12 Days of Christmas | Day 2 West 6th – Christmas Ale
Egg nog and chocolate, the essentials of Christmas. The egg nog all rich and boozy, smelling of nutmeg and bourbon, often hangs up in my mustache waiting for retrieval from my bottom lip. And as I sip the egg nog various dishes filled with assorted chocolates garnish the rooms, tempting me to sin again with each pass. Like Romeo, give me my sin again. Conversation stays non-confrontational and smiles stay affixed to faces, as we enjoy each other’s company or at least wish to not upset the jovial vibe that has been created by loved ones and the proper proportions of alcohol. Hey, I thought this was a beer blog not “The Night Before Christmas”…right you are. I digress from my Rockwellian fantasy, now on to the important stuff – beer. Where does beer fit in to this holiday utopia?
Judging by the past, holiday beers (not winter beers but Christmas releases) tend to fall on opposite poles of the spectrum – either remarkably good (Three Floyds Alpha Klaus or Sweetwater Festive Ale) or forgettably bad (I will not name names as this blog is about promoting those that succeed not bashing those that don’t, you know who you are). Knowing the low margin for error in these beers, expectation and skepticism were high when West 6th Brewing announced that they were canning their first seasonal, and it would be a holiday beer. That is not to suggest that any of West 6th’s other canned beers (IPA and Amber) or anything on tap in their tasting room is lacking in the quality field. Quite the opposite. However, there is a stigma that comes with a holiday beer that it must fit into that “remarkably good” category or you risk ruining the drinker’s holiday experience. Can’t have that.
Christmas Ale pours a coffee color with minimal swirling of mocha-colored foam, producing little to no head on the burly dark body. Spices are prominent in the nose, notably nutmeg and a bit of cinnamon, followed by a whiff of booze. Not overpowering, but enough to make you realize this is no session ale. The first sip brings much of what the nose indicated as the nutmeg mixes with dark malt. Cocoa hints creep into each sip on the malt side and the spices play the compliment to the body in this beer the way that bitter or fruity hop flavors do in other ales. Why did I ever doubt the boys at West 6th?
Christmas Ale won’t replace the egg nog; it will accompany it. In fact, I am going to add some into my recipe this year, as the low carbonation, and thick malt body will be a perfect accompaniment to the gooey boozy base of bourbon, cream, and egg whites. I liked this beer because it tasted like Christmas. While some holiday beers overpower going for the piney-ness of the evergreen or the seasonal cookie spices in their attempts, this beer is an ale first, and takes on the characteristics of the season in addition to, not instead of. Norman Rockwell depicted the mid-20th century in a way that made every mundane activity seem perfect and American. I wish he could have painted my face while drinking this beer so that beer drinking – like egg nog and chocolates – could be forever etched into the American Christmas tradition.
**NOTE: I got a sneak peek at this one. It won’t be out until December 2.