Day 21. Winter Shredder by Cisco Brewers in Nantucket ,MA. This Braggot style Ale (8.8% ABV) is just what you need to warm you up while you are shredding some mighty fresh gnar. This beer pours a deep amber with a thick, foamy head that is reminiscent of blustery, winter storm clouds. The aroma is enticing with hints of caramel, chocolate, and ripe apples. We tasted the toasted malts, a little bit of caramel, and the perfect amount of boozy alcohol. So, next time you are planning to shred some serious gnar, throw a couple of these bad boys in your fanny pack (yes Pittsburgh is the home of Fannypacks, especially at Kennywood) and keep yourself warm and toasted on those frigid slopes. Cheers!
Day 20. Sassamanash by Rivertowne Brewing Co. in Pittsburgh, PA. This Cranberry Witbier (4.8% ABV) will get ‘cha in the holiday spirit faster than you can say Sassamanash! Let’s try this together (sass-a-ma-nash), and this means cranberry in the Native American language. It pour a pale gold with a bubbling, white head. My glass quickly turned into my own personal beer snow globe with all of the tiny suspended yeast particles floating around the glass. Very festive if you ask me. The aroma is refreshing, with hints of cranberries and light malts. The taste was perfectly sweet, with complementing flavors of citrus, cranberries, and wheat malt. It finishes clean, and semi-dry. This is a delicious reminder that winter beers can also be light, refreshing, and fruity like your gram’s fruit cake. Cheers!
Day 19. Wicked Elf Ale by Rock Bottom Restaurant and Brewery in Pittsburgh, PA. This Dry-hopped Belgian Christmas Ale (8.0% ABV) will have you decking the halls in no time after a few swigs of this beer right here. It pours a gorgeous deep amber with burnt orange hues. The prominent cream colored head slowly fades into a ring around the glass. The aroma is enticing, with hints of citrusy hops and Belgian yeast. The taste is refreshing and oddly addicting. It’s such a unique tasting brew, we couldn’t put it down. We tasted the spicy yeast and the perfect balance between the sweet malts and bitter hops. Every elf has a tiny bit of wickedness inside, just give him a taste of this delicious brew and he will keep quiet for the night. Whatever happens here, stays here, my little drunk elf.
A HUGE thank you to the very talented brewer Meg Evans for sharing this wonderful offering with us. We cannot wait to taste more of her delicious brews. And yes, she brews a beer called Uppity Jagoff. Complete awesomeness.
Day 18. Festivus by Full Pint Brewing Co. in Pittsburgh, PA. This Winter Warmer (6.0 % ABV) is a perfect gift for any Holiday Party, especially Festivus or Chritmaskwanzaaukah. It pours a beautiful deep amber color with a fluffy, cream colored head. While pouring this brew, you’ll start to smell all of your favorite holiday spices and aromas. We picked up on cinnamon , allspice, vanilla and nutmeg to name a few. We tasted the festive spices, sweet malts, coffee , and a hint of chocolate. This is a perfect brew to savor while you “air your grievances” at your next family holiday party. Cheers!
Day 17. St. Nikolaus Bock Bier by Pennsylvania Brewing Co. in Pittsburgh, PA. This Winter Bock Bier (6.5% ABV) will make a believer out of anyone. It pours a deep amber with an impressive tan, dense head. The aroma is soul-warming with rich holiday spices and toasted malts. We tasted chocolate and caramel malts with hints of coffee and molasses. It finishes with the perfect amount of clean bitterness that keeps us wanting more. ‘Twas the beer before Christmas, when all through the haus, not one beer drinker was unhappy, not even the old jagoff sitting on the caach. Cheers!
Day 16. Barbarossa Dark Lager by Christian Moerlein Brewing Co. in Cincinnati, OH. This Dunkel Lager (5.1% ABV) pours a festive chestnut brown and is topped with a dense, tan head. The aroma is alluring with caramel malts and fresh bread dough. We tasted chocolate and caramel malts, toffee, and dark fruits like raisins, plums, and figs. It finishes wonderfully clean and dry, with hints of apple cider. This particular brew made it into our Advent Calendar this year because it’s one of the brews featured in this month’s Beer of the Month Club. My wonderful sister knows us too well and found the perfect Christmas present for craft beer fans like us. Every month, we will receive 12 award-winning craft beers selected by a panel of Brewmasters. Talk about a gift that keeps on giving! Cheers to wonderful sisters and to creative companies who are committed to the craft!
Day 15. Nuclear Winter by Finch’s Beer Co. in Chicago, IL. This Belgian Strong Ale (8.0% ABV) pours a smokey red and has a puffy, cloud-like head. The aroma is intriguing with hints of dark fruit esters and malty sweetness. We first tasted biscuity malts and then the dark, sweet raisins and figs revealed themselves. The addition of Fuggle hops provides the perfect bite of bitterness; which makes this one beautifully complex and balanced Strong Ale. So if a true nuclear winter came upon us, I wouldn’t worry one bit because I’ve got a stash of this brew here to keep me warm all winter long. Cheers!
Day 14. 12 Dogs of Christmas Ale by Thirsty Dog Brewing Co. in Akron, OH. This Winter Warmer (8.3% ABV) pours a husky, dark amber. It has a pale white head, which fades swiftly into a ring. The aroma is festive, bursting with ginger, nutmeg, dark fruits, and bready malts. The taste is unique and delicious. We tasted the caramel and toasted malts, followed by the rich holiday spices. Hints of honey and cinnamon dances around on our tastebuds as the brew slowly warmed up. It finishes clean, enticing us to drink more. Which we did, but in dog beers, we only had one…
Day 13. My Cousin Eddie by Hitchhiker Brewing Co. in Pittsburgh, PA. This English Brown Ale (7.5% ABV) is a festive brew indeed. It’s named after Clark Griswold’s favorite cousin, Eddie, from the legendary movie National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. This Brown Ale includes specialty malts from England and Belgium to give this beer a bold, nutty taste. Yams are added to the mash to provide rich coloring and body. A touch of holiday spices like Ginger, Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Allspice, and Clove are added to each individual keg to ensure just the right amount of spice. Head Brewer Andy first made this brew in 2010 for his family’s Christmas dinner. Everyone absolutely LOVED it! He continued to brew it every year, slightly tweaking it until it was complete perfection. And that is what we have here in this glass. It pours a deep amber with orange undertones and has a caramel colored head. The aroma is beyond incredible and just so inviting. I immediately picked up on the delicate spices and toasted malts. The taste is balanced with just the right level of spice and sweetness. It’s a beaut Andy, A beaut. Cheers!
Day 12. Mocha Porter Whiskey by Wigle Whiskey in Pittsburgh, Pa. We chose to include this unique craft spirit in our Advent Calendar this year because whiskey IS distilled beer. But this statement could not ring any more true than with their most recent whim, Mocha Porter Whiskey. The distillers at Wigle Whiskey brewed a crafty Mocha Porter, just like one you would find at your favorite local brewery. Then they aged it in brand new, 15-gallon charred oak barrels for 11 months. The chocolate and caramel malts in the initial brew gave it the signature bold flavors of a Mocha Porter, like dark chocolate and smokey coffee. If you are a fan of craft beer, then this craft spirit is calling your name. It sold out in record timing, but go make friends with one of those 288 Pittsburghers who snagged a bottle at the release party and maybe (just maybe) they will share a sip of theirs. Hats off to you Wigle for another successful and incredibly inventive whiskey. Cheers to distilled beers!
Day 11. Cranberry Sauce by Hop Farm Brewing Co. in Pittsburgh, PA. This is their 4th installment of their “double” Berliner series, (previous brews were Margot, Cherry Tart, and Cherry Bomb). Pucker up because Hop Farm adds the natural souring agent lactobacillus (found on brewers grains) into the mix along with 160+ lbs of cranberries. This brew pours a light cranberry red and has a pale pink head. The aroma is spellbinding with hints of toasted malts, cranberries, and fresh citrus. Both the sweet and tart flavors of the cranberries shine through, giving this brew a fresh, complex taste. It finishes perfectly dry just like the winds on a cold winter’s day. However, this brew will keep you nice and warm with its 8.7 % (ABV). It is truly a Christmas miracle how such a tart brew can be so palatable, delicious, and inviting. Thanks, Hop Farm, for this seasonal offering and cheers to great sour beers!
Day 10. New Zealand Summer Winter Warmer by Roundabout Brewery. This malty winter warmer (6.8% ABV) is brewed with brown sugar and four flavorful types New Zealand hops. It pours an alluring rusted copper with a stark white head. The aroma is incredibly inviting with notes of earthy and citrusy hops, ground pepper, and caramel malts. The first word that came to mind after tasting this was balance. We picked up some really beautiful and intricate nuances in this brew, but they all seemed to complement one another just right. We tasted hints of toasted malts, caramel, citrus, and just a touch of bitterness. Easy drinking right here to say the least. Dyana Sloan (co-owner) is from New Zealand and when it’s winter over here, it’s summer over there. Hence the name New Zealand Summer Winter Warmer. It’s a delicious reminder to always bring a taste of home with you where ever you may go. Cheers!
Day 9. Frosted Frog Christmas Ale by Hoppin’ Frog in Akron, Ohio. This Winter Warmer (8.6 % ABV) pours a deep amber brown. It’s topped with a prominent mocha head and holds some lace. The aroma is inviting with rich holiday spices including cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg. We felt the taste matches the aromas, with a big spice presence along with some orange zest. The malty sweetness has a syrup quality to it with very little hop bitterness. There is a warming alcohol note to it, which is absolutely ideal for this time of year. My opinion, this brew is a quintessential Christmas beer. It made our top 5 last year and we were eager to indulge again this year. This holiday post is fittingly dedicated to our Ohio friends at Arlo’s Craft Beer Guide. Bill and the crew have created an incredible craft beer site that embraces brewery reviews, beer trading, and home brewing. It features several impressive craft beer bloggers across the U.S and we feel really honored to be a strong Pittsburgh voice at Arlo’s Craft Beer Guide. Cheers to great Christmas beers and to incredible sites that are dedicated to the craft!
Day 8. Yellow Snow IPA by Rogue Ales in Ashland, Oregon. This American India Pale Ale (6.5 % ABV) pours a clear, straw gold. It has a generous frothy white head that leaves a distinct lacing down the entire glass. The aroma is fresh with citrus notes, bit of pine, and toasted biscuits. We tasted big hop flavor immediately, then we tasted the slight fruit sweetness and citrus notes. The hop bitterness lingers around for a bit. However, Rogue does an awesome job at keeping those 82 IBUs in check with a well-balanced malty backbone. I’m completely and utterly smitten by this brew. Over a decade ago when I started drinking craft beers, this was one of them that really did it for me. I couldn’t wait for its return each holiday season. I just love the stark bitterness and citrusy brightness. Remember, the saying is “don’t eat the yellow snow”. They never once said not to drink it. Cheers!
Day 7. Winer Ale by Weyerbacher Brewing Co. This English Brown Ale (5.6 % ABV) is brewed with deep chocolate malts. It pours an attractive clear, deep brown with reddish undertones. The smell is rich with roasted malts, chocolate, and toffee. It was easy drinking with this one- ours was gone within a few minutes. The roasted malts were present but not overpowering. I think this brew is representative of the English Brown Ale style. It’s balanced, slightly chocolatey, and finishes relatively dry. It’s the perfect brew to accompany a bountiful holiday meal with friends and loved ones…
Day 6. Snow Melt by East End Brewing Co. This Winter Ale (7.0 % ABV) will warm even the coldest of hearts with this malt forward brew. It pours a luscious deep ruby red with a thin off-white head that is reminiscent of a light snow dusting slowly melting away. The aroma is warmly festive with notes of roasted coffee, chocolate, and bright pine needles. We tasted the roasty malt flavor right away, but then we picked up some subtle sweetness and light spices. It finishes beautifully with bright piney hop bitterness. This is a wildly unique brew and I really appreciate the balance East End created between the heaviness of a winter warmer and the brightness of a generously hopped beer. I could get used to the idea of cozying up inside and sipping on this warming brew while the snow gradually melts away…
Day 5. Krampus by Southern Tier Brewing Company. This Imperial Helles Lager (8.2 % ABV) is brewed to pay homage to Saint Nick’s evil sidekick and list enforcer, Krampus. This beer has a gorgeous amber body and fluffy off-white head. The aroma is intoxicating with bright pine, floral, and citrus notes. This brew is hop forward to say the least, but it’s perfectly balanced by the lightly roasted malts. It’s crisp, piney, and well- carbonated. This is an excellent brew to relieve you from all of those heavy winter warmers. Sorry St. Nicholas, keep me on the naughty list. The switches and chains are worth it to ensure another visit from Krampus next year
Day 4. Nut Roll Ale by Pennsylvania Brewing Co. This Spiced Nut Brown Ale (5 % ABV) will get you in the holiday spirits in no time. It pours a deep brown with a tint of red. The off-white head quickly dissipates once poured. The aroma is divine- roasted malts, sweet vanilla, and chocolate. We taste the strong roasted malt flavor upfront, then the sweet caramel and vanilla flavors pull through towards the end. The chocolate flavor lingers around for a bit. It’s absolutely wonderful. We have a great appreciation for Penn Brewery. It’s the oldest brewery still in production here in Pittsburgh, and they’ve really treated us to some great beers over the years. Our holidays always include sharing a few Penn brews with friends and loved ones. Cheers to many more holiday beers Penn!
Day 3. Christmas Ale by Sly Fox Brewing Co. This Red Ale (6.5 % ABV) is brewed with tradition mulling spices like ginger, clove, all spice, cinnamon, and nutmeg. It has a fluffy, creamy head and its body has a beautiful clear copper coloring. We definitely tasted the strong holiday spices, but we also picked up hints of brown sugar and fruit cake. It’s an orchestra of spicy malty goodness. The can already has a To: and From: gift tag printed on the label! So, the best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear…and sharing this beer!
Day 2. Rudolph’s Red by Rivertowne Brewing Co. This bold Imperial Red will light up all of your senses this holiday season. It pours a beautiful reddish amber color with a subtle snow white head. It smells like freshly ground holiday spices, especially cinnamon. The taste is spot-on for a holiday-time brew. It’s spicy and has a sweet toasted malt character that is balanced by its prominent hop presence. Weighing in at 8.1% ABV, I think we can guess the real reason behind why Rudolph’s nose is so red and bright…
Day 1. St Angus by Draai Laag Brewing Co. This festive Abbey Style Christmas Ale (9.7 ABV) pours a sultry deep brown. The slight white head is reminiscent of a fresh dusting of recently fallen snow. The brew smells wonderful with hints of holiday spices, brown sugar, and molasses. And the taste is incredible. We picked up rich sugary malts, figs, booze, and Abbey yeast. The story behind this brew is just as soul warming as the brew itself. St.Angus pays homage to Dennis’s (owner) late dog Angus. Angus was an abused mastiff mix who was sentenced to be put down on Christmas Eve. Fortunately, those two found each other and were inseparable until his passing in 2013. This beer is a beautiful tribute to great companions and well-crafter beers. Cheers to you Angus, and thank you for being such an inspiration to your family at Draai Laag.
*This year we are really focusing on using local brews. Many of our favorite breweries do not can/bottle their holiday offerings. But mini growlers/ growlers work well too! The best way to handle the growler situation is by writing down the names of the brews on separate pieces of paper and have a third party place them into the individual slots. When you pull a piece of paper with a beer name written on it, just fetch it in the fridge. And look at that- it’s already cold. If you need to brush up on your growler care skills…read this post.