From the Bottle Collection: 2 Days Before Christmas Beer

One Bottle Collection beer for every day before Christmas. Rating system: not actually meant as a “tense” comment. All these beers either don’t exist anymore, or I tasted in the past. Hopefully, if not so hot before, they’re better now. If they do still exist. Or hopefully, if not better they’re as dead as the… Dickens.

Note: the ghosts have varied a bit over the various versions, but even Mr. Magoo’s version the Future was bleak. In the pictures chosen for this series the most visually pleasing ghost was Present.

Ghost of Christmas Present… remember him? Jolly, fun: the kind of guy you’d invite to a party for the season, and the kind of beer you could bring to a festive affair and not be totally laughed out of the room by festive beer geeks. That’s the best a beer gets in this series. Now Ghost of Christmas Past isn’t a great award. You can see from the picture he can be a bit of a grump. Probably from mediocre’ beer. And best not bring a Ghost of Christmas Past Beer to a beer geek festive affair. You’ll be the limp wet noodle of the party. A Ghost of Christmas Future beer? You remember that guy, right? If you want to be laughed at, have to bring most of your offering home and feel like you’ve just attended your own funeral instead of a party, bring a Ghost of Christmas Future beer. Some Ghost of Future Beer might best serve as embalming fluid.

Written by Ken Carman

FX Matt Traditional Season’s Best

I hate apply the “don’t remember much about this beer so it couldn’t have been terrible, or great,” rule, but for the most part I do. Here’s what I do remember, maybe remember: an amber or light brown. Not highly hopped, decent head. A bit light on the body. An ale with light fruity yeast notes, at best. Not a “seasonal” according to today’s standards. But I have to emphasize: “according to today’s standards.” I’m guessing this was marketed as a “between” product: as in between Saranac and Matt’s more “traditional” market base. This was in 1989. Hey, even if this was an attempt at “craft,” for 89 this was about as aggressive as it got except for a few, up and coming, brewers and Anchor. But I’m guessing they were fishing for a wider customer base: trying to lure the old customers into the craft beer market.

I don’t know how well it sold.

At the time Matt Brewing, at the time known as F.X. Matt I believe, had just started to get into competing with craft beer. I only say “with” because, at the time, they were pretty bloody big. Kind of a minor major brewer.

I give them a lot of credit for going with a great trend rather than bucking it with smarmy attitudes and nasty, anti-free enterprise, tactics. Utica Club, Matts: the brewery, with a few exceptions, was brewing mostly Bud/Miller/Coors clones with slight variations. That’s not an insult: pretty much all brewers in America were, especially brewers of their size and bigger. F.X. Matt had just come back from Germany, convinced by a German brewer that Americans should at least try to make beer as good as the Germans.

Thus, on that day, in swaddling bubbles and head, was born unto us Saranac. In my bottle collection alone I have at least 30 styles of beer they brew, or have brewed, and I know they’ve done at least twice that. Some deserve a halo, some a thumbs up, some OK and small, small, handful: at best, a “what the… were you thinking???”

So here’s my problem: except as a conversational item you wouldn’t want to bring a bottle of this to a party of beer geeks; though not “bad” by any means. Times have changed. No Ghost of Christmas Present present can be given. But I can’t give it a Ghost of Christmases Yet to Be, because we have to understand the history, and the risk, the Matt family took back in the 80s. Plus, it wasn’t bad at all: especially for the time.

I hate giving the same “award” fr almost all of this year’s candidates, but what am I to do? I can’t give “excellent” or “stinky” to what I can’t remember all that well. I will say that, unlike Dos Equis: a large mega-brewer about to add a 7th brewing facility. F.X, one brewery in Utica, NY, was taking quite a risk back when regular east coast brewers were mostly avoiding jumping intro the craft market.

So a Ghost of Christmas Past with an extra nod at how good that past was. They have a lot to be proud of and, if you have noticed I focus on them more than others just a tad, well I think their story is one untold… few in brew world know or understand.

And, yes, I do know the folks at Saranac, personally. But if my goal here had was to promote them I would have gone with a Present present. But that wouldn’t be fair. Not that memorable.

Without intent, I have collected well over 1,000 beer bottles since the early 70s. When something finally had to be done about the cheap paneling in this old modular, I had a choice. Tear down the walls while, oh, so carefully, replacing the often rotted 1X3s. Or: cover them with… The Bottle Collection.