Christmas Beers To Pair With Lockdown – Part 1

The Christmas season is different for a lot of us in 2020. Last year I blogged about a favourite tradition of a cold walk to the pub on Christmas Day; sadly not something that I’ll be able to do this year. To compensate somewhat, I have resolved to try plenty of Christmas ales at home, and over the coming weeks, I will be sharing some of my favourite festive brews of the season. Whilst there is no substitute for a cosy seat next to the fireplace of a bustling pub, that will have to wait until next year. I’m sure I won’t be the only one who will be a least a little relieved to toast the end of 2020 in a few weeks time.

Cheers all!

Bell’s – Christmas Ale
I loved the colour of this one as soon as I poured it. The deep, rich cranberry hue reminds me of hand-pulled pints of ruby ales in cosy pubs. This is quite a bit more boozy than a typical sessionable ruby ale at 7.5%, and is classified as a scotch ale. That said, it drinks easier and smoother than most scotch ales I’ve tried; not too punchy or overly rich. It has aromas of blackcurrant, and a long, fruity finish laced with subtle caramel notes with a full and rounded mouthfeel. Delightful.

Clausthaler – Holiday Brew
I was pleasantly surprised by the full mouthfeel of this for a non-alcoholic beer. Rich and warming, with intense lingering cinnamon and red fruit flavours. A perfect way to ease into a winter drinking session or take a break between heady brews.

Sierra Nevada – Celebration IPA
This is probably one of my favourite beers that I’ve tried for the first time this year, which might have something to do with the fact that my first sip was on the day of the US election result. Intense bitterness cuts perfectly across toast and caramel malt notes, for a long finish with hints of pine and melon.

Anchor Brewing Co – Our Special Ale
This sumptuous dark beer starts with a little bit of cinnamon on the nose, then black pepper and winter spices on the palate with a lingering hint of peppermint. Best consumed under a blanket for maximum warm, comfortable, tingly joy.

Clausthaler kindly sent me a sample to try. I was not paid by anyone for this piece, and the reviews above represent my own opinions.

Beer tasting at Goose Island Brewhouse

On my recent visit to Chicago, I couldn’t pass up the chance to visit the taproom for Goose Island brewery. Goose Island IPA was one of the first US craft beers I tasted some years back, but I’d never tried many of their other offerings.

The taproom offered excellent views of mash tuns and fermenters, and had an industrial vibe whilst also feeling like a real bar. This was right up my street; I really like it when breweries lean in to the function of their space, and go the extra mile to show off the shiny production facilities to drinkers in an aesthetically pleasing way.

The menu was extensive. My husband opted for the barrel-aged beer flight, and I chose a mix-and-match selection of some slightly lower ABV beers, so we both got to taste eight different beers.

Everything was good, and more importantly, nothing was boring or awful. The were some standouts, including the IPA Now, which was pleasantly heavy on the pine, and the Sofie Saison, which had the perfect balance between citrus and peppery aromas and flavors. The smoked Helles beer packed a punch, and I made a mental note to pair something like this with spare ribs in the future.

I’m not big on meaty scotch ales myself, but my husband thought that the Copper Project was about the best in this category he’s had recently. The biggest surprise was the Brasserie Blanc, a beer fermented with Napa Valley Muscat grapes, and aged in a wine barrel. My last foray into a white wine cask beer was rather unpleasant, so I was somewhat apprehensive. But it was great – crisp and fruity, yet still with a hint of oak. Something that would appeal to cider fans and highly adventurous beer drinkers alike.

Overall, a lovely time stepping out of my beer drinking comfort zone, and the perfect end to a city break. I’m already looking forward to my next visit to Chicago – please feel free to leave a comment if you know of any other breweries that I should check out next time!

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