Great Lakes Christmas Beer Goggles
I have a well-documented disdain for Christmas beers, winter warmers, and other beers with cutsie holiday-inspired names like Silver Beers and Jingle Beers and Have Yourself a Beery Little Christmas. But around this time of year it is hard to avoid them. They take up half the craft beer cooler at my favorite corner store. The Bollywood music playing in the background adds a certain confusion to the scene, but the store owner certainly knows what brings in money.
Now well into my thirties, I understand that from Thanksgiving to December 25, and perhaps from well before, my life will be invaded by Christmas. The music I hear, the ads I see, the food and drink I buy, the clothes in stores, the shows at theatres, the urges to donate, the urges to buy, the insistence of want, the stupid shit people stick on their heads, cars, children, and pets, even the way people bid me farewell. After all these years, I’ve also come to terms with the fact that I’ll never be okay with it.
I’ll especially not be okay with the replacement of my favorite IPAs and… IPAs with The Nutcracker Wheat and Rudolph the Red Nosed Rainbeer. Because, let’s be honest: this curmudgeonliness has little to do with my personal religious beliefs and everything to do with what I want to drink after a day of playing retail Christmas Elf to dozens of customers, all equally pissed off that they have to spend their hard earned money on siblings they never really liked anyway. And that beer I want to drink is one made of water, grain, yeast, and hops. Please hold the nutmeg. Continue reading
How I imagine Santa
‘Tis the season! Bad traffic, angry crowds, mediocre renditions of Christmas carols by floundering rock stars, cinnamon-scented everything, and hard selling plastic crap to kids who believe in a fat elf lord with NSA-like surveillance capabilities. Oh the noise, noise, noise, noise, NOISE! Perhaps these shoes are too tight, but I need a drink.
It’s hard to reach for a beer this time of year without having a winter warmer pushed on you. Traditionally these beers are big on malt. The definition seems to be a bit nebulous regarding the spice issue. Many do without it, but some toss in frankincense and myrrh just willy-nilly and declare it a winter warmer. I find definitions in general rather claustrophobic, so I won’t fight that fight; instead I’ll just note that the spicy variety are pulling from the tradition of wassail, which is strong ales mixed and matched with spices — a tradition begun before hops were discovered to be the godsend they are. And a tradition celebrated in the holiday tune “Here We Come A-Wassailing,” best parodied in a 1980s claymation Christmas special with “Here We Come A-Waffling.”
It’s no secret that highly-spiced beers like pumpkin ale or Christmas ale are not my fave; I’ll leave the spicy stuff to the people who also think it’s okay to wear Santa hats in public for the full six weeks before Christmas. Instead I’ll continue to hoard cases of Sierra Nevada’s Celebration during the winter months as though those Jehovah’s Witnesses were right and the end-times are nigh…in which case I’d much rather be drinking a beer in a bar than sipping flat soda in the Kingdom Hall basement, but to each his own. Continue reading