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Friday, December 25, 2015

25 Drinks: The End

December 24 was a special brew I'd never had before. It was a nice gift to unwrap for Christmas Eve. Ovila is an Abbey Quad collaboration between Sierra Nevada and The Abbey of New Clairvaux. It was brewed with sugar plums from the abbey. I'd never heard of this before, but it looked interesting. So I nabbed a bottle and in the cellar it sat, until it made it's way into the homemade boozy advent calendar. It was grainy, boozy and had a deep plum flavor. 

December 25, Christmas Day! It was a surprisingly perfect brew. I have a horrible memory, so although I made up the advent calendar, I had no idea what was left. I tried to keep it fun by mixing up the bottles starting the numbering on one of the two boxes without paying attention to which. So, all of that said, I had no idea that I'd end up with the Baladin Noël on Christmas Day! Fitting. 

Extra bonus, I had, on impulse, grabbed a tiny panettone for dessert today and this went perfectly with that! 

A bit of background, I pulled this Italian treat off of the shelf at Eataly Chicago. They, along with Dogfish Head and Birra del Borgo, are the brains behind the brews at Eataly's La Birreria. Baladin is from Piozzo, Italy. They have a nice balance of light, spicy, herbal, and rich brews. 

This Belgian Strong-like brew paired perfectly with the panettone. It's date flavors matched the plum. The caramel and malty sweetness matched the rich brioche-like dough and complemented the candied fruit. The yeastyness matched the bready goodness. It was wonderful. 

Thanks for following my boozy advent calendar. Hopefully, I've given you some ideas to make your December more cheerful. I hope I've inspired you to give this a try in 2016.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

25 Drinks: Sweet Treats

December 23 in the boozy advent box was a sweet white wine from Les Bourgeois (Missouri). I'm generally not a fan of midwest wines, but they have some goodies going on in Missouri. The rich soil, the moderate-ish climate, years of tradition migrated from Germany and other areas. 

This Winter White was sweet, fruity, and a bit syrupy. It wasn't what I'd normally go for, but I can appreciate it. It's definitely a change from the decadent stouts. This limited release Winter White was blend of eight different grapes: Valvin, Muscat, Symphony Muscat, Traminette, Chardonel, Vidal Blanc, Vignoles, Reliance, and Cayuga. With all that going on you got the pear from the Chardonel, the melon from the Muscat, the pineapple from the Vidal Blanc. It was a delight for the senses. Not as saccharine as their not-so-great Riverboat White. It was a nice dessert after spicy roasted harissa chicken.

A word on Les Bourgeois, their flagship red and white are made for the masses. I don't much care for them. Their Collector's Series and limited releases are ones that I'd be happy to give people as gifts. I've been away from the area for years, and still get their monthly wine delivery.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

25 Drinks: Christmas Comes Early

December 22 was the best of the best. Christmas came early with one of my favorite beers. For me to call a beer my favorite is a big one. With the hundreds of adult beverages that have passed through these lips over the past few years, it's rare for me to have anything twice let alone have a favorite. But this, my friends, is perfection in a glass. Evil Twin's Imperial Biscotti Break.

That said, I've not written about it. It's too perfect to put into words. I spend so much time savoring the moment that I can sip this brew that I can't think to pause to think too hard. I have no motivation to write about it the next day because it's just a sad reminder that the moment has passed. So smooth, creamy, almondy, and boozy.

I did write about the Imperial Doughnut Break, but it's just not the same.

Luckily for all of us, or at least those in well-stocked Indiana booze shops, this seems to be easier to find than in year's past. Two shops across the street from each other had two rows of this nectar of the gods. Maybe they were just in fierce competition. I stocked up.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

25 Drinks: Bad One in the Bunch

December 21 of the boozy advent calendar had a brew that I had saved but never tried. Boulevard Brewing and Sierra Nevada collaborated on Terra Incognita for SAVOR 2012 and liked it so well they tried it two more years. This one was the 2013. It was....just not quite right for me. It was a dark brown ale, with some wheat thrown in, aged in whiskey barrels for nearly three months, and oh! it's a sour. Yeah, a lot going on. With all of that happening, it didn't seem to meld like some other complicated brews. The whiskey and oak flavors didn't really make a strong enough impact. The sour came and went with just enough flavor to make it taste a little off. The wheat stuck out from the smooth barley malted goodness and left a bad taste in my mouth. It also had an enormous amount of carbonation. It just blew up in the glass. It was bad enough that I looked online to see if it was contaminated. While people complained about the foam, there was no recall (like the Blvd Chocolate Ale).

The 2014 was brewed without brettanomyces and had a mixture of fresh ale, wine barrel aged ale, and whiskey barrel aged ale. Maybe that one was better!

People love this beer. People worship this beer. I do not. 

Monday, December 21, 2015

25 Drinks: Classic Holiday Nog

The homemade boozy advent calendar had a surprise for December 20, a note about nog. Growing up, I was not a fan of eggnog, but once I started having the really good stuff and the homemade stuff, my holiday isn't complete without a few rich glasses. When I don't make it myself (recipe), I try to get my hands on the eggnog from Trader's Point Creamery. It's a dairy farm just north of Indianapolis. It's creamy, it's rich, it's wholesome. It's made with milk and cream from grassfed cows (ooooh ahhh) and fresh eggs from their farm. Melted ice cream, enough said. Add some Maker's Mark to the equation a bit of freshly grated nutmeg and cinnamon on the top, and you have a decadent treat.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

25 Drinks: Great Stout, Creepy Mythology

December 19 brought us another rare Imperial Stout from Tampa's Cigar City Brewing. Hunahpu's is aged on cocoa nibs, ancho and pasilla chilies, cinnamon, and Madagascar vanilla beans. The idea is similar to Boulevard's 2015 Imperial Stout release (same peppers, spices, and methods), only instead of going with Aztec they based it on the story of the Mayan Hun Hunahpu. He was killed by the Dark Lords of the underworld and his corpse was turned into a cacao tree. YUM! This brew is released once a year in March. This bottle is the 2013 release.

This brew was everything that you'd expect for a special release Imperial Stout. Rich and boozy with serious layers of complexity makes every sip something new. It was thick and coated the glass with syrupy goodness. The initial smell for me was dark fruit (dates), dark chocolate, and espresso. It had a caramel aroma, but the sweet flavor was more molasses. I didn't start getting the burn from the chilies and cinnamon until later on. As it sat in my glass I started getting a tobacco and spicy aroma. At the end, it was like enjoy a rich spiced chocolate. 

Saturday, December 19, 2015

25 Drinks: Refreshing Complex Blond

December 18 in the homemade booze advent calendar was something lighter, yet still packed with herbal and spicy flavor. Gouden Carolus Cuvée van de Keizer Rood 2008 was brewed to celebrate 10 years of the blue label Cuvée van de Keizer. Cuvée van de Keizer is brewed every year starting on the birthday of Charles the Fifth. 

There was no lingering lagery yeast taste with this brew. For bottle conditioned brews I pour one clear and clean glass, and one with the yeasty bits of sediment mixed in. I like to taste the difference. Many recommend not to do that, but only once have I gotten an off flavor. 

This brew had an apple aroma and taste. The bubbles and slight apple tartness lightened it up. It had layers of flavor that I couldn't place, but added depth to it. I enjoyed it, but didn't pick it apart. I enjoyed the fresh apple smell of it, the look of it as a little float and ring of foam lingered, and the feel of the effervescence on my tongue.

Friday, December 18, 2015

25 Drinks: Aztec Chocolate Imperial Stout

December 17 in the boozy advent calendar had Boulevard's 2015 Special Release Imperial Stout. This year's release is an Aztec chocolate brew. I probably should have let this one sit for a couple of years, but why not crack it open?

This month I've had milk stouts, spiced stouts, pepper stouts, barrel-aged stouts, export stouts, all were delicious, but this chocolate stout is something else. It was super chocolate, like biting into a bar of dark 90% cacao. That bitterness came though. It was creamy and hearty. It had a mellow spice with a cinnamon and chili burn. It was sticky and thick. It was a sippable dessert that needed to be shared.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

25 Drinks: Black Raspberry Espresso Mead

December 16 was one of the best boozy advent treats. New Day Craft's Breakfast Magpie is a mead you'd never think would work. Honey, black raspberry, rich espresso infused right in. But man, this is heaven. Such a stark contrast from December 2's Washington's Folly.

It's such a shocking dark burgundy color. The pour from the bottle smelled charred. It was so charred I had to check to make sure my fake Christmas tree wasn't on fire. As soon as my face left the glass it was gone. It was a good smoky char. The dark, juicy black raspberry somehow melded with the bitter, roasted espresso. You'd never think it, but it's a perfect match. I could sip this mead for ages. It's rich enough that one glass is satisfying, though it's not too much to finish a bottle.

Winter is a great time to seek out meads. So many infusions out there. So many flavors to discover. 

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

25 Drinks: Belgian Dark Ale

Taking a break from the stouts, December 15 was the 2013 release of the 12 Days of Christmas from The Bruery. Six Geese-a-Laying Belgian Dark Ale was one of the best holiday ales I've had. It was brewed with cape gooseberries that mixed with the flavorful Belgian yeast to give it layers of delicate and delicious flavors. It had a mellow spice to it. It wasn't a powdery spice. It was distinct and flavorful. The Belgian style made it taste like sweet spice candy. The brown sugar and slight vanilla flavors really melded with the Belgian sweetness. It had a dark fruit layer to it that went so very well with the spice; made me crave dessert. I wanted a plain pound cake with this. I'd love to make a thick caramel with this or glaze to top a cake, but I don't want to sacrifice a bottle for culinary experimentation.

It was dangerously smooth. At 11.5%, it definitely fits the bill for a winter warmer.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

25 Drinks: Another Imperial Stout!

December 14 brought me another Imperial Stout. The advent calendar was a great way to taste all of these rich dark stouts in tandem. Dark Horse's standard Plead the 5th was yet a different flavor. It was very bitter chocolate, very sticky, sweet (more bitter than sweet). It was thick with a coffee acidity to it. The aftertaste was all roast.

It would be nicer if this month was actually cold! I'd really get the full enjoyment of this series of warmers. 

Monday, December 14, 2015

25 Drinks: Bitter Russian Imperial Stout

December 13 in the boozy advent calendar was Tampa's Cigar City Brewing's Marshal Zhukov's. A friend sent this to us years ago. I really have no idea how old it is. But this boozy treat was one to age.

I giggled when Mr, K poured the Marshal Zhukov's RIS. The reverse head was so chocolatey dark. Very rare indeed. It settled to an oil slick on the top. I sipped and savored this brew. It was sticky and left thick layers on the glass. 

Taste-wise, it wasn't sweet like many RIS. It was bitter and earthy. It was very much like blackstrap molasses, just like the description said. It had a pure licorice taste, not like the sweets, but like those black gummies that I crave. It was herbal. It was leathery. It was roasted, but the roast wasn't the main flavor. This was like no RIS I'd tasted before. I could picture sipping this by a fire, planning a war. 

Sunday, December 13, 2015

25 Drinks: Barrel-Aged Imperial Stout

December 12 brought me another brew that I had saved for a special occasion. What's more special than Frank Sinatra's 100th birthday? North Coast's XII Anniversary Old Rasputin Imperial Stout was aged in oak whiskey barrels. Their standard is one of my favorite widely-distributed boozy stouts.  

This was definitely a cold weather warmer. It was boozy. It was yeasty. It was roasty, It was chocolatey. It was so caramelly that it tasted like rich homemade candy at times. 

Saturday, December 12, 2015

25 Drinks: Spicy Italian Imperial Stout

December 11's advent calendar surprise was Birrificio del Ducato's Verdi Imperial Stout. It's brewed with hot chili. This stout won the 2008 European Beer Star Gold Award. 

It was really rich. The spice wasn't drying or overpowering at all. It was just a hint of mellow spice adding to complexity of flavor. I could have savored this brew all night. This was an all-in-one kind of brew, I didn't need anything else at all. 

Friday, December 11, 2015

25 Drinks: Pepper Porter

December 10 in the homemade booze advent box was Fade to Black: Volume 3, a pepper porter. This porter had just a slight bite that went well with the bitter chocolate flavors. The spice dried it out. 

Chili and spiced beers are great in the cold weather. It's a great way to perk up a bit, even with a heavy brew.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

25 Drinks: Ice Wine

On December 10 the advent box brought us a Les Bourgeois Vidal Blanc late-harvest wine. I was so delicate and delicious. It had vanilla notes. It was floral and earthy, not too sweet. The light taste of pineapple added some lift to this silky wine.

It was a nice shift from stouts and that boozy port. It's a nice reminder to spice it up during the season. Don't be afraid to bring a crisp white wine or a session ale to a winter party.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

25 Drinks: Wake Up Dead

I got a fun treat in my 12/8 slot of my homemade booze advent calendar, one of my absolute favorite winter brews. Wake Up Dead is a masterpiece of an Imperial Stout. It's so rich, so complex, so roasted, so warming. It's a bit boozy, but well-balanced. I'm always happy to crack open a bottle on a cold day. 

I know it's not officially winter, but it's snowed this month, I can have some Wake Up Dead. I'll be sure to have a second bottle for when the temperatures really start falling.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

25 Drinks: Terra Rossa

Butler's port-style wine was in the December 7 slot of my homemade booze advent calendar. This fortified Chambourcin was a boozy, boozy treat for this December. At 20% ABV it's a sipping wine that could last a couple of days. It's dry for a fortified wine, but full of fruity and rich flavors. 

I'm not a huge fan of Indiana wine. I'm not sure if they so very sweet because of the environment or because of the market demand, but I don't go for that. That said, this boozy treat and the standard Chambourcin are Butler wines that I'd recommend people if they want to give Indiana wine a shot. Plus the staff at the Chesterton store were so nice to talk to!

Monday, December 7, 2015

25 Drinks: Extra Export Stout

I believe the bottle-fermented stout that I pulled from the December 6 slot of my homemade advent calendar was given to me by a local friend, but I'm just not sure. This one had been lurking in my cellar for a special occasion and what occasion is more special than December 6, 2015?

This super carbonated Belgian brew from Brouwerij de Dolle Brouwers was full of dark chocolate flavors. The effervescence gave it another layer of experience. It had a dry booziness too. This was delicious on its own. It would have gone well with dark fruit, chocolate, or pound cake covered in strawberries cooked down with balsamic vinegar. 

Stouts are on the menu this December!

Sunday, December 6, 2015

25 Drinks: 8 Maids-a-Milking

For December 5, the homemade advent booze box gave me this year's 12 Days of Christmas offering by The Bruery. I do believe that a few of the earlier Days of Christmas releases are hidden in the box.

This milk stout was creamy, chocolatey, and super rich. It was definitely a winter warmer. There was a hint of roasty spice. The Belgian yeast gave it another layer of sweetness and spice. It added to the complexity of flavor.

Rich milk stouts are a great drink for December. They go with holiday treats, but can stand alone as a rich dessert.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

25 Drinks: Stone Belgo Anise Imperial Russian Stout

For December 4, we cracked open a nicely aged bottle of Stone's 2011 odd year Imperial Russian Stout release. This rich stout was chocolatey and spicy. The anise melded well with the caramel flavors. It was a strong spice, but the complex Imperial Stout could easily stand up to it. 

It was a good way to spend the evening. We watched The Wiz and sipped a spiced stout. Stouts are great December drinks. I know there are more in our homemade advent box!

Friday, December 4, 2015

25 Drinks: Koval Liqueurs

For December 3, Mr. K busted out our Koval liqueurs. This Andersonville distillery is known for their whiskeys and ryes, but they have a selection of infused liqueurs too. All of the flavors are so natural and even sharp (in a good way). While they are thick and sweet, the flavors of the infusions cannot be missed. In our collection we have: Chrysanthemum & Honey, Ginger, Rose Hips, and Bierbrand (a beer schnapps made with a lager from the nearby Metropolitan Brewing).

For this boozy day, I mixed the Chrysanthemum & Honey with the Ginger in equal parts. The ginger was so sharp and delicious. The floral honey smoothed it out. The aroma was so soothing. This drink definitely soothed my scratchy throat too! For a second drink, I mixed the Bierbrand with the Rose Hip (2:1). The tart and fruity rose hips flavor melded well with the earthy and sweet beer schnapps. Another nice and warming booze night.  

Thursday, December 3, 2015

25 Drinks: Cherry Mead

December 2's pick was Washington's Folly, a cherry mead by New Day Craft. I drank it slightly chilled. I'm a big fan of New Day. Their meads are all flavorful, earthy, and clean. They have so many different styles, some with juicy fruit flavors and even one with an espresso roast. 

This one was a beautiful ruby color. I could smell the cherries from the glass before I picked it up. It was thick, but the cherry tartness made it bright and light-tasting. It was a fresh cherry flavor, not like an artificial candy taste. The slight honey sweetness rounded it out. 

Mead is a great cold-weather drink. It's rich and warming. It comes in such a range of flavors from syrupy sweet to crisp and acidic. They even make some with rich bourbon flavors. With the market expanding, we aren't stuck drinking candy-sweet swill anymore. The new market has opened up my palate to honey wine.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

25 Drinks: Brandy Cider

After seeing wine advent calendars over the years, I decided to do a boozy December of my own. I have a box downstairs randomly filled with spicy reds and rich stouts set aside for this month. But getting over a cold on Day 1, I already cheated and I went with a rich apple cider and a shot of brandy.

I warmed up about half a mug of thick cider then poured in a healthy shot of brandy. 

Don't heat it up together or you'll lose some of the boozy goodness.

I didn't add in any spices to make it fancy, but it hit the spot.