Last night I had a chance to taste Lompoc Brewing's holiday beers and hear from owner Jerry Fechter, head brewer Bryan Keilty and brewer Josh Merrick. As the tasting kicked off Jerry addressed the unspoken, yet probably most asked question these days: How are things coming with the NW 23rd location? The answer was that construction is moving along and Lompoc hopes to get into their space shortly after the New Year with an anticipated opening in May or June. That facility will not house any brewing operations but they plan to add a couple more tanks at the Fifth Quadrant location. And for those who remember and love some of the quirky aspects of the old Old Lompoc, look for "the toilet" to make an appearance in the new space.
Back to the matter at hand - the holiday beers! If you recall from last year Lompoc presented a staggering 10 holiday beers for drinking enjoyment. That begged the question of whether they would continue to up the ante and go for a full 12 beers to coincide with the well-known 12 days of Christmas. Alas, that's a pretty big order, one that even St. Nick might struggle to fill. Instead we tasted our way through six of seven holiday beers for 2012.
Jolly Bock - 7.3% ABV - While the beer is technically a lager the color, a deep amber, the aroma, that of a red ale, and the maltiness from the generous amount of Munich malt used to brew this beer might lead you to believe otherwise.
8 Malty Nights - 6.5% ABV - This is the third year this chocolate rye has been made. 90 cases of it were bottled last Friday with 2/3 of it going to Maletis so look for it in stores in the next 7 - 10 days.
Franc'ly Brewdolph - 7.6% ABV - Over a year in the making, this Belgian style red ale was brewed in October 2011 with Ardennes yeast and then aged in Cabernet Franc barrels. It will be available at this year's Holiday Ale Fest.
C-sons Greetings - 8% ABV - A holiday beer for Lompoc for 10 years, this hoppy brew, loaded with pine and citrus, was my favorite of the bunch. While I'd love to see it a year round beer, Jerry commented from a pub owner perspective that having an "8% beer available all the time makes no sense." Fair enough.
Old Tavern Rat - 9.4% ABV - Named for moniker of the late Don Younger, this is a barley wine that aged for nearly a year before being released. Last year a bourbon barrel aged version was released and there is already some of this version in barrels for release next holiday season.
Bourbon Barrel Aged Wee Heavy - 7.5% ABV - A collaboration brew with LOLA, the Ladies of Lagers and Ales, it spent nine months in Heaven Hill barrels. Margaret Lut was on hand to talk about the beer, which gives off a huge bourbon aroma and is one you'll want to let warm up to fully appreciate.
The seventh beer, Blitzen, wasn't available for tasting as it was still in the fermenter. It is a spiced golden ale and should weigh in at 4.6% ABV.
Some of the beers are starting to hit shelves so grab and drink your annual favorites as you see them. For the official kick off mark your calendars for Lompoc's Holiday Release Party on Tuesday, November 27 (which is also Holiday Ale Fest Eve). And for anyone trying to squeeze out every last bit of fresh hop season, get to Sidebar soon for the last of their Fresh Hopped Harvest Man Red - it's delicious!