To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven. Ecclesiastes 3:1
In life there are many seasons. The celestial seasons of Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter. Seasons for sports, for example the baseball, football and basketball season. Seasons of our lives; our youth and middle-age and let’s say our mature season. Seasons for our favorite foods; where I live we have blue crabs in the summer and sweet corn and in the autumn we enjoy oysters from the Chesapeake Bay. These seasons rise and fall. We wait with anticipation or anxiousness. And so too there are seasons for beer.
While many beers are available year round, there are many beers that are only available during certain times of year. I'm glad there are. These are the special bottles (I'm a romantic when it comes to beer, I still prefer bottles) that have seasons and tradition. These build on a sense of expectation. Like a child’s Christmas morning only for adults, with anticipation and excitement.
Now we are moving from autumn color and crispness to the Holiday season and colder gray months. This is also an exciting time for a beer drinker.
These Are a Few of My Favorite Things
These are just a few beers I look forward to this time of year. There are others of course, but these are special at this time of year for their taste but nearly as important their sense of season and tradition.
Samuel Smith’s Winter Welcome Ale
Samuel Smith’s will always have a special place in my beer-drinking heart. It was their Nut Brown Ale that first made me aware of what a really good beer could be. Beer has a certain romance about it, too. I'm sure it’s just a part of my imagination, but when they describe their beer as being fermented in open-topped "Yorkshire Squares" I have visions of sugar-plums dance in my head. Winter Welcome is a honey-amber colored, with a creamy head, floral aroma and a caramel malt flavor. It finishes with a subtle hop aroma and dry fruity notes. This beer may not be on your November-December beer drinkers radar, but once you've tasted it you will realize this is a fine and iconic English ale.
Anchor Christmas Ale
Anchor Brewing Christmas Ale is about many things really. This year, 2018, marks the 44th edition of this beer. If 44 years in a row of something doesn’t make a tradition I’m not sure what does. Each year they create a different recipe, and each year a different tree graces the label. And this year is particularly important about the tree because that’s much of the flavor that I get from it. Enjoy the beer, enjoy the tree, become part of the tradition.
Dogfish Head Pennsylvania Tuxedo
Earlier this week we went looking for Christmas trees. There are many cues to choosing the right tree, but the one thing that I find very attractive is the aroma. What’s not to love about sticking your nose in a freshly cut tree. With Pennsylvania Texido it just reminds me of the Christmas tree and this time year. Even the image on the label is a fellow to stop in warm winter gear. This beer is an easy drinking ale but it’s all about the tree.
Back in 2015, I wrote about There’s a Tree in My Beer. Then I wrote about spruce as a beer ingredient. The same theme carries over the PA-Tux, great flavor, seasonal and my latest Winter-time tradition. Dogfish did this beer right. It is about the tree, but it’s the strong ale backbone makes it a wonderful seasonal sipper. Grab one and sip as you sit by the fire. Or perhaps decorate your tree — forget the eggnog — you’re gonna be drinking something, right?
Bourbon County Stout
Choosing this beer as “one of my favorite things” may raise some eyebrows. That’s okay, we sometimes must take a few risks. Afterall, Goose Island is now owned by AB-Inbev, considered by many beer aficionados as the enemy of independent craft beer.
I’ve written many times about the Goose Island Bourbon County Stout. And again it’s a beer tradition. Traditionally released on the Friday after Thanksgiving. You can say what you want about Goose Island and who owns it but this speaker stands alone. Someone had mentioned to me recently that this beer alone keeps Anheuser-Busch relevant. Goose Island created a video series entitled Grit & Grain about the making of Bourbon County Stout. And if you are a fan of this beer is worth taking some time to watch it. And I have to mention the recent book by Josh Noel, Barrel-Aged Stout and Selling Out: Goose Island, Anheuser-Busch, and How Craft Beer Became Big Business, something about goose Island and it’s relationship with me Isa bush. It’s a very good read.
This can be a difficult time of year for many. We have the time shift to fight and adjust to. The days are cold and shorter. Winter winds and the chance of snow ever present. But hey, the seasonal beer traditions are really strong. If nothing else, I've offered four things for you to look forward to each year at this time. Keep the beery traditions alive or begin a new one. Cheers!