Session #106 Round-Up

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This month’s Session was holiday-themed, all about Holiday beers, and quite a few people were feeling the season. With over a dozen submissions besides my own, most of our participants are in favor of holiday beers, with just a couple dissenters, and a lot of reviewed seasonals. Here’s what everybody had to say:

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The Beer NutChristmas for Home Brewers: In his post, the Beer Nut weaves a nice tale of Smithwick’s Homebrew Challenge, and reviews the two finalists from the competition, and both sound delicious just from their names: Sebastian’s Apple Pie Christmas Ale and Brian & Stephen’s Old Town Christmas Ale. And the winner is … nope, I won’t spoil the surprise. But it’s sounds like a fun contest and a great opportunity for local homebrewers, with the winner presumably getting an especially wonderful Christmas present.

Beer Search PartyIt’s Christmastime: Sean picks his six-pack worth of favorite, or essential, holiday beers. His choices include a few classics, a few imports and a few locals. After that, he’s on the hunt for new ones, but his regulars seem like enough to get anyone through the holidays.

Bend Beer Librarian’s By the BarrelHoliday Beers: As befits a library, Mark’s post is well-organized, starting with some general thoughts on his relationship with Christmas beers before tackling some specific beers and going on to answer my suggested question to give people ideas on what to write about, before finishing with some final thoughts. It’s a long and very thorough look at holiday beers.

Boak & BailyHoliday Beers: B&B decided that covered almost everything about holiday beers in previous posts, helpfully providing links, but ultimately had an interesting insight. “In an age when strong beers — really strong beers — are available all year round, and when Halloween beers have dibs on wintry spices, does Christmas beer even exist any more? Wizzard got their wish: for beer drinkers, it can be Christmas every day.” It’s a curious notion. Are Christmas beers no longer as special because there are so many other seasonals around throughout the rest of the year?

Blog BirraireHoliday Beers: Joan discusses the great change that occurred in Spain with holiday beers in specific, and the increase in craft beer more generally. Apparently in 2011, there were only four locally brewed holiday beers. Today that number is large enough that she’s no longer certain how many there are.

The Brew SiteHoliday Beers: Jon’s a fan of all things Christmas — even fruitcake — and loves holiday beers, as well. He offers a few suggestions as what comes close to being an ideal Christmas beer, but believing that the perfect example may not exist. But in the end, it’s own recipe that comes closest, a homebrew inspired by fruitcake, which he’s named Christmas Cheer.

Gary Gillman’s Beer et seq.The Session Looks at a Holiday or Christmas Tradition in Beer: Gary muses on the many traditions in brewing around the holidays that were sufficiently vague and uncategorized to noy create any one specific way of creating a Christmas beer. And he concludes that that’s a good thing. “It’s good that in a day when beers have been categorized to within an inch of their life, a fairly hazy notion endures about Christmas beer. Hazy suits the idea of a strongish ale sipped indolently at Christmas anyway.”

A Good Beer BlogChristmas Ales Through The Bloggy Years: Alan takes issue my description of what I think holidays beers should aspire to, and details the austerity of the holiday during his upbringing, and it’s lack of beer in its traditions, both then and now, apart from a few there and again. He concludes that for him, a least, the season isn’t about beer, though he admits “it’ll play its part.”

Kaedrin Beer BlogA 5 Year Anchor Christmas Vertical: Like me, Mark loves holiday beers, and managed to collect the last five years of Anchor’s Christmas Ale — also one of my annual favorites — to do a vertical tasting with some friends. Interestingly, last year’s vintage proved the most popular. When Anchor was more heavily spicing their Xmas beer, I felt it was ideal when it was one-year old. They also toyed with blending, an interesting idea, and vowed to do more of that next year.

Our Tasty TravelsTrapella Especial de Nadal by La Birreria Andorra: Their holiday diary is all about tasting a Christmas beer, Trapella Especial de Nadal from a brewery in Andorra.

Ramblings of a Beer RunnerAnchor Brewing’s Mark Carpenter Talks about the Transformation of the Anchor Christmas Beer: Derek’s post is especially nice because Mark Carpenter is a friend, and a great person. So it’s great to get his take on holiday beers, and the origins of Anchor’s Christmas Ale. I love the insight that while many breweries go with “holiday” or “winter,” Anchor stuck with “Christmas” in the title. As Mark remembers. “Fritz always insisted having ‘Merry Christmas and Happy New Year’ on the labels. It shortens the selling time and our distributors wanted us to change it for that reason, but I think it’s a great tradition. The new owners of Anchor insist on this as well.”

Tom BedellHoliday Beers: For the past three years, Tom’s reviewed a dozen holiday beers and for his post included a link to his reprise of 2014’s beers, before detailing a few of his rules and highlighting this year’s Deschutes Jubelale.

Yours For Good FermentablesHoliday Beers: Thomas decided to keep things simple and just talked about a couple of beers that make him happy, his usual favorite, Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale and a more recent choice Deschutes Jubelale.

If you know of any Session posts I missed, or if I missed yours, please drop me a note at “Jay (.) Brooks (@) gmail (.) com.” Happy Christmas.

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According to the Session calendar, the next Session will be hosted by Dan Conley at the Community Beer Works Blog. His topic will be “Are breweries your friends?” The date for the next Session will be New Year’s Day, January 1, 2016.

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