Girl Drink Drunk: Holiday Ales and Stouts
In which one woman consumes all the holiday beers she could find in a grocery aisle and tells you all about it.
Picture, if you will, a warmly lit study, fireplace roaring, smell of pine in the air. Beyond the leaded glass windows, snow swirls, but inside, all is merry and bright. A figure stands at the fireplace, back to the viewer. She’s wearing some sort of hideous grandpa-esque cardigan, and what appears to be a…red Santa hat? In her hand, a snifter is filled to the brim with dark, syrupy liquid. She turns to you, and says…
Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the—oh, hi, friends! Wow, didn’t expect to see you standing so close. Don’t be creepy; take a step back…and another one…okay. Now we can begin.
Happy holidays! It’s me, Carrie, again, coming to you live from Drinkville, USA, with some reviews of holiday ales and stouts. Allow me to be honest: I’m a stout girl. Every fall and winter, the beer world is my oyster, with stouts and spiced ales shining like pearls on beer shelves across the city.
In the spirit of the season, and like last time, I’m bringing it all to you in real time, lowest ABV to highest. I’ve also included some handy holiday pairings, my gift to you. I know, I shouldn’t have, but you’re worth it.
Away we go!
2014 Christmas Ale
It’s holiday cheer in a bottle! Say you’re headed out for an evening with your pals, and they’re all, “Ew, no beer.” (I don’t know why you’d be friends with people like that, but…let’s just say.) And you’re all, “But wait! Try this! It’s sweet and it tastes like spice and everything nice!” And they’re like, “Oooh, okay, but…it still tastes like beer?” And then you shrug and go, “Fine, more for me.”
Pairs with: that one Charli XCX song and 2015 New Year’s glasses
Gosh darn, guys, this amber Belgian-like ale is downright refreshing. A good palate cleanser between the season’s spice ales and stouts, sort of like a creamy spoonful of sorbet.
Pairs with: a turkey, stuffing, and cranberry sandwich
Great South Bay
Sleigh Ryed Winter Ale
The darkest of all the holiday ales, it’s heavy on the rye and pepper, and is an easy drinker. I keep doing that annoying thing wine tasters do, kind of smacking my tongue against the roof of my mouth, trying to get the juniper and pine flavors the label promises. I can’t pick them up, but that’s okay. If I wanted a lot of pine, I’d just gnaw on a branch from my Christmas tree.
Pairs with: roasted chestnuts or candied cashews (but not the ones from the Nuts 4 Nuts cart in SoHo. They may smell good, but one time I saw the dude swat a fly with the same spoon he uses to scoop your nuts)
Southern Tier Brewing Company
2XMAS Holiday Ale
Paying homage to the Nordic tradition of glogg, 2XMAS is a bit thicker than the previous ales, a bit more amber-y, with a twist on traditional flavors: figs, orange peel, cardamom, ginger, and cloves. The label lumps these latter ingredients together under the ubiquitous “spice” umbrella, which sort of does a disservice to actual spices used. This is by no means a criticism, but throw the generic “spice” in the description of anything and you’ve got yourself a holiday treat. Spice cake, spice cookies, spice steak, spice sweet potatoes…
Pairs with: that high-end dark chocolate spice bar from Whole Foods
Xocoveza Mocha Stout
Homebrewer Chris Banker, winner of Stone’s AHA Homebrew Competition, collaborated with the brewery and Baja-based Ceveseria Insurgente to create Xocoveza, which mimics a Mexican hot chocolate with infusions of cinnamon, nutmeg, and chile peppers. Heads up: the extra ingredients are referred to as “adjuncts,” which mean the flavors tend to fade over time, so these kinds of stouts are best enjoyed fresh. Fine by me. I’m a drinker, not a hoarder.
Pairs with: churros, amigos!
Founders Brewing Company
Double chocolate coffee oatmeal stout. I’ll say it again: CHOCOLATE. COFFEE. OATMEAL. STOUT. This, my friends, is the breakfast of champions, and beats the hell out of that one time you stupidly “poured Coors on the Cheerios, bruh” during spring break. Breakfast Stout is like strong black coffee with a hint of cocoa and the chewiness of oatmeal, and is only available through the month of December. It, along with The Muddy (below), is one of my favorite everyday stouts.
Pairs with: your sister’s “not half bad” coffee cake
The Muddy Imperial Stout
Inspired by Chicago blues, The Muddy is a great everyday imperial stout. A touch of brewer’s licorice and molasses make it ever-so-slightly unique, and there’s just enough kick and roundness and ABV to stave off some Bourbon County (see below) cravings.
Pairs with: “Cold Weather Blues” on repeat and BBQ brisket
Sierra Nevada Brewing Company
Narwhal Imperial Stout
Some people like to age their Narwhal. Here’s how I “aged” mine: I opened it, had a glass, and then capped it and let it sit in the fridge for a day. Guess what? Now it’s EVEN BETTER. Swear. For some reason, that extra air made it richer, fuller, more chocolate-y, and hot, which I love. Hotness and booziness and all-that-ness, like smokiness, which is in here, too. Two tusks up.
Pairs with: your flopped chocolate soufflé—the one you were too embarrassed to serve to guests. It still tastes good, right?
Guys, guys, guys. I’m getting tipsy here. But I will carry on! I will not lead you astray (except, perhaps, in my grammar), as all the remaining beers have been drunken (drunken? drank?) by me before. Expedition Stout: yum. Early bitterness gives way to thick malty mellowness, and—yep—chocolate on the palate. It’s one of the best non-barrel-aged stouts around, but unlimited shelf life means aging is A-OK.
Pairs with: the New Year’s Day Twilight Zone marathon
Bourbon County Stout
Bourbon County Stout is the Holy Grail, the stout that all other stouts aspire to. Well, maybe they don’t, but whatever, they should. Thick mouthfeel, honey and bourbon and oak and god, I’d drink a fountain of this. It’s a bold, assertive stout that’s been aged in bourbon barrels, and isn’t for everyone—my mother referred to it as, “Oh my god, soy sauce.” (She’s a white wine drinker, don’t worry.) Get a couple four-packs: one to drink now, and one to age over the next year or five. And if you can find it, pick up some Bourbon County Coffee Stout. Every year they make it with a different Intelligentsia coffee, giving it a slightly different flavor profile; 2014’s is Zirikana from Rwanda.
Pairs with: my bed. A fluffy down pillow and flannel sheets. A plaid Snuggie. What? 14.2% ABV.
If I could, I’d keep going. Lawd knows there are so many other tasty and/or rare seasonal releases. Maybe stay tuned for more stouts in January or something. Huh? What did you say? Am I drunk? No, you’re drunk! Happy holidays, ya dirty drunk! FL