The Session #106: Holiday Beers

The SessionFirst Friday means another round of The Session! This month our collaborative beer blogging project is hosted by none other than Jay Brooks, who has chosen for our topic Holiday Beers:

So for this Session, write about whatever makes you happy, so long as it involves holiday beers.

  • Discuss your favorite holiday beer.
  • Review one or more holiday beers.
  • Do you like the idea of seasonal beers, or loathe them?
  • What’s your idea of the perfect holiday beer?
  • Do have a holiday tradition with beer?
  • Are holiday beers released too early, or when should they be released?
  • Do you like holiday beer festivals?

Those are just a few suggestions, celebrate the holiday beers in your own way. Happy Holidays!

Well obviously since I’m currently in the midst of my annual Beer Advent Calendar I’m rather fond of the seasonal, holiday beers. And to take it a step further, I’m currently in Portland attending the Holiday Ale Festival, ostensibly to sell my book but let’s be honest, it doesn’t hurt that there is a cornucopia of holiday beer here.

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I love Christmas and the holidays, snow, music, giving gifts and spending time with family and friends, so for me this extends into the holiday beers. Maybe. I’ve always liked the traditional story of how brewers brewed a special beer as a “thank you” to their loyal patrons during the holiday season, too. But perhaps it’s not strictly something I can define or quantify, but does that matter? Like many good things in life it’s probably best not to overthink it.

Jay suggests discussing your idea of the “perfect” holiday beer; I don’t know that there is such a thing, but a few examples from my own experience spring to mind: Anchor Christmas Ale (of course!), Sierra Nevada Celebration, Deschutes Jubelale, Samichlaus. All different, all special, all fairly iconic as these things go. And then I have my own homebrew recipe that I’ve brewed a couple of times that perhaps does in fact reflect what I think of as the “ideal” holiday beer (in as much as it sprang from my head), one I named “Christmas Cheer” that was inspired by fruitcake.

Quick digression: yes, I like fruitcake, and I have a great recipe for it that beats the hell out of commercial offerings. So yeah, I’m weird that way.

Anyway. The base of the beer is an English Old Ale (itself a great holiday beer style) then aged on a medley of dried fruits and spices: dates, apricots, raisins, cherries, cranberries, cinnamon, vanilla bean. And it really is rather fruitcake-like, decadent, and quite strong at 9+% abv! Fun to drink, but also for me as much fun to dream up and brew.

And it’s that spirit of the holidays that for me make it special, regardless of the style of beer. So enjoy what you like, eat, drink, and be merry, and hoppy holidays!

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