Brew Biz: Werts and All

Ken Carman is a BJCP judge; homebrewer since 1979, club member at Escambia Bay and Music City Homebrewers, who has been interviewing professional brewers all over the east coast for over 10 years.

The Topic: Christmas Beer

Going through “The Bottle Collection,” getting ready to start a Christmas Beer series, I realized there’s a value to collecting, beer education-wise. And I had just kicked back into that comfy lounge chair called: “A Christmas Beer is usually an ale with Christmas/pumpkin spices.”

Not really. I found a hell of a lot of lagers, a few brown ales: sans spices, and a couple, “What makes this ‘Christmas,’ or all that seasonal?” Now I must admit: a lager as a Christmas beer has an extra high hurdle to jump over, personally. Ale yeast works fine and provides all the fruity goodness one expects from the season. Lager yeast is like the dried out white meat on a turkey. If you like it: fine. But tis the season for flavor, in my opinion. And; on a personal level, that preferred “flavor” would not be that sometime sulfur-ish lager sense that perhaps should be saved for the birth of Satan’s son.

If one would even consider celebrating that unholy event. I wouldn’t.

I have seen few Christmas lagers that even come close. In fact those who brew such seem to be following the early trend some pretend to be craft, “craft,” brewers started: “slap the damn label on because beer geeks are idiots who will accept anything that appears to be beer geek-ish.”

Well that worked, did-n-t it? Not.

And ales are so much easier: all that extra flavor we savor during the season we binge on. McGuires in Pensacola, and now Destin, Florida has had a Christmas Ale for years. The version they did for almost 20 years was simple: a pleasant, lighter ale, with plenty of pumpkin spices. Fit the season well. Since they have changed their brewers over the years that recipe has varied. Sometimes quite good, even better… occasionally. Sometimes a little less than “quite good,” but by no means “bad.”

There are a few that shine despite receiving an otherwise, “Seasonal, huh?” Snowball’s Chance by Blue Ridge, for example, was simply a strong ale, yet something one could sip by the fire and feel the cheer seep in.

I know that’s not quite the “strong, darker, spiced beer” called for in the 2008 BJCP guidelines, but I’m not a style Nazi when I judge… though they certainly matter: a lot. Why should I be one in my personal life when I’m sipping by the fire waiting for the fat man and his reindeer to get stuck in my chimney?

Well, thanks for letting me rant. I just heard a moan and a snort from the chimney. Look like I got at least two extra presents this year. Let me toss some extra fire starter on the flames and sip a good one.

By the way, anyone have a good recipe for roasted reindeer, or know how to get rid of that foul Claus smell? Possibly a new defect to consider. Perhaps we can tell by visual, SRM: Santa or Reindeer, Means… too much of a Rudolph-ish red tinge, perhaps? Or… maybe more Santa would just add that delightful cookie dough sense.

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Brew Biz: Werts and All, is a column dedicated to review, discuss and comment on all things beer including, but not limited to: marketing, homebrewing and homebrew/beer related events, how society perceives all things beer. Also: reviews of beer related businesses, opinions about trends in the beer business, and all the various homebrew, judging and organizations related to beer. Essentially, all things “beer.”

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Ken Carman and Cartenual Productions
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