As a child, I was obsessed with Christmas. I was also Catholic. Advent came with four candles (do other Jesus-types do the four candle purple-purple-pink-purple wreath?), and a never-ending countdown to the greatest morning in the whole year. Presents! Cookies for breakfast! Cookies for lunch! Passing out in a sugar coma on top of the gifts! And weeks without school to do what I wanted to. Pure kid joy.
The joy of Christmas as an adult is watching my kids get excited about everything they open. “Socks, dad! Socks!” The excruciating anticipation of an eternal 24-some days during my youth is now more anxiety about getting everything done in a mere four weeks. While candy and cookies pushed me through before, I can now enjoy the Advent count-down with some beer. (And cookies.)
I’m going to document my Advent calendar of beers this year. I’ve selected 24 winter- or Christmas-themed beers to be enjoyed one a night for 24 nights. To ease my documentation, I’m breaking it up into four six-day posts. I’m already behind, obviously.
But let’s begin.
Advent Beers, Week 1
I feel like any countdown to Christmas in KC should begin with Nutcracker, the grandad of local yuletide beers. I can recall the early spiced versions (though Jeremy Danner sez differently) back when I was just getting into beer. I can also remember the fresh-hop and caramel bombs from recent years. But the 2017 version of Nutcracker seems quite different from my memories. I readily admit that it could be my memory that’s failing.
The fresh-hop explosion is gone. Instead, a malty, caramel and piney swirl of aroma greeted me. There were plenty of piney American hops dancing in each drink. Their swings and twirls descended into a sweet, malty finish without the punch of bitterness I was expecting.
|Boulevard Brewing||Winter Warmer||% (vol.)|
Jubelale was never my favorite American winter beer. Though it was never one I avoided either. One I more often overlooked. Prunes upfront and a complex blend of very fruity coffee quickly gave way to a piney, aggressive bitterness to end. It was vaguely spicy.
|Deschutes Brewery||winter warmer||6.7% (vol.)||65|
Boulevard Snow & Tell
Yeah, I should have spaced out the two ales from Boulevard instead of downing both in the first three days. But I like Snow & Tell enough that I wanted to get to something I knew and enjoyed.
Like any good Scottish-style ale, Snow & Tell is malt and all malt: caramel and nutty, like a good toffee. A very restrained bitterness allows the toasted, cookie flavors to dominate this immensely enjoyable beer.
|Boulevard Brewing||oak-aged scottish-style ale||6.3% (vol.)||28|
Torn Label Old Believer
My bomber of imperial stout is the unadulterated Old Believer. You can pick up a different variation of this beer each Sunday between now and Christmas. Last week was White Russian Old Believer with milk sugars, coffee and vanilla. You’ll just have to wait to see what else they have planned.
Old Believer is a full-bodied, creamy black-as-night imperial stout. Burnt like dark coffee and darker chocolate with a significant finishing bitterness. The dark, roasted flavors, residual sugars and bitter finish play well together. It’s a very good beer. Even without the additions.
|Torn Label Brewing||imperial stout||11.1% (vol.)|
And now for something completely different. Be gone, large, boozy winter warmers. The guys from Raytown have a slight, bright red light shining seasonal fruitiness our way. From the hazy red liquid arose an aroma of far-away berries and candied ginger. The beer is tart – it is a Berliner Weisse base – and the bright cranberry flavors play right into the acid. The beer ends with a spark of gingery spiciness, which is a nice pop from the sour.
|Crane Brewing||cranberry ginger Berliner-style weisse||4.5% (vol.)|
Brooklyn Winter Lager
I might be the most excited Kansas Citian to see that Brooklyn Brewery has expanded its footprint into Missouri. In my one visit to the brewery in NY, the tour guides (who, for the most part were script readers and totally unknowledgeable to my battery of questions) did happily point out that Europe would continue to enjoy Sorachi Ace, Black Chocolate Stout and the rest of the lineup while flyover country would not. Ha! Sorry, hipster. I finally got my Brooklyn beer in Brookside.
Winter Lager is in the neighborhood of a schwartzbier, a German-style black lager. Despite it coal-black appearance, this beer lacks much of the assertive roasted, burnt aroma and flavors one expects from a porter or stout. Instead, a hint of lightly-roasted coffee aroma followed by a round, gentle bitterness that fits with the roasted profile. It’s light bodied and terrifically drinkable.
|Brooklyn Brewery||schwartzbier||5.6% (vol.)|
One Down Three to Go
That’s all for week one of Advent Beer 2017. One purple candle is burning. Time to light up the next.