Barleywines are usually better if aged for at least a year before enjoying them. That usually mellows the beast a bit. This one is a couple of years old. 

"We have just solved a brewery mystery (and it is delicious). We wondered what would happen if we put Dominion Millennium in oak barrels that had bourbon in them for five years. Three months later we had Oak Barrel Millennium. Something special, we think. Ruby-red color with a wide range of complex flavors. Malt and sherry predominate."

12. Wicked Weed Dark Arts Tequila Barrel-Aged Imperial Stout w/Brett and Espresso

Wicked Weed in Asheville, NC is one of the stars of the brewing South. Fantastic funky beers, a sourheads paradise, and a great place to eat, it is a must-visit on any proper trip to Asheville. Good friend Jason procured this beauty for me. Love the brewery, love the label artwork, love the beers.This one should be huge. Thanks Jason!

"This beer was brewed with brown sugar, agave, and honey., fermented using our house Brettanomyces culture. Dark Arts is ever the fulfillment of a goal we set for ourselves in the beginning: to not only strive for the cap, but to also craft a culmination beer, reflective of our love of all beer styles. Cheers to another year of reveling in the Darkness."

Here is to good friends, great beers, and enjoying family during the holiday season. Thank you to everyone who helped me compile this list.  I hope you enjoy your own Twelve Beers of Christmas.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Twelve Beers of Christmas Past:

Twelve Beers of Christmas 2008
1. Anchor Our Special Ale (2008)
2. Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale
3. Houblon Chouffe Dobbelen IPA Tripel
4. Great Lakes Christmas Ale
5. Bison Winter Warmer
6. Samuel Adams Chocolate Bock
7. Delirium Tremens
8. New Glarus Apple Ale
9. Corsendonk Pater (Abbey Brown Ale)
10. Corsendonk Agnus (Abbey Pale Ale)
11. Thirsty Dog Siberian Night Imperial Stout
12. Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Ale (2008)

Twelve Beers of Christmas 2009

1. Thirsty Dog 12 Dogs Christmas Ale
2. Goose Island Christmas Ale
3. Tommyknocker St. Nicks Cocoa Porter
4. Avery Old Jubilation Ale
5. Rinkuškiai Missing Elf
6. Fort Collins Double Chocolate Stout
7. Ken Schmidt / Maui / Stone Kona Coffee Macadamia Coconut Porter
8. Rochefort Trappistes 6
9. Rogue Santas Private Reserve Ale
10. Jolly Pumpkin Noel de Calabaza
11. Cantillon Iris
12. Lurgashall Christmas Mead

Twelve Beers of Christmas 2010
1. Spaten Optimator
2. Dogfish Head Olde School Barleywine
3. Ass Kisser Double IPA
4. Stone 14th Anniversary Emperial IPA
5. Terrapin Wake-n-Bake Coffee Oatmeal Imperial Stout
6. Depot Street The Limited Maple Pecan Porter
7. AleSmith YuleSmith – Summer
8. a. Oskar Blues Gordon / b. Oskar Blues Gubna
9. Maredsous 10
10. Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier Urbock
11. Sierra Nevada 30th Anniversary Fritz & Ken Ale
12. Victory Old Horizontal

Twelve Beers of Christmas 2011

1. AleSmith Yulesmith – Winter
2. Brew Kettle White Rajah
3. Brooklyn Black Ops
4. Capital Eternal Flame
5. Dogfish Head Miles Davis' Bitches Brew
6. Founders Backwoods Bastard
7. Hoppin' Frog DORIS The Destroyer Double Imperial Stout
8. Lagunitas Hairy Eyeball Ale
9. Odell Mountain Standard '09
10. Olde Hickory Bourbon Barrel Aged Bardstown Ale
11. Ommegang Brasserie D'Achouffe Gnomegang
12. Three Floyds Dark Lord Imperial Stout

Twelve Beers of Christmas 2012
1. De Ranke Pere Noel
2. St. Bernardus Christmas Ale

3. Hopworks Organic Abominable Winter Ale
4. Lompoc C-Son's Greetings
5. Midnight Sun CoHoHo Imperial IPA
6. N'Ice Chouffe
7. Ninkasi Sleigh'r Dark Double Alt
8. Oakshire Ill-Tempered Gnome
9. Pelican Bad Santa
10. Port Brewing Santa's Little Helper
11. Samuel Adams Merry Mischief Gingerbread Stout
12. The Bruery 5 Golden Rings

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

A Dozen Delectable Valentine's Beers

Ever the romantic and passionate craft beer lover, Valentine's Day is the perfect platform to theme seductive elixirs with affectionate intentions. Paired with a romantic dinner, or as an apéritif or digestif, or just with a sexy dessert, these dozen delicious offerings can entice your partner with luscious and tempting bouquets and flavors. 

St. Bernardus Abt 12

How did it happen that their lips came together? How does it happen that birds sing, that snow melts, that the rose unfolds, that the dawn whitens behind the stark shapes of trees on the quivering summit of the hill? A kiss, and all was said.
- Victor Hugo

Dark with a full, ivory-colored head. Aromas of bananas, dates, raisins, sweet malts, brown sugar and alcohol. Taste is extremely smooth with a sweet base of ripe fruits - bananas, dates - and candi sugar with malts and a complex fruitiness and finish. Very smooth and very good. Regarded as one of the best beers in the world. Even the monk is smiling.

Dieu du Ciel Aphrodisiaque
J'aurais toujours faim de toi.
- The Police

This black ale imparts aromas and flavors of vanilla, dark chocolate, bourbon and roasted malt. The vanilla and cocoa marry nicely, without out-competing each other, to produce a surprisingly well balanced beer. Aphrodisiac? Absolutely. 

The Bruery Tart of Darkness

I generally avoid temptation unless I can't resist it.
- Mae West

Tart of Darkness is a stout aged in used oak barrels with a blend of souring bacterias and wild yeasts. The result is a perfectly tart yet awesomely dark and roasty sour stout. This unique stout has notes of tart plums, roasted coffee, vanilla and oak and pairs perfectly with dark chocolates. Pucker up, baby.

Yazoo SUE

My name is SUE, how do you do?
- Johnny Cash

The South is famous for smoking everything – so why not beer?
Sweet and slightly smoked malts, smoked cherry wood, a bit of burnt brown sugar, toffee, bittersweet chocolate and java in the aromas. The flavors offer a nice initial sweet-slightly smokiness, hint of smoked cherry, then a bit of cocoa and java followed by a decent hops presence. Get your smoking hot date a brew to match.

Burnside Sweet Heat

The raging fire which urged us on was scorching us; it would have burned us had we tried to restrain it. 
- Giacomo Casanova

Light golden amber color, with apricots and Scotch Bonnet pepper aromas, nice sweet fruits, more peppers, little noticeable hops. Palate of light heat and apricots and baked peaches, then the heat is more intense as it lingers creating a nice slow Jamaican Jerk burn. Fantastic beer if you like a bit of heat. Would pair nicely with Jamaican or Thai foods. Mmm spicy...

AleSmith My Bloody Valentine

The sweetest joy, the wildest woe is love.
- Pearl Bailey

Released shortly before Valentine’s Day, My Bloody Valentine is a caramel-sweet malt red ale which is delicately balanced with floral American hop varieties for a truly unique drinking sensation. A deep mahogany red color and a big, aromatic hop profile are the signatures of this seasonal ale. Big and Red and dangerous.

Bell's Hopslam

She found me roots of relish sweet, And honey wild, and manna dew; 
And sure in language strange she said, 'I love thee true.' 
- John Keats

Hopslam pours a beautiful light honey amber color with a thin white head and big drapes of lacing. HUGE hops aromas of peaches, mangoes, grapefruits, then a though of pine, followed by more candied fruit and malts, sweet floral - honeysuckle and slight honey. Taste is intensely hoppy albeit sweet with the ultra aforementioned mango/grapefruit/peach flavor rolling across your taste buds with a wonderful zing and zestfulness, almost tingling and jolting the senses. Bitter then offset by the fruity and sweet maltiness.  Honey indeed! - only to tame the massive hops presence.

Southern Tier Choklat

All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn't hurt. 
- Charles M. Schulz

Choklat pours heavy black with an extremely tight near perfect tan head, massive lacing left on your glass after every sip. Chocolate aroma. Chocolate aroma. Chocolate aroma. Taste and aroma are of Dark chocolates, Hershey's Chocolate Syrup, Belgian chocolate, Godiva chocolate liqueur, milk chocolate, cocoa nibs, semi-sweet chocolate, Lindt chocolate, Mayan chocolate. Maybe a little java, but definitely chocolate... and roasted malts. Then there is a bit of chocolate in the end. Choklat. Yes it is. Willie Wonka had something to do with this beer I'm certain. I never thought I'd hear my wife say, "That's almost too much chocolate!" 

But it's not. 

Dogfish Head Theobroma

Love is like swallowing hot dark chocolate. At first it takes you by surprise, but keeps you warm for a long time.
- Anonymous

This beer is based on chemical analysis of pottery fragments found in Honduras which revealed the earliest known alcoholic chocolate drink used by early civilization to toast special occasions. the discovery of this beverage pushed back the earliest use of cocoa for human consumption more than 500 years to 1200 BC. As per the analysis, Dogfish head’s Theobroma (food of the gods) is brewed with Aztec cocoa powder and cocoa nibs, honey, chilies, and annatto. 

There it is again - honey. This time with chocolate. It's gotta work.

Theobroma is a celebration of chocolate, the food of the gods.
This Ancient Ale is based on chemical analysis of pottery fragments found in Honduras that revealed the earliest known alcoholic chocolate drink used by early civilizations to toast special occasions.
The discovery of this beverage pushed back the earliest use of cocoa for human consumption more than 500 years to 1,200 B.C. As per the analysis, Dogfish Head's Theobroma (translated into "food of the gods") is brewed with Aztec cocoa powder and cocoa nibs (from our friends at Askinosie Chocolate), honey, chilies and annatto (fragrant tree seeds).
It's light in color, not what you expect from your typical chocolate beer (not that you'd be surprised that we'd do something unexpected with this beer!).
- See more at: http://www.dogfish.com/brews-spirits/the-brews/occassional-rarities/theobroma.htm#sthash.kUxmWvja.dpuf

New Glarus Raspberry Tart

My voice is raspy like raspberries. Can you taste what I’m saying?
- Jarod Kintz

Treat yourself to a rare delight. The voluminous raspberry bouquet will greet you long before your lips touch your glass. Serve this Wisconsin framboise very cold in a champagne flute. Then hold your glass to a light and enjoy the jewel-like sparkle of a very special ale.  

Dessert before or after? 

Foothills Sexual Chocolate

After eating chocolate you feel godlike, as though you can conquer enemies, lead armies, entice lovers.
- Emily Luchetti

A cocoa infused Imperial Stout. Opaque black in color with a dark brown head. Big chocolate aroma with notes of espresso, blackstrap molasses, dark sweet toffee and dark fruit. Smooth dark chocolate backbone with complex notes of coffee, dark toffee and dark fruit. The name says it all.

SweetWater Happy Ending

If you want a happy ending, that depends, of course, on where you stop your story.
- Orson Welles

SweetWater's Happy Ending is an award-winning Imperial Stout that offers a robust blanket of roast, chocolate, coffee, plums and raisins that will sink into your taste buds. An explosive burst of citrus hops complement the warm rich flavors and will send you over the top, because we all want a Happy Ending, don't we?

I hope these help the cause. Did I miss any? What are your favorites? 

Happy Valentine's Day y'all.