Monday, November 10, 2008

Merry Christmas

The Saturday morning after Halloween, the Bull E. Vard family went to Target for some reason or other (I really am just the driver). We went looking for the Halloween section to see if they had any princess costumes on clearance because my daughters like to play dress up. We were surprised to see that the Halloween section, which was there earlier in the week, was already replaced with Christmas stuff. I'm a bit of a scrooge when it comes to the Christmas season because I work an inordinate amount of hours during November and December so I never have free time. I go to work in the dark, I get home in the dark, I eat at my desk, I don't go outside and I can't get my drink on.

Last night after dinner, Stella came to the realization that we didn't have any adult beverages in the house and she wanted something to drink. She gets kind of antsy this time of year because a couple of her favorite beers come out, Sierra Nevada Celebration and New Belgium Frambozen. She forced me to go over to Missouri and see if they had those in, I'm not sure why she believed that Kansas didn't have them. So I put on some pants and drove over to Missouri (Tipsy's in Mission is only about a 3 minute drive shorter than going to Missouri, I just like making it sound like a gigantic trek).

I got to the Hy-Vee liquor store on State Line and tried to find some acceptable winter seasonals. Hy-Vee didn't even have Nutcracker. I had actually grabbed some Goose Island Harvest Ale (the fall's balls, it's on sale right now) and was going to go with a sixer of that and get something else at Batson's today. Then I saw on an endcap type display some Schlafly Christmas Ale and Leinenkugel's Fireside Nut Brown. I'm not normally a Leinenkugel's fan, I see them as the value brand of the craft beer market, but a Nut Brown is always welcome. I couldn't remember if I had had a Schlafly Christmas Ale last year, but Schlafly's are always worth a shot. The only downside to the 2 sixers was their warmth. It was already 6:30 so they would have to be refrigerated for quite a while before Stella would be happy with their coldness (I'm happy with cellar temps). I decided that we can always do a quick chill if need be, so I got the 2 sixers and got out of Hy-Vee for $17.

I opened up a Schlafly Christmas Ale at around 7:30 after an hour in the fridge. It was not quite cellar temp and the carbonation was a little harsh because of the temp. My problem with Schlafly usually revolves around their beer not being well balanced. Schlafly typically has one flavor profile that overpowers everything else, the APA is super hoppy, the coffee stout only has coffee flavor (unless you count burnt styrofoam), the pumpkin ale only has pumpkin flavor. The Christmas Ale might be the best Schlafly beer of the bunch, even lukewarm I could tell that it was quite balanced and had a clove taste with some malt sweetness and a spicy finish. All of the flavors worked together well and made for a pleasant drinking experience. When I finished the Christmas Ale, I immediately wanted another. But, I wanted to wait until it had gotten a little colder.

At about 9, Stella popped one open and really enjoyed it while we plowed through The Amazing Race*. I was drinking one of the Fireside Nut Browns (review forthcoming) and manning the remote like a professional. By the time the race was over and we started on “Cold Case”, Stella and I had popped open another Christmas Ale. At the proper temperature at this point, the Christmas Ale was even better than before. It might be a little sweet to drink more than 2 in a session, but isolated as a one time drink, the Christmas Ale stands up to any winter seasonal and outperforms most. About the time that the dude from “Do the Right Thing” hung himself in the interrogation room, Stella asked what the alcohol content is on these. “It's making me tired”, she said as I grabbed a bottle and looked for the alcohol content. Then I fell in love with the Christmas Ale, because it had a solid 8.0% ABV. Love. It. Between Stella's BAC and my new Old Spice body soap, my evenings plans were looking up.
*Did anyone else want to go out and buy a whole case of tempura paints and bring them to work to throw in people's faces? How much fun would that be?

Only one problem, when we finished with “Cold Case” I was only halfway through. So we had to squeeze in “Entourage” before we went to bed. Christmas Ale doesn't make a good chugging beer, so I had to take it slow. If the only problem with Christmas Ale is that it isn't good to chug, that says good things. Schlafly Christmas Ale is new this year and stacks up very nicely to Nutcracker. While Nutcracker is hoppy and Christmas Ale is malty, they complement each other well and great parties can be had by offering your guests these 2 beers.

My best Don Draper summation: What says midwesterner better than providing your holiday guests with 2 great midwestern winter beers? One, the Nutcracker, for those with adventure in their hearts, looking for the piney smells and flavors of a weekend ski getaway. The other, Christmas Ale, for the family minded, it harkens back to evenings in front of the fire, hanging stockings and ornaments and drawing on drunk Uncle Joe's face after he takes one too many nips out of the punch bowl full of egg nog.

Christmas came early this year, Merry Christmas.


  1. One thing I really look forward to during this time of year is the Bell's Winter White. Lukas got it in on Friday and I already bought two sixers.

    I'll definitely have to look for these that you featured though.

  2. Hey, I picked up a 6er of Frambozen this weekend at Royal - they should still have a bunch. They also still have about 8-9 bottles of La Folie if you haven't had it yet. Definitely worth picking up.

    I also got a 6er of Bells' Expedition Stout there - and am enjoying one RIGHT NOW. :-)

    Thanks for the recommendation on Schlafly's Christmas ale. I don't believe I've had it and could go either way with their stuff. My current favorite Christmas ale is Breckenridge's... the season, however, is yet young!

  3. Can't wait to hear your nut brown experience. It reminds me of O'Fallon's Chocolate Cherry winter seasonal. Not really sure how the nut brown and chocolate cherry flavor profiles can mesh so much.

  4. "Between Stella's BAC and my new Old Spice body soap, my evenings plans were looking up."

    Best line ever. As a married guy I know that the key is not letting the "window" pass. It is a science ensuring that the wife hasn't had one too few or one too many beers.

  5. That Leinies Fireside is some weird stuff. It has some kind of strange additive that gives it an artificial flavor. Doesn't really resemble beer much at all. Looking forward to your review of it.