Orval Day 2016

Merchant du Vin, which was started by Charles and Rose Ann Finkel, is an importer of beer. But not just another importer, but one of the earliest in America to begin bringing in some of the world’s best beers. Like many people, one my first introductions to Belgian beer was Orval, which they started importing in 1978, along with others like Lindemans, Rochefort, Westmalle and others. This year, they’ve decided to promote Orval by creating “Orval Day” to celebrate the beer. It’s certainly one of my favorites. So it may be a marketing ploy, but so are many other holidays, and I think the beer is so good that it deserves its own day.

Here’s the info about Orval Day from Merchant du Vin’s website:

On March 26th, devotees of Orval Trappist Ale – and even some folks who haven’t tried it yet – will convene upon their favorite bar to celebrate one of the world’s most unique beers. Orval was the first Brett beer to land on US shores, and has become the favorite beer for many star American brewers. Orval sells one beer, brewed to exquisite perfection within the walls of Notre Dame d’Orval Monastery in Belgium. It’s delicious when it leaves the brewery, but also evolves in the bottle for five years or more. A portion of the proceeds from Orval Day will be donated to MAP International.

2016 will be the first year of Orval Day: visit our events page to find a great beer.

I last visited Orval in early 2014, so I thought I’d share a few of the photos I took of the brewery and abbey during that trip. Enjoy. And happy Orval Day.

Orval Day Tour

Brewhog Determines An Early Spring Bock For 2016

Over in Gobbler’s Knob, in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, Phil the Groundhog — a.k.a. the Brewhog — raised up his head this morning and looked around, and this year did not see his shadow. You know what that means? It means an early spring, and earlier spring bock for us. You can see a video of Punxsutawney Phil here. And there’s more information about Groundhog Day from the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club.


And surprisingly enough, Phil wasn’t the only one. There’s also Shubenacadie Sam in Canada, who likewise did not see his shadow. And in New York there’s Staten Island Chuck along with General Beau Lee in Georgia, both of whom also predicted an early spring. Fingers crossed. And if you don’t have time to watch all of the deliciously wonderful Groundhog Day film today, here it is in a slightly shorter version just over three minutes.

Beer In Ads #1776: “Finest Beer I Ever Tasted” Says Guy Lombardo

Thursday’s New Year’s Eve ad is for Schaefer, from 1962. The ad features bandleader Guy Lombardo, who for years played live on television New Year’s Eve, so much so that he was nicknamed “Mr. New Year’s Eve.” What I didn’t know, which it says is the ad, is that he was also a “speedboat champion.” Who knew? A tuba player I played with in the 26th Army Band played with his band, The Royal Canadiens, after his discharge. Happy New Year.


Beer In Ads #1775: A Tradition In Hospitality

Wednesday’s holiday ad is for Budweiser, from 1962. The slogan “A Tradition in Hospitality” was used by Anheuser-Busch in holiday ads over a number of years, from at least the 1940s. It’s quite a spread they’ve put out; large turkey, grapes and a Jell-O mold in the background. Who the hell is serving Jello-O with dinner?


Beer In Ads #1773: Holidays Were Made For John Forsythe

Monday’s holiday ad is for Michelob, from 1980. This holiday ad for Michelob featured actor John Forsythe, who’s best know for being the voice of Charlie in Charlie’s Angels and on the 1980s TV show Dynasty. And right before joining the cast of Dynasty, he did this ad for Michelob, where he’s putting out some bottles of beer into a bowl of ice for a party. Notice the six-pack in the corner that’s been decorated with a wreath. I can’t say I recall them doing special holiday carriers, but then I didn’t really drink the beer in 1980, either.


Beer In Ads #1771: Mac’s Bottle Santa

Saturday’s holiday ad is for Mac’s, from New Zealand. The ad is a fairly recent one, from 2014. Originally known as McCashins Brewery, for founder Terry McCashin, it was New Zealand’s first craft brewery when it opened in 1981. But almost everybody called it Mac’s, and that’s the name it goes by today, and for most of its existence. But the ad is pure genius, taking Mac’s distinctive bottle and having look like a dead beer ringer for the man in red. It almost makes me wish I had some in the cooler.


Beer In Ads #1770: Season’s Greetings, A Holiday Toast To You …

Friday’s holiday ad is for Miller High Life, from 1949. One of my favorite Christmas ads, featuring a version of Miller’s “Girl in the Moon,” with a wreath around the moon as she offers “Season’s Greetings” and “A Holiday toast to you from the National Champion of Quality … Miller High Life.”


Hoppy Christmas

From my IP address to yours. Have a very Malty Christmas and a Hoppy Holiday. Peace On Earth, Good Beer to Men (and Women).


“Christmas is not a time nor a season, but a state of mind. To cherish peace and goodwill, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas.”

             — Calvin Coolidge


‘Twas Christmas broach’d the mightiest ale; ’twas Christmas told the merriest tale; a Christmas gambol oft could cheer the poor man’s heart through half the year.

             — Sir Walter Scott

The original image, which I doctored, was the cover of a 1950 issue of Guinness Time, “a quarterly publication by the Guinness company [that] was distributed to all Guinness staff.” I found it at Bygone Bodiam, a very cool website covering old time Bodiam, a hop growing area in England. There are also a number of great nostalgic photographs of the local hops industry back in the day.

Beer In Ads #1769: May The Christmas Season Be A Merry One

Thursday’s holiday ad is for Acme, from 1948. San Francsico’s Acme Breweries got famed pin-up artist Alberto Varga to create the artwork for their annual Christmas card, this one, of course, for 1948 as they also wish everyone a great next year. “May the Christmas Season be a Merry One … and ’49 a Golden Year for You!” I guess she must be Mrs. Claus? Have a happy and hoppy holiday!


Twas The Beer Before Christmas: A Brewery Visit From St. Nicholas

While not widely known, St. Nicholas, among his many patronages includes brewers. He is a patron saint of brewers. The way we think of St. Nick in America begins with the publication of Twas the Night Before Christmas: A Visit From St, Nicholas by Clement C. Moore in 1823. So with my tongue firmly set in my cheek, I decided to rewrite Moore’s masterpiece, moving his visit from the home to the brewery. Hoppy Christmas. Enjoy. For more detail on how this came about, and about the original poem, see below.


Twas the Beer Before Christmas:
A Brewery Visit From St. Nicholas

‘Twas the beer before Christmas, when down in the brewery
Not a bottle was stirring, not a mouse dared to scurry;
The hoses were hung by the kettle with care
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would drink there;

The bottles, like children, nestled snug in their beds,
While visions of candi sugar fermented their heads;
The brewers, in hoodies, gave just the impression,
They’d all settled down for long winter’s session,

When outside by the tanks there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the brewery to see what was the matter.
Away to the rollup I flew like a flash,
Tore open the lock, the door flew up with a crash.

The moon on the breast of the newly-paved tarmack
Gave the lustre of stout looking velvety black,
When, what to my sobering eyes should appear,
But a miniature delivery wagon, and eight kegs of beer,

With a little old brewmaster, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.
More rapid than fermenting his brewers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name:

Now, Busch! Now, Rheingold!, now, Pabst and Carling!
On, Schlitz! on, Schmidt! on, Miller and Yuengling!
To the top of the jockey box! To the top of the cask!
Now drink away! drink away! drink away the whole flask!”

As dry hopping that before the wild bittering fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, toast a drink to the sky;
So up to the brewery-top the brewers they flew,
With the wagon full of Beers, and St. Nicholas too.

And then, glasses tinkling, I heard on the roof
The toasting and drinking of each little goof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Out the fermenter St. Nicholas came with a bound.

He was dressed all in red, from his toes to his top,
And his coveralls were soiled with spent grain and hops;
A carton of Beers he had flung on his back,
And his rubber boots squeaked as he opened his pack.

His besotted eyes—how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were all rosy, like New Glarus cherry!
His droll little mouth was beseeching our pardon,
And the beard of his chin was as white as Hoegaarden;

The end of a zwickel he held tight in one hand,
While the other held Watermelon Wheat that was canned;
He had a beer belly, that bent two stumpy legs,
That shook when he laughed, like a half-emptied keg.

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old brewer,
And I drank when I saw him, for what could be truer;
A wink of his eye as he poured generous heads,
Soon gave me to know he would join us instead;

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And emptied the bottles; then sat with a smirk,
And raising his glass, he gave the first toast,
Then each brewer, in turn, drank to his own riposte;

Then he sprang to his wagon, to his brewers gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like a hop torpedo missile.
But I heard his last toast, ere he drove out of here,
“Hoppy Christmas to all, and to all drink good beer.”


More About the Original Poem & How This Version Came To Be

In late 2009 — a Saturday night — I read Porter and Alice, my two kids, Twas the Night Before Christmas: A Visit From St, Nicholas by Clement C. Moore. Whenever I read something I know to my children (which happens a lot, kids love repetition) the writer in me edits as I go. I change words as if it was my work, I flatter myself I’m improving it or correcting mistakes. A scatterbrained scheme was hatched as I again read them what’s probably the most famous Christmas poem.

First published in 1823, according to Wikipedia, “it is largely responsible for the conception of Santa Claus from the mid-nineteenth century to today, including his physical appearance, the night of his visit, his mode of transportation, the number and names of his reindeer, and the tradition that he brings toys to children. Prior to the poem, American ideas about St. Nicholas and other Christmastide visitors varied considerably. The poem has influenced ideas about St. Nicholas and Santa Claus beyond the United States to the rest of the Anglosphere and the world.”

As I’ve written about before, St. Nick is also a Patron Saint of Brewers. So with my tongue firmly set in my cheek, I decided to rewrite Moore’s masterpiece, moving his visit from the home to the brewery.

As it happens, there are a lot of different versions of the poem, with incremental changes having been made over the years. I used, for no particular reason, an edition from Trans-Pacific Radio. Enjoy. Hoppy Christmas. You can also compare the two versions side by side, which also includes the brewers names I’ve used in previous years. The plan is to change those each year.

Feel free to share my version of the poem, with credit if you please, plus a link back here is always appreciated.

UPDATE: Georgia’s Sweetwater Brewing also did their own beer-themed version called Sweetwater’s Night Before Christmas. There’s also another beer-themed one I shared last year, Twas the Brewer’s Night Before Christmas. For many more parodies, check out the Canonical List of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas Variations, which contains 849 different variations on the poem.