Fa la la la la, everybody.
'Tis the season of cold days, lit hearths, and holly-jolly enough to make unimaginable amounts of sugar and spice suddenly tolerable. And I’m definitely talking about beer. You go into the store now and the microbrew endcaps might as well be stocking broomsticks dipped in cinnamon.
Yuletide's prevailing style is loosely known as winter ale, or wassail ale, or winter warmer. And like any style, the profile has a range of characteristics, though most are dark and malty, more or less sweet than spicy. But not like when you taste your friend’s homemade macaroni and cheese and ask, “Am I getting some nutmeg in here?” In some of these beers, you’re getting nutmeg by the fistful.
I’m not hating on the winter beers. Not entirely. Plenty of them I can’t abide—because cloves are useless unless thumbtacked to a honey ham—but you might catch me with a Shipyard Prelude Ale or Long Trail Hibernator this holiday season.
Or, like last week at the Lebanon Co-Op, something by those evil geniuses at Dogfish Head sounded just like Christmas in a bottle, and who am I to resist?
THE BREW: Dogfish Head Pennsylvania Tuxedo
The label describes it as “a pale ale brewed with Pennsylvania spruce tips.” And I guess Dogfish Head collaborated with PA-based clothing company, Woolrich, on this product—a cross-flannelization not seen since the marriage of Orvis and Jeep Grand Cherokee in the 1990s. But let’s move on.
I came for the spruce, expecting spruce. Yet I pour this rose-red thing into a snifter and get blasted with strawberry on the nose. Or cherry, even. First lumberjack-sized swig and there it is, like the air on a hillside of clear-cut evergreen. Unmistakable as that flavor is, it’s not uncomplicated by other welcome notes of fruit cake and vanilla. The mouthfeel took me a minute, but I finally landed on cream soda. And it goes down pretty smooth, all things considered, lingering on the tongue like an axe in a stump.
The takeaway: As my wife says, and I agree, “It’s not for everyone, but I like it.” Say the same about the holidays in general.
WHERE TO FIND IT: I pulled this from the warm shelf at the Lebanon Co-Op. Almost certainly a limited edition, get it while you can.