Christmas in July

Here’s one from the vaults to help you with your upcoming “Christmas in July” beer binge.

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When TJ’s family asked us to bring beer to the family Christmas party, they sparked a debate about good beer. Mostly, the debate consisted of me complaining to TJ that his mother’s insistence that Molson was a “good beer” was wrong.

In fact, most of the beer I’ve seen in his parent’s fridge, including Molson, a company that annually produces 42.1 million barrels of beer, is considered an American Adjunct Lager. According to beeradvocate.com, this means the “focus is less on flavor and more on mass-production and consumption.” Sounds exactly like the McDonald’s of beer.

We can all thank Prohibition for creating beer’s fast food equivalent. That dark era in American history closed the doors of many breweries since, well, they had nothing to sell. The only breweries that had the wherewithal to outlast Prohibition were corporations, which resulted in “a very uniform, mild tasting lager.” This became known as the aforementioned American Adjunct.

The beers TJ and I drink are from craft breweries. To give a little perspective, the American Brewers Association defines a craft brewery as “small, independent and traditional.” Small meaning an “annual production of 6 million barrels of beer of less.” Our favorite, Magic Hat, produces around 155,000 barrels a year– almost 42 million less than Molson.

***

To definitively prove to ourselves that his parents were wrong and in keeping with the spirit of the holidays (but mostly the former), we decided to host a holiday beer tasting. We decided on 3 craft “Christmas” beers– two Ohio brews, one from Texas– and invited over our best friend Kevin and girlfriend Angela. (Angela is true a champ, only ever drinking wine or whiskey.)

TJ got us the first round of beers, Thirsty Dog’s 12 Dogs of Christmas Ale. Not as famous as Ohio legend Great Lakes Brewing Company, Thirsty Dog is located in Akron and sells in 12 states outside of Ohio. As a brewery, Thirsty Dog annually produces 20,000 barrels of beer.

At first, I was expecting a cheap knockoff of Great Lakes Christmas Ale (our second beer of the night), since they share many of the same ingredients– namely honey, cinnamon and ginger. However, I was surprised. The beer was robust with a tangy flavor; our roommate Stephan told us it came from the ginger. TJ felt the beer had a bad aftertaste, which Kevin kept reiterating was its “bite.” Angela, who we peer pressured into taking a sip, said it reminded her of earwax, leading into an in-depth discussion of Bertie Botts Every Flavor Beans.

15 minutes later we all finished our bottles, containing a whopping 8.3% alcohol by volume (ABV), and were feeling “Christmasy.” Angela thought we were– and I quote– “dumb.” (Though she was the one who started making the monkey sounds.)

Kevin was next to get beer. To TJ and my dismay, he got the Great Lakes Christmas Ale. We were hoping to save it for the end; it’s our favorite beer. Truth be told, we sent some to the people (read about them here) who took great care of us on our road trip around the west.

You’re not really supposed send beer cross-country.  You know, for legal reasons.

Great Lakes Christmas Ale is legendary. Great Lakes Brewing Company makes just over 100,000 barrels a year and approximately 20,000 are Christmas Ale. At $11.99 it was the most expensive six-pack we bought all year and, when you consider that 1 barrel of beer equals about fifty-five $11.99 price tags– and the alcohol is practically always sold out– the drink serves as the lifeblood for the company.

The tasting of this Christmas ale began with Kevin dramatically singing the label. “Oh Christmas beer! Oh Christmas beer! Spiced with cinnamon, ginger, honey and yuletide cheer. Oh Christmas tree! Oh Christmas tree! Recycle it to make nutrient rich mulch for plant growth. Okay it doesn’t really rhyme, but it’s pretty important to us. Oh Christmas beer! Oh Christmas beer! Spiced with cinnamon, ginger, honey and yuletide cheer.” To which somebody promptly asked, “how are you going to recycle it without just peeing in your pants or on your clothes?” We ended up discussing nude pictures TJ and I took at Burning Man. Then I promptly sprawled out on the floor.

Great Lakes Christmas Ale has a 7.5% ABV.

TJ had to ask if the final beer, Shiner’s Holiday Cheer, would happen. It was my turn to retrieve the alcohol– I had to be reminded several times. Shiner comes out of the Spoetzl Brewery in Shiner, Texas. It was one of the few breweries to survive Prohibition and is now distributed in 41 states. It averages around 300,000 barrels a year.

By the time we opened Holiday Cheer, the discussion had turned to BDSM and Dan Savage’s Lovecast. Specifically we talked about pup play, the Folsom Street Fair and pie fetishists. Several videos were shown.

Holiday Cheer was the best beer to end the evening. Lower in alcohol content (5.4% ABV), it tasted of peaches.  Actually, the taste of peach was somewhat unsettling for a beer. Nonetheless, once you got used to it, it was delicious.

***

For the family Christmas party, TJ’s family received the Magic Hat’s Winterland variety pack.

-Benjamin Rexroad
Managing Artistic Director

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