NABC’s Naughty Claus Makes the Wish List

NaughtyClaus-710x1065Ah, Christmas: Good tidings, sleigh bells, reckless consumer spending and seasonal beers. To the surprise of no one involved, many of us prefer the latter. For those folks, there is New Albanian Brewing Company‘s Naughty Claus, rolled out last week around Louisville.

I made the drive to NABC’s Public House to enjoy a pint and some breadsticks with my girlfriend this past weekend, and I have to say that Dave Pierce and his brewing team over at New Albanian did it up right.

To be bluntly honest, I’m actually not usually a fan of Christmas beers — I find that too often breweries overdo the spices in order to make the beer more … well, Christmasy, if you will. The same goes for a lot of the pumpkin beers I’ve had. When it stops tasting like beer that is made with pumpkin and starts tasting like liquid pumpkin pie, that’s when they’ve lost me.

louisville beer - naughty clausNaughty Claus is not one of those over-the-top brews; it is imminently drinkable, like a solid, mild pale ale that just happens to have that something extra to it. Even the tagline spells it out, calling the beer a “seasonal ale with spices.” So, while the medium body, slightly sweet malts and mild hop character (it’s only 12 IBU) take the lead here, you still get a sense of the ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and orange peel within.

I was fond of the interestingly sharp finish that comes from the spices, but for the most part this is, again, just a really solid, easy-drinking ale with a kick. I could easily see this one going well with your Christmas dinner. Or, hell, your Thanksgiving turkey in a couple of days. Or by itself. (Just be careful, because while it goes down like a session beer, it packes 8.0 percent ABV.)

Until next time, happy holidays and drink locally. Especially the beer.

Light American Swill: Is it Truly the Devil?

louisville beer - mini miller high life

Thanks, Dad!

Full disclosure: Sometimes I drink Miller Lite. In fact, I drink it fairly often. I’m not necessarily proud of this, but I also am not ashamed to openly admit it.

Before I sound apologetic, know that I’m not. The metaphor I use is this: Light domestic swill is to beer as Taco Bell is to Mexican food. Even though deep down I know it constitutes corporate badness (and it is generally kind of gross and cheap-tasting), I still like it for reasons much different than my reasons for liking good beer or real Mexican food.

For my taste, having a craft beer is an experience in itself; it’s something I actually like to focus on while I’m experiencing it. But if I’m watching a Packers game with my buddies at Buffalo Wild Wings, I’d prefer to just drink the ice-cold swill rather than pay nine bucks for a Sam Adams.

Many years ago, I told New Albanian Brewing Company‘s Roger Baylor (the king of local fascist-killers) that I tended to think of Miller Lite as “beer soda.” He probably doesn’t remember this, but his response has always stuck with me. He said, “I think I’d rather just drink soda.”

His point was well taken, and still is.

But I actually think my fondness for the light stuff is the by-product of emotional attachment. My grandfather always had beer around, and it was usually Pabst Blue Ribbon (which I still drink occasionally). My dad also kept beer in the fridge, and it was (and still is) usually Miller High Life. I began begging for tastes of the stuff when I was probably no older than 5 or 6. To me, that fizzy yellow stuff was just what beer was.

Fast forward to age 10 or 11, when I took on the task of mowing the lawn. My dad stocked the fridge with the little 7-ounce High Life bottles back in those days (with the occasional foray into Lowenbrau or Little Kings), and often my reward for winning the battle with the front and back grass on a hot August day was my very own mini-sized bottle of cold beer.

Come on, what makes an 11-year-old boy feel like a man more than giving him his own freaking beer? (Remember, we’re talking pre-puberty here; the Farrah Fawcett poster came later.) But my beer puberty, if you will, really hit me when Bluegrass Brewing Company and, to a lesser extent, the Silo Brewpub opened their doors. That’s when I grew up and came to truly appreciate the difference between beer and what I had come to know as beer. (Thank you, Dave Pierce.)

No one has to preach to me about the evils of Anheuser-Busch, MillerCoors, etc. I get it. They are the Wal-Marts of beer. They are the major-label, Auto-Tuned pop bands of beer. They would happily squash every microbrewery on the face of the planet and force us all to suck fizzy piss-water from their teats of corporate greed, if only they could.

But they can’t; if it was possible to force free-thinking people to  have absolutely no taste, we’d all be puckered up and going at it relentlessly right now. Instead, I’m planning to schedule a brewpub tour with my girlfriend and you’re reading a blog post about beer appreciation. Cheers to beer.