12 Days of Beer Gifts

IPA_craft-beer-baskets-for-men-and-women_HR_Fotor_grandeI grew up singing with my classmates and family a song about partridges in a pear tree, and a bunch of other weird gifts over a 12-day span leading up to Christmas. In those days, I was perplexed why the song didn’t include things like action figures and video games, while strongly endorsing go-to presents like eight maids a-milking. How much milk does one person need?

As an adult, I could still skip the milk maids, but I wouldn’t mind some beer. So let’s leave out the pipers piping and the ladies dancing. Let’s concentrate on the beer lovers drinking.

Here are 12 wet and wonderful beers and beer gift packs that should make that beer lover on your list light up like the proverbial Christmas tree or menorah.

  1. Beer of the Month Club: That’s right, once a month, the recipient will be blessed with a twelver of a select craft beer, oftentimes a hard-to-find a limited release, chosen by craft beer lovers at AmazingClubs.com. You can choose a full year or three-month, six-month or seasonal memberships. Packages start at $33.95 per month. When that person’s birthday rolls around, maybe you can look into a liver-supplement-of-the-month club.
  2. Samuel Smith’s Winter Welcome Ale: A time-honored classic, Winter Welcome is a winter warmer best consumed while snuggling in front of the fire. Made with Fuggle and Golding hops, it is actually a malt-forward beer made just for the winter season. Bear skin rug optional.
  3. Sweetwater Festive Ale: Atlanta’s Sweetwater Brewing Company has been spreading its tentacles, and this is one of those that is making the rounds. A strong ale brewed for “winter coat season,” it is rife with black, chocolate, Munich and other malts witha taint of cinnamon and mace to keep you warm and toasted all winter long.”
  4. Deschutes Brewery Jubelale: A garnet colored strong ale, this one also features special artwork each season – this year’s is original fiber artwork by Lisa and Lori Lubbesmeyer, showing a winter landscape with a pair of sledders. The beer within reveals hints of chicory, dried fruit and toffee notes with a hoppy kick to finish. Put another log on the fire.
  5. Sam Adams holiday porterIPAs of the U.S. Gift Basket: Here’s a different spin on a holiday gift idea, since not everyone likes the spicy, thick Christmas beers that are the stuff of tradition. If the person on your list just wants to hop it up, this is a selection of India pale ales from Coronado Brewing Company (New York International Beer Competition 2014 California Brewery of the Year), Peak Brewing (NYIBC 2014 Maine Brewery of the Year) , Breckenridge and Ballast Point, as well as the oh-so-delicious Jai Alai from Cigar City Brewing in Florida. This on also comes with a variety of snacks to pair with the beers.
  6. Schlafly Christmas Ale: This is another winter warmer featuring sweet caramel malt, with notes of orange peel, juniper berries, ginger root, cardamom and cloves. Inspired by holiday classics like wassail, it’s a surefire way to ring in the holidays with nary a chill in the bones.
  7. Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale: First brewed in 1981, this is a true American Christmas tradition, although it isn’t a winter warmer – this is actually credited with being an early version of an American IPA, made famous for its intense citrus and pine aromas. Celebration is indeed a bold and intense beer, featuring Centennial, Cascade and Chinook hops. If nutmeg isn’t your favorite beer lover’s thing, this might be the ideal gift.
  8. Great Lakes Christmas Ale: This beer is brewed with honey and spiced with ginger and cinnamon and is poised to pair nicely with that fruitcake your mustachioed aunt will inevitably bring to the family gathering. Roasted barleys make this one a warmer, and Mt. Hood and Cascade hops give it a spicy kick.
  9. Samuel Adams Winter Favorites Variety Pack: Sometimes you just can’t choose. Enter Samuel Adams and its 12-pack of winter goodness, featuring two each of the classic Sam Adam Lager, Winter Lager, Old Fezziwig Ale, White Christmas and (prepare to start salivating) Chocolate Bock. This is a great one to pack to your holiday work or family gathering for sharing or, hey, for hoarding at home with your sweetie. No judgment here, just prepare for a wide variety. (There’s also Samuel Adams Holiday Porter, sold separately, if you’re feeling more focused.)
  10. Rogue santas_private_reserveRogue Santa’s Private Reserve: This is the one Santa probably drinks. A double-hopped red ale that is a variation of the well-regarded Saint Rogue Red, this one goes straight for a big roast finish and a hint of spruce for just a nod to the holiday season. Made from a wide and eclectic variety of malts and hops, plus proprietary Pacman yeast, it’s moderately bitter at 65 IBU and imminently quaffable at 6 percent ABV. It’s Christmas: the redder, the better!
  11. Port Brewing Santa’s Little Helper: Talk about a winter warmer – this is an imperial porter to the max, with a flavor emphasis on dark cocoa and roasted coffee, with sweet crystal malts and light hops. This is a big one at 10 percent ABV, but imagine how good Grandma’s chocolate chip cookies are going to taste dunked in this Christmas winner? You can give it as a gift, but how could you let go of it? It’s OK to be a little selfish at Christmas.
  12. Three Floyds Alpha Klaus: A cousin to Three Floyds’ popular Alpha King, this beer pours jet black with a nose of chocolate, pine and citrus. The chocolaty flavor profile also gives way to a surprising hoppiness, setting it apart from many winter warmers. Many say it drinks more like a black IPA than a Christmas porter, but that makes it no less festive. And at 6 percent ABV, there’s no reason the beer lover on your list can’t enjoy more than one.

This post was originally published by AlcoholProfessor.com.

Sam Adams ‘Mystery Man’ Feels the Craft Spirit

sam rebel ipaSitting in a sports bar sipping a beer on a recent afternoon, I was approached by a guy who asked me if I’d ever tried Samuel Adams’ new Rebel IPA.

Immediately, I knew I was going to get a free beer, and maybe even some free merch. I told him that I had just had one a couple days earlier, and that I very much enjoyed it. He offered to buy me a Sam Boston Lager, but I responded that, “I’d rather have another Rebel IPA.”

Beer bought, and he also gave me a hat and a really cool keychain/bottle opener. But instead of moving on to the next guy, he actually talked with me for a while, possibly because I told him I am a beer blogger.

The conversation we had inspired me to write this because, honestly, this guy was more than just a brand ambassador sent down from Boston to convert taste buds. He came across as being very sincere and enthusiastic about the product Sam Adams produces.

I promised him I wouldn’t use his name so that his PR department wouldn’t be upset; honestly, I think the Samuel Adams PR department should let employees like this talk publicly more often. He was certainly more convincing than a press release.

But before I share a few of the things this Mystery Man said, I’ll recount a conversation I had a couple of years ago with another brand ambassador of sorts. Actually, I have always referred to her as “Miller Lite Girl.”

Miller Lite Girl was blond, pretty, thin, very sweet and was maybe a day or two over 21. Most importantly, she obviously knew very little about beer. No foul there; she was young and was probably just working her way through college, and walking around buying Miller Lites for guys in bars was just another way for MillerCoors to win over brand loyalty.

When she walked up to me and started talking, I engaged her in conversation, asked her name, etc., so she sat down for a moment to chat (I talk to everybody, it’s just what I do). When I found an opportunity, I said, “Can I buy you a Bud Light?”

Caught off guard, she looked down at her Miller Lite jacket and said, “Um, I can’t drink a Bud Light. I’m a Miller Lite girl.”

I assured her I was just joking, so she laughed, got me a free beer and was on her way. But my point is, there is a big difference between a field marketer and someone who has made a career in the beer industry.

And now back to the Samuel Adams Mystery Man, for comparison. He informed me he had been in the beer business for more than a decade, and that he had worked at breweries and as a distribution rep, working with a wide variety of brands and beers over the years.

As we talked about craft beer and the fact that some view Samuel Adams as having too large of a production level and brand presence to be considered “craft,” Mystery Man grew animated, almost excited.

He reiterated several times that CEO Jim Koch is dedicated to quality ingredients and putting out the highest quality beers as possible.

“We are holding the shield for craft brewing,” Mystery Man said, when talking about beer snob critics.

Rebel IPA is a testament. Brewed with five different West Coast hops – Cascade, Simcoe, Centennial, Chinook and Amarillo – it’s got a hoppy flavor profile without going over the top, at 45 IBUs. In other words, it isn’t trying for the hop orgy experience, it’s just a really nicely balanced IPA with a nicely bitter, citrus quality that is good enough to satisfy a craft beer enthusiast while also potentially building a bridge to those interested in crossing that line.

Interestingly, Rebel IPA represents a fairly big departure from the relatively buttoned-up Sam brand, with a bright red, splashy logo and tap handles that are made to look like spray paint cans. They even rattle when you move them. The change looks like a pretty clear attempt to appear as one of the more daring craft breweries. Maybe it’s a way for Sam to improve its image with the beer snobs who view the brand as no longer being small enough to be “craft.”

Mystery Man also noted that Sam Adams is up against the brewing giants, the same as any small craft brewery. But the fact Sam Adams may be the biggest of the rest doesn’t mean they are trying to do the same to smaller craft brewers, he suggested. They just want to make and sell good beer.

What I came away with was that Mystery Man wasn’t just toeing the company line – he clearly meant what he was saying and believes in what is going on in Boston.  I’m glad I talked with him, because while I try just about every new Sam Adams beer, I don’t buy a lot of it (well, until Rebel IPA came along). Now I may re-think that.

Also, at no point during the conversation did I have the urge to buy him a Bud Light.

This post was originally published by AlcoholProfessor.com.

A Christmas Flight For Beer Lovers

beer sam adams cheery chocolate bockOne thing I love about living in the Louisville, Ky., area is the beer scene. Everyone talks about California and Oregon (and they should), but there’s plenty to love in the Bourbon state as well.

And I’m not just talking about our excellent brew pubs, either. Exhibit A: Buckhead Mountain Grill. Sure, it looks and feels like a family steakhouse, but the place also has an impressive and massive beer list, with 42 (!) taps pouring local, regional and national brews.

Buckhead even has a cool beer app that allows you to sit at your table or bar seat and create your own flight, complete with beer description, alcohol content and IBU. Developed in-house, the app will even recommend beers that are similar to your favorite – on the off chance your favorite isn’t available on draft or in bottles.

Beer rep Tisha Gainey currently has Buckhead fully immersed in the holidays with her 12 Ales of Christmas promotion, so I decided to build a flight from some of these beers at the Buckhead Jeffersonville, Ind., location (which is just across the Ohio River from Louisville) and celebrate with friends a few days early. Here’s what I tried:

Schlafly Hop Harvest IPA (5.7 percent ABV, 30 IBU): This is a solid harvest ale with a light malt body made with American hops (Amarillo, Centennial, Mosaic, Simcoe and Magnum). The blend of citrus and pine in both the nose and flavor is its calling card – it actually drinks like a floral and fruity, crisp summer beer. It is actually not a Christmas beer, per se, but rather a celebration of the fall hop-growing season. But hey, what better time than Christmas to enjoy the bounty of that season? Drink this one before your holiday festivities begin, so you won’t get filled up and spoil your dinner.

Thirsty Dog 12 Dogs of Christmas (8.3 percent ABV, 21.5 IBU): This dark brown beer actually has a deceptively light nose and body. Made with caramel and toasted malts, along with ginger, honey, cinnamon and nutmeg, it’s truly a complex and interesting drink. On my palate, the ginger really broke through, with a bit of nutmeg right behind it, although my guess is this brew may

provide different sensations for different people. On the finish, it’s sweet and certainly Christmas-y. Worth a try.

Flat 12 Glazed Ham Porter (6.3 percent ABV, 34.1 IBU): Ham? Yep. That’s what it said as I scrolled through the trusty beer app. Hey, my grandma used to make ham just about every Christmas, so this was one I had to try. This beer is smoky, to be sure, and it does hint of the spicy-sweet glaze one would expect to find on a Christmas ham, but never fear – Glazed Ham Porter does not taste like pork. It’s actually quite an interesting beverage, with the assertive smoky sweetness carrying the load. Sure, it doesn’t really taste like ham, but if you’re looking something to drink with your ham this Christmas, this one will fit the bill.

Three Floyds Alpha Klaus beerThree Floyds Alpha Klaus Porter (6 percent ABV, 38 IBU): Good ol’ Three Floyds Brewing is a few hours’ up the Interstate from Louisville in Munster, Ind., and is the producer of some fine, hoppy beers such as Dreadnaught and Alpha King. Alpha Klaus Porter is an interesting blend of coffee tones, malts and hops, with a bitterness that seems higher than just 38 IBU. I drank my four-ounce flight pour with one of my friends’ hot wings, and it was quite a treat. Think of this as one you can sip while opening gifts with the kids.

Sam Adams Cherry Chocolate Bock (5.8 percent ABV, 15 IBU): A Christmas tradition in my family was that my dad always gave my mom a box of chocolate covered cherries for Christmas, so this was another one I felt compelled to add to my flight. Made with cocoa nibs and natural cherries, the nose is pretty overwhelming – it borders on cough syrup overwhelming, in fact. The tart cherry taste also overcomes the malts, and the beer finishes sweet. Not my cup of tea, but I bet my mom would like it.

Upland Teddy Bear Kisses (10.2 percent ABV, 80 IBU): Upland Brewing is located in Bloomington, Ind., and is well known around the region for its Upland Wheat and Dragonfly IPA. Teddy Bear Kisses is a great big beer – an imperial stout with deep, dark malts and plenty of alpha hops. Interestingly, the nose is rather light, which belies the robust flavor of the beast. It drinks like a dark, imperial IPA, and doesn’t hit the palate as hoppy as the IBUs would suggest. This one is a big, wet, slobbery teddy bear kiss, and I like it.

This post was written for and originally published by New York-based AlcoholProfessor.com.