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Taking Holiday Beer to the Next Level

The perfect Xmas spiced beer?

My CBC column last Friday took aim at the growing list of Xmas and holiday ale offerings (you can listen to it here). While in the piece I do talk about why holiday spiced beer and the like are so popular, I tried to offer up some extensions of what can be done with the holiday spirit in your beer.

While I respect that for many (if not most) beer drinkers, spiced ales continue to a new and interesting twist during the season. But to be blunt, personally I am getting a little ho-hum (rather than ho-ho) about the standard Xmas beer. The usual mixture of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg and such can make for interesting beer, but after a while the taste gets a bit ordinary.

So, I used the column to stretch the notion of what can constitute a Xmas beer. A natural offering is the classic Winter Warmer, which is not a spiced beer by any stretch but still conjures up the feel of the season, especially here in snowy, winter-y Alberta. (We sample some of the Deschutes Jubelale on air – and I give a shout out to Ribstone Creek’s Old Man Winter Ale as well).

I then highlight some beer that I think offer a more interesting and creative take on spiced Xmas ales. In particular I mention Village Brewing’s Chai Winter Ale. Yes it has cinnamon and clove, but it also has fennel, anise and coriander, so it is not your regular spiced ale.

But, for me, the main purpose of the column was to lead people to what I consider to be a superior interpretation of spiced beer. Namely that of Belgian Trappist and Abbey ales. Think about it. If you like earthy spices in your amber-coloured beer, then a Dubbel or a Quadrupel should be right up your alley. Even Tripels and Golden Strong ales offer up a more “festive” version of a blonde ale. So, in a mischievous way, I ended the column encouraging people to pick up some of the classic “spiced” ales available.

A sneaky way to “re-brand” Belgian ales as trendy and seasonal rather than the common “odd” or “quirky” descriptors they get, I think.

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