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


Review: Alaskan Smoked Porter

I was in Seattle a couple months ago, and on the recommendation of Tom and Carla, I picked up a bomber of Alaskan Brewery’s Smoked Porter.  I’m sorry to say that you can’t get this in Cincinnati (yet, at least), but it’s something to look for when you’re further out west.

My Seattle buddy, Bill, helped review this with me using Jared’s breakdown, and here are our thoughts.

Appearance: 3/3
The pour is dark and opaque.  It shows a smokey, dark brown hue on the edges where the light just peaks through.  Exactly what we want from a porter.

Hop/Malt Balance: 3.5/4
It’s not over hopped.  In my opinion, though, I could use a little more hop – but I could also see how that could potentially stand in the way of the smoke tones.  There is definitely a lot going on here.

Aftertaste: 3/3
You get the smoke, but it is not overbearing in the least bit.  I could – and did – drink an entire glass without it taking over the palate.  That’s impressive for a smoked beer.  Bill picked out the use of alder wood right away – it’s frequently used when smoking salmon.

Mouthfeel: 3/3
It’s lighter than expected, particularly for a Porter.  It is extremely drinkable.  Nevertheless, it is full and it holds in your mouth for a long while, which is what you what you really want from a porter, right?

Overall Impression: 4/4
This beer is just plain off the hook.  It is an extremely drinkable smoked beer, but it’s not as overly challenging as one would expect (and I mean that in a good way).
Bill: “It’s the perfect beer to drink a 22 ounce on our own while watching a baseball game.”
John: “Go Mariners… I mean… GO REDS!”

Final Verdict: 19.5/20.


Review: Edmund Fitzgerald Porter

It would be silly to deny that there’s a rivalry between Cincinnati and Cleveland.  It crops up a few times a year, mainly when the Reds play the Indians and Bengals play the Browns, but it’s always there.  Given that I’m not originally from around here I’m not into the rivalry all that much.  Heck, I live in Kentucky.  I’m confident, though,  that both Cincinnati and Cleveland beer drinkers can set aside their differences long enough to lift a toast and agree that Great Lakes Brewing Company is one of Ohio’s great resources.  Then, I suppose, they can go back to throwing empty bottles at each other.

Edmund Fizgerald Porter is one of the five beers always available from the 21-year-old brewing operation.  It’s dark, almost opaque, with a creamy head that builds during the pour and hangs around.  There are distinct, but not overpowering (or over-roasted), coffee notes underneath and a perhaps a hint of chocolate.  More of a suggestion of chocolate.  A subliminal suggestion.  OK, I wanted chocolate as I was drinking it; It sent those signals.  The finish is nice in that you get a little lift of hops and you think “OK, here it comes,” but then … nope …. done.  It’s a grace note.  The effect is entirely pleasant.

This is a beer to cozy up with.

We haven’t instituted our rating system yet, but Edmund Fitzgerald Porter is a very, very good beer gets an A.

Edmund Fizgerald Porter from Great Lakes Brewing Company:  ABV: 5.8%, IBU: 37.

UPDATE:  Turns out, as Carla reminded me just after posting this this morning, that we have instituted our rating system. We’re both academics to varying degrees (her more than me), so there’s nothing like the good ol’ letter +/- system.