The Holidays: A Dark Time of the Year. . . for Beer!

The calendar rolls past daylight savings and the collective joy of summer is snuffed. Awake in the dark, commute in the faint light of morning, return home from work just in time for the last rays of the day to taunt you from the horizon, and eat your final meal under a false fluorescent glow. The crisp glory that is fall weather becomes gray as the frigid air makes it’s annual descent from the great white north and the vibrant colors of fall have turned brown and clogged your gutters. Gone are the gentle refreshing rains, replaced by cold storms, snow, and ice. As we slog through the gloom of winter and the holidays approach, humanity is forced into retreat. We wrap trees and even our houses with lights in an effort to pierce the stagnant night and find our way home. Darkness has descended.

It’s in these darkest of times that we search for warmth and dare I say joy, and in these moments we find beer! Gloriously dark, rich, and full-bodied holiday beers provide a beacon for humanity! Bold flavors of chocolate, coffee, spices, and fruits not fit for warmer climes migrate home to roost for the winter in your fridge.

When all hope for natural light is gone and winter breathes an icy chill down your neck what beers do you enjoy roasting your chestnuts with?

 

A few of my favorites:

Great Lakes Christmas Ale – Cinnamon and ginger are the highlights of this winter warmer

Moerlein Christkindl – A subtly spicy and malty winter warmer

Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale – Hoppy holiday goodness

Delirium Noel – Spicy, Fruity, and Roasty all rolled into a 10% ABV Belgian

 

The holidays are a great time of the year for beer but don’t forget that most of these are seasonal so get them while you can.

Add your favorites in the comments section!

Happy Holidays and Cheers!

– Jared

@jrodwhalen

There’s A Beer For That Weather

We live in a state with weather that is certainly never boring (and rarely comfortable).  With the ever-changing weather comes an ever-changing perfect beer style to pair with the climate.  The start of football season is my official start of Autumn, so I figured now would be a good time to write about the beer styles I believe pair perfectly with each season.  Note: these are MY personal suggestions, nothing more.

I know that this is nowhere near a comprehensive list, but hopefully it will introduce you to some new styles to try as the seasons change.  Also, this is not meant to discourage you from drinking what you what to drink when you want to drink it!

Autumn:

This is Cincinnati, so if I didn’t say Oktoberfest here, I might get shot.  Luckily, I love the style and think the maltiness (and accompanying drunken celebrations) pairs perfectly with autumn.  If you are looking for a malt-forward beer this fall and want to try something different, try an English Bitter (on cask!) or American Amber.

Fresh autumn crops also pave the way for another type of beer; harvest ales.  To be fair, this is not an official style, but refers to a group of beers that utilize freshly picked “wet” hops instead of traditional dried hops.  These fresh hops contribute complex grassy, earthy, and somewhat spicy tones to the beer.

Winter:

I like my winter beers to be warming and complex.  This means they need to be big bodied, higher alcohol, and generally darker.  In the winter, there is nothing better than a Stout or Porter.  Except for when you add Imperial to their names and age them in bourbon barrels. These beers bring huge levels of complexity, with notes of chocolate, coffee, and roastiness that perfectly complement the vanilla, oak, and spicy bourbon flavors.

When you are looking for something different than a Stout/Porter in the winter, look no further than a Belgian Dubbel.  These beers have a bigger body and dark fruity esters that do well in the winter and provide quite a bit of alcohol warmth for the cold nights.

Spring:

Spring means one thing for my beer consumption: bring on the hops, and bring them on heavily.  The citrusy and piney hop flavors of an American IPA (or Double IPA) lend themselves perfectly to the spring weather.  These beers still have the body to stand up to the cold, but their thirst quenching abilities show that summer is just around the corner.

If you have not completely burned your tongue off from all the IPA’s in the spring, then try a German Bock.  These beers bring the malt backbone more typical of a winter beer, but still have the thirst quenching characteristics of a lager.  Bockfest in Cincinnati is one of the better places to enjoy one.

Summer:

Summer brings refreshing, lighter bodied, and lower alcohol beers.  There are two beer styles that are by far my favorite during the summertime: Pilsners and Saisons.  Pilsners are beers that never quite get a fair shake with most craft beer drinkers and (I believe) this is mostly due to their connotation with American macro beers.  Maybe it’s the Czech in me, but I’m convinced these beers are destined to grow here, especially during summer.  When done correctly, they are balanced, clean and refreshing, yet have an assertive hop bite that works perfectly in the heat.

Saisons are a style that may not be your favorite upon first try, but keep coming back to them and they’ll become a staple in your fridge.  They are perfect for when you want some strong punches of flavor in a summer beer without the accompanying big body and high alcohol.  The style can range from subtle and subdued to outright funky, and rarely do two breweries’ renditions taste the same.

Like I said, this list is not meant to be comprehensive, but rather highlight a few of my favorites in each season.  Many will disagree (as everyone has different tastes), so please give your suggestions in the comments below!

Prost!

Steve

Of Beer and Being Home

It’s been more than 20 years since I lived in Texas, and even though I wasn’t born there 1 I’ll always consider myself a Texan. Draw a line from Amarillo down to McAllen on the border, and there aren’t too many places east of it I haven’t been.

I’ve now lived in the Cincinnati area longer than I have anywhere else in my life, but during baseball season I still check to see what my Astros are doing before I think to check on the Reds. I’ll never understand Mexican restaurants that don’t make their own tortillas or really accept that this area’s incredibly delicious Greek-meat-sauce-served-over-spaghetti-and-smothered-in-mild-cheddar-cheese is really chili.

Intellectually, of course, I know that Cincinnati-style chili is every bit as much chili as that made by the Chili Queens of San Antonio in the last century. It’s different, to be sure, but it’s the same in every way that matters: it’s warm and spicy and filling and it tastes like home.

All this came to mind for me as I read this article about the 100th anniversary of the Spoetzl Brewery in Shiner, Texas.

By all accounts, Shiner beer shouldn’t have made it this long. The Spoetzl Brewery ferments its brew in a one-stoplight town that’s not on the way to anywhere, and much larger regional brewers long ago succumbed to consolidation and the muscle of national brewers.

For years, Spoetzl limped along with cast-off parts from other breweries and lingered on the brink of shutting down. But today, at 100 years of age, Shiner beers are more popular than ever, and it is the oldest and largest craft brewer in a state where people cling fiercely to their beer and to all things Texan.

The whole article is worth the read, but this is the line that jumped out and got me thinking:

The brewery now produces 400,000 barrels a year, 10 times what it did 20 years ago, and distributes to 39 states, selling particularly well with ex-Texans and Texas-themed restaurants, company officials say.

I’ll quibble with the notion of an “ex-Texan”2, but the basic point is sound. I love it when I walk into a place and find Shiner Bock. I’m even happier when I find the Blonde3 and some of the other varieties. It takes me back to my college days, running the back roads of the East Texas Piney Woods and making pilgrimages to the San Antonio Riverwalk.

Oh, the memories, oh, the fun. Oh, the statute of limitations4.

Anyway, I think this connection I have with Shiner really helps me appreciate the connection native Cincinnatians have with the brands of the past and more fully appreciate all the efforts Christian Moerlein owner Greg Hardman is making in bringing them back. I didn’t grow up drinking Hudy or Burger, but I think I understand what it means for them to exist. And for them to survive. Do I wish they were brewed in Cincinnati again? Sure, who doesn’t? But the best way to guarantee that never happens is to let them be forgotten.

And I’m excited to see what’s coming.

It’s probably bad form to quote yourself, but six months ago when Carla and I made our first post, we said this about why we were doing this:

What’s better beer? It’s not just the beer you like, it’s the beer you love. It’s the beer you’ll search for far and wide, the one you’ll drive long distances to sample and buy, the one you’ll hoard for yourself or grudgingly share, but only with friends who get it.

That’s what this site is about. It’s about the beer, the places that make the beer, the places that sell the beer, and the places that serve the beer. Most importantly, it’s about the people. The people who make the beer, and the people who love the beer.

I probably should have included memories in there as well, but maybe that comes with the territory.

It’s been our privilege to bring you this blog over the past six months, and we look forward to many more, documenting the memories as they happen.

Here at home.


1Hello, Kansas City!

2I’ve never met an ex-Cincinnatian, either, just folks who don’t live here anymore.

3I may be wrong about this, but what’s called “Blonde” now was just plain Shiner Beer when I was growing up.

4Ummm…no reason…why do you ask?

What is the perfect beer with…

In honor of today’s holiday, we have a question for all of you. What is the perfect beer with ham? Does it make a difference if it has a glaze on it? What about country ham? Or, my favorite, the ham sandwich you get to make with the leftover ham? We’ll post the results later, but we need to hear from you first! Just click the “Comments” link below to share your input. We also have some folks answering over on Twitter.

This is actually the first in a series of “What is the perfect beer with…” surveys we’re going to be doing. If you have a food item that you would love to find the perfect beer to pair with, drop us a line at both@hoperatives.com and we’ll post the question for you.

Hoppy Easter, Hoperatives!

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