The Twelve Beers of Christmas
Posted: December 21, 2012
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CIGAR: L'Atelier LAT52 (92 points) The wood and leather notes play well with the vanilla in the beer while the nuts and salty taffy quality of the smoke balance the sweet caramel. A joyous pair.
Dogfish Head's Birra Etrusca (8.5 percent a.b.v, $14.99 for a 750 ml bottle)
The newest addition to Dogfish Head's Ancient Ales series, Birra Etrusca's recipe can be traced back 2,800 years. Dogfish Head's Sam Calagione visited the tombs with a molecular biologist, analyzed old drinking vessels and with the help of brewers from Italian breweries Birra del Borgo and Baladin, tracked down some of the specialty ingredients, which include Italian chestnut honey, gentian root and myrrh resin. The liquid was then fermented in bronze. There are also two other version of the liquid brewed by the partnering Italian breweries. Those liquids were aged in wood and terra cotta.
APPEARANCE: Semitransparent copper on the pour, much like an Amontillado sherry, with a green tinge on the surface. Lacing at first, but fades during the drink.
NOSE: Heavy honey note on the first whiff, with boozy raisins and an apple-like acidity added.
PALATE: A bright, bubbly liquid that starts off with sweet apples and pomegranate flavors soon brings in a background of nutmeg and nuts, with a nice and long tart apple finish.
Cuba Aliados Capa Habano Cabinet Reserva Robusto (93 points) The hints
of red wine from the smoke coax more fruit from the beer, creating a
near-apricot taste on the tongue. The bodies of the smoke and liquid
balance each other well.
Firestone Walker's XVI Anniversary Ale (13 percent a.b.v., $23 for a 650 ml bottle)
Since 2006, Firestone Walker has released a limited-edition anniversary ale. The unique aspect of this beer is its a blend of multiple barrel-aged beers that the company brews on a regular basis. All total, 226 oak barrels and eight different beers have found it's way into XVI, giving the beer a complexity that is out of this world. This year's blend includes 42 percent stout and liquid that has seen time in barrels that housed tequila.
APPEARANCE: Comes out of the bottle a dark brown, nearly cola color that, when held up to light, shows olive green and red tinge. Thin coat of espresso-colored lacing revive with a swirl of the glass.
NOSE: A complex, boozy fragrance settles to offer mocha, licorice, bubblegum, cacao and vanilla notes.
PALATE: A lovely, smooth mouthfeel, trace bourbon and brandy notes hit the tip of the tongue and release a ton of flavor: spiced cacao, roasted cocoa bean. The drying alcohol and caramel finish begs for smoke.
CIGAR: Arturo Fuente Ańejo No. 77 (93 points) The cigar's salty notes grab a hold of the malts and balance the ride to a sweet conclusion, elongating the cacao and mocha flavors.
Hangar 24's Hullabaloo Winter Beer (6.5 percent a.b.v., $9 for a four-pack of 12 oz. bottles)
A Scottish-style ale, this brew is a true winter warmer, as the hops are downplayed by the European and American malts.
APPEARANCE: Pours a burnt, reddish-brown with a decent, off-white head.
NOSE: Roasted malts bordering on smoky become toasty and bready.
PALATE: The faint smoke smell translates to a slighty spicy start, followed by malty notes of coffee and toffee before a pleasant, though faint, hazelnut finish.
CIGAR: Room 101 Daruma Mutante (Not yet rated) The muddled chocolate and spice notes of the cigar mesh well with the beer, bringing out the hazelnut finish and easing the coffee notes into more of a mocha.
Innis & Gunn's Winter Beer 2012 (7.4 percent a.b.v., $10.99 for a four-pack of 12 oz. bottles)
The fourth limited-edition beer to hit the United States from Innis & Gunn, Winter Beer can also fall into the winter warmer category.
Using a 19th century beer recipe, brewmaster Dougal Sharp started with molasses and aged the liquid in oak to let it mature, just like all beers he creates.
APPEARANCE: Pours an almost ruby red color with a creamy white head. Fairly sticky lacing
NOSE: Boozy up front followed by notes of chocolate nibs, herbal spice, wood and a touch of vanilla.
PALATE: A sweet beginning of molasses, figs and chocolate culminate in a pleasant, oaky finish that leaves a chewy mouthfeel and lingering vanilla notes.
CIGAR: San Lotano Oval Robusto (90 points) The creamy smoke matches the body of this beer well, making a nice base for the flavors to meld. The smoke coaxes more spice from the beer and turns the vanilla a bit more toasty.
Unibroue's Trois Pistoles (9 percent a.b.v., $8.99 for 750 ml bottle)
First brewed in 1997, this abbey style strong dark ale is the second Canadian beer on the list. This brew uses a Belgian top-fermenting yeast, and another yeast is added just before the liquid is bottled. This bottle-conditioning triggers a natural fermentation in the liquid and protects it from oxygen, meaning it can be aged for up to eight years.
APPEARANCE: Pours a cloudy brown with a fluffy beige head and lacing to match.
NOSE: Floral bouquet of grapes, berries and zest with a hint of banana, chocolate and dark rum.
PALATE: The effervescent liquid starts out with immense notes of dried plums and sour apricot before the smooth roasted chocolate, fig and oak finish.
CIGAR: Romeo y Julieta Exhibición No. 4 (91 points) The salty cigar notes keep the dried fruit notes at bay, allowing the cigar's woodiness to bring out the pleasant oak and fig finish.
Grand Teton's Coming Home 2012 (10 percent a.b.v., $14.99 for a 750 ml bottle)
Part of Grand Teton's Cellar Reserve Series, which started in 2010, Coming Home is another bottle-conditioned beer. Two-row pale barley from Idaho, as well as German and Belgian specialty malts, are used in the brew. To balance the malts, five pounds of American hops, Chinook and Galena, were added, along with Bravos grown in Idaho.
APPEARANCE: Pours translucent copper with a green tinge. Head is creamy white with sticky lacing.
NOSE: Strong notes of wood, pine and grass are complemented by floral and grapefruit notes.
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