Well this is like Christmas in a bottle. The Bruery has never failed to make a great beer, at least among those I’ve tried and this one is no exception. I wasn’t sure what to expect because it is brewed with “Cape Gooseberries” and I have no idea what those are. Turns out I didn’t have to. This was just plain good. It poured a dark brown with a small off white head. The aroma was of brown sugar, cinnamon and yeast with a little cranberry-ish tint that I suspect was the gooseberries. The flavor was of molasses, vanilla, brown sugar, cinnamon, cherry, caramel and a little plum. It was nicely balanced, though strong at 11.5% ABV. It does pack a punch that catches up with you after a little while, but this is a great tasting beer. It may have displaced Mad Elf by Troegs as my favorite Christmas beer. The only problem is The Bruery may not make it again. It is the sixth beer in a series that will culminate with 12 Drummers Drumming. I hope they will continue to make it in the future. I give it five out of five proper pints.
I thought I might continue my unplanned roundup of Belgian Christmas beers when I found a four pack of this at the Whole Foods in Clarendon. I had never tried this one before, but I was pleasantly surprised. One thing I will note is that while I’ve noticed in American craft beer, Christmas ales can be a lot of different things depending on what the brewer has decided to make of it, Belgian Christmas beers are often similar. They often are dark strong Belgian ales, not necessarily with any spices. However, while this one fundamentally falls into that category, it is slightly distinct. It has the familiar aroma and flavor of Belgian yeast and is strong, yet slightly fruity. The most distinguishing thing about it, though, is a distinct licorice flavor. There may also have been a light flavor of cinnamon and allspice. I like licorice, but it’s not something I look for in beer. Still, it made for an interesting flavor. it was not overpowering, but it was clearly distinguishable. I liked this one, but I wouldn’t say it was my favorite. I give it three out of five proper pints.
I had not heard of this one before, but picked it up at the recommendation of one of the friendly staff at my favorite little beer and wine store, Grateful Red, in Arlington, VA. She let me know there was some buzz surrounding it and it was hard to get. I couldn’t pass that up, so I grabbed one. I didn’t really know for sure what to expect, except that it was likely dark and sour. It is definitely dark. It pours dark brown with a small white head. It smells lightly of sour cherries and malt. The body seems light and it is well carbonated. There is definitely a tartness, but it’s not overpowering. It fits well with the fruitiness of the beer. The flavor is of sour cherries, molasses, malt and caramel. It drinks easily and quickly. I find that I’m not a huge fan of the funky beers, but this one was decent. I would have it again. I give it three out of five proper pints.
I didn’t intend to do a survey of Belgian Christmas beers, but as it turned out, I’ve picked up a few recently and have been impressed. Not that I expected otherwise, but I’ve never really tried the Belgian Christmas beers before. This one I read, in some places, is rated the best. I didn’t compare side by side, but I recently had the Scaldis Noel and really enjoyed that one. I might say I liked that one better. They are similar. It pours a rich, dark brown with lots of white head. There are distinct notes of yeast, bread, and some sweet fruit in the aroma. The taste is of malt, cherries, fig, molasses with some Belgian yeast thrown in. There are some hints of the booze, being at 10% ABV. It is well balanced though. Very drinkable. I liked this one a lot, but I might say the Scaldis was a tad better. Four out of five proper pints.
I had some out of town guests in for the weekend and we got tired of the usual DC tourist sites, so we decided to take a short road trip to Charlottesville and check out Monticello, along with the Blue Mountain Brewery in Afton, VA. Monticello was awesome as usual and, in case you didn’t know, Thomas Jefferson had a significant brewing operation in his house – they brewed about 200 gallons a year. He didn’t brew the beer himself, but nevertheless, I was impressed. On to Blue Mountain. It is in an absolutely magnificent location looking out toward the Blue Mountains. They have a large outdoor seating area with fantastic views and two corn hole game sets. They also serve food and keep about 10 of their beers on draft at any given time. I tried a flight of all 10 of the beers they had on draft at the time. Some were good and some were not my cup of tea, but based on the tasting, I decided to have a full glass of the Lights Out Christmas Ale. It was really quite delightful. Not necessarily the best Christmas beer I’ve had, but a strong entry nonetheless. It poured a nice mahogany color with a malty aroma. I did not detect any holiday spices in this one. Still, it had a nice bready, malty flavor with a little molasses. Nevertheless, it was not too sweet. It had a nice medium 7% ABV that did give it a little warming quality. It was very drinkable. I give it 3 out of 5 proper pints. The food was also quite good – pizza was good, nachos were awesome and piled high with cheese, salsa, sour cream and jalapenos. They also served a Hoppin’ John black-eyed pea soup for New Years’ that was really good. I definitely plan to come back to the Blue Mountain Brewery many times.
This is the first Atlas Brew Works beer I’ve tried. Atlas is one of several new breweries in the DC area. I had it at Comet Ping Pong, a pizza restaurant with 3 ping pong tables in the back room. Common Ale is similar to Anchor Steam beer. This is a light beer, similar in appearance and flavor to an American Adjunct Lager like Bud, but made like an Ale. Common Ales have become a popular alternative in the craft beer world to the mass produced lagers. This one was pretty good. It was light bodied, but still had a slight creaminess to it with flavors of malt and bread. There was a slight hop bite to it as well. It drank very easily. It would be great on a hot summer day. It’s not the best beer I’ve ever had, but for what it is, it is good. I would give it 3 out of 5 proper pints.