My friend Derek told me that it was the best beer at the tasting. I believed him, of course, but I still wanted to be the judge of that. It turns out that he was exactly right. It really was the best beer at the tasting.
The tasting I’m referring to is my personal favorite tasting of the year—the Arbor Brewing Company’s Holiday Ale tasting. You might know that ABC puts on a helluva tasting every month—fruit beers, IPAs, fall beers, Belgians—but this is the holy grail of ales for me.
The tap room and game room are decked out in their holiday finest. Christmas lights twinkle everywhere. I’m not sure if it’s just me, but I think that everyone and everything look more beautiful when bathed in the glow of holiday lights.
As always, the buffet is delicious—cheese covered pierogies, chicken wings, hot pretzels, cold cheese. These are the perfect foods to wash down the beer. And the beer ranges from winter ales to winter whites to stouts to hot meads and back again.
Oh, as to the best beer? It was the Bruery’s 6 Geese a Laying, of course! I read that the Bruery is doing a different “12 Days of Christmas” beer each year. If the others are anything like this, I must seek them out. This dark winter ale is rich and malty. The highlights for me were the citrus and fruit tastes. I honestly can’t say that I’ve ever had gooseberries but I will try to find them the next time they are in season. There wasn’t a heavy, syrupy taste—just a nice blend of berry and cherry with hints of citrus in the finish.
My other top favorites were (in no particular order):
Samichlaus – I think I always put this in my top five but there’s a reason for that: it’s good beer! The beer is brewed once a year and aged for 10 months. This results in a creamy, warm and strong ale that goes down smooth with only a slight alcohol burn.
Arbor Brewing’s FIGJAM – I haven’t been terribly fond of some of the quadruples that I have had in the past so I sometimes avoid them. I am so glad that I did not let prior experience deter me from this absolutely delicious beer! The beer is like the best dark bread fruit bread (yes Virginia there is such a thing!) made into beer—with notes of dates, raising, figs in the nose and taste, somewhat heavy mouthfeel to be expected) and crisp finish it is easy to forget that this beer is almost 12% a.b.v. Sip it slowly and enjoy it.
Arbor Brewing’s Wenceslas Winter Fuel – Another favorite also came from Arbor Brewing. This beer also had a dark bread aroma and taste but was balanced with notes of chocolate. Nice, toasty taste and a dry finish. At only 6% a.b.v. you can enjoy this well into those cold winter nights!
St. Bernardus Christmas Ale – This Belgian has the most delicious mulling spice taste to it! Like some of my other favorites, it had the dark fruit/dark bread taste but it had that extra note of spice that made it memorable. Warm on the palate, slight alcohol burn yet not too harsh.
And so ends another holiday ale tasting. Just 11 months and 3 weeks until I have another of my hap-hap-happiest beer tastings since Bing and Danny tapdanced up Fourth Avenue. Merry Christmas!