A quick note before we get going: this is a more beer-reviewy post than usual, so proceed accordingly.
A Portland mainstay, Lompoc Brewing continues their tradition of offering a wide selection of holiday beers, more than just the heavier, darker brews that one usually expects to see coming out in droves this time of year. Of the 10, yes 10!, that they’ll release at their annual Holiday Beer Extravaganza Tuesday, November 29, I had the opportunity to taste nine of them.*
Starting with the lowest ABV beer, Blitzen kicked things off. More than just one of the antlered crew piloting Santa’s sleigh, it’s a spiced version of Fool’s Golden Ale. And not just spices going into the brew, but a corny keg stuffed with spices through which the beer was transferred into the brite tank. Blitzen is a more lightly flavored beer than I usually prefer but the spice nose start things off right and at less than 5% ABV, this would be a great beer to drink while making a holiday meal.
Up next, Cherry Christmas, a blend of four beers, combined sour cherries, lambic yeast and barrel aging for a lightly carbonated, not-too-sour beer. As a sour fan, I like mine with a bit more bite but as with Blitzen, this beer would find a place at my holiday party, probably for anyone looking for something lightly fruity. (It’ll also be Lompoc’s Holiday Ale Fest beer.)
Working ahead, I started reading the description for Brewdolph, “Belgian style red ale,” and I got excited. Then I got to “Ardennes.” I tried my best to keep an objective outlook when sampling it but the spicy/clove characteristics of this yeast strain have proven time and again that we just can’t be friends. It’s ok, there will be plenty of Belgian beer lovers that I think will thoroughly enjoy it.
Keeping in mind I enjoyed two of the first three, I tried to stay cautiously optimistic as Holiday Cheer, a vanilla porter, was served. Vanilla is not an ingredient I’ve found to be successful in most beers but Irena was right that Zach had made good with this beer. Black in color and aroma, the vanilla took a supporting role to the porter base. Tasty without being sweet or artificial tasting, I can only imagine this would be lovely on nitro (hint, hint!).
After enjoying Holiday Cheer more than I had anticipated, I cautiously hoped for the best with Jolly Bock. I’ve told you before that I don’t like lagers (98% of them) and bocks are generally too sweet in the wrong way for me to enjoy. Well, once again I was proven wrong and reminded that even if it isn’t a style I generally like, it’s worth a try. Maybe it was the amount/type of hops or maybe it was the Munich malt, but whatever the “cause”, I found this to the first bock I’ve enjoyed.
Moving up the ABV scale to 8%, C-Sons Greetings, and the aged version, Bourbon Barrel Aged C-Sons Greetings were strikingly dissimilar for being related. Now before you get the idea that I didn’t like one or both, let me set you straight. C-Sons, brewed and dry-hopped with the seven “C” hops, offered a light citrus nose and the grapefruit flavor I enjoy intensely in hoppy beers while the BBA C-Sons exuded a bourbon aroma that carried through to the flavor. (This will be a beer I’ll be keeping my eyes peeled for when it’s available after turkey day.)
The final two beers, Old Tavern Rat and Bourbon Barrel Aged Old Tavern Rat, were also relatives with the “young’un” aged for only about a year while the BBA is approaching two years old. As expected Old Tavern Rat was light on the aroma and had the alcohol bite of a barleywine; there was no denying the 9.4% ABV. BBAOTR on the other hand brought back some very good memories of similar beers (including Rosie’s) and happy times drinking them.
*The 10th beer, 8 Malty Nights, was still fermenting and won’t be available until the December 14th release.