Nathaniel Square 12 Beers of Christmas
At the last minute I found out about a pretty cool little event coming out of Nathaniel Square Corner Store. Thanks to a tweet from Jaime Barclay earlier today, Heather and I were able to shoot over there and grab the final bundle of beers to try.
The event is quite simple. They put together a selection of 12 different beers, put them in a paper bag, added a guide showing which evening each one should be enjoyed, and sold it for an affordable price. Now we get to enjoy a different beer each night between now and Christmas.
There is a hash tag to use for Twitter based discussions of the beer as well as a Facebook group. This lets everyone out there discuss what they liked or didn't like about each particular beer. Such a great idea!
Read on to see our thoughts on each beer. This post will be updated every evening for the duration of the event!
Firstly, for those that don't know, it's worth talking a bit about Nathaniel Square. Many of you may be like I used to be. You think the only place to buy good craft beer in the Rochester area is Beers of the World (or possibly Wegman's). That is not true. Nathaniel Square is a great little corner store in the South Wedge. They get all sorts of craft beers in. Their staff are incredibly helpful and obviously love good beer. To top that off, they have a wonderful social web presence, regularly tweeting out new arrivals and specials from their Twitter account. Alright, on with the beers.
Full Sail Session Fest (Untappd Profile)
Beer #1, December 13
Session Fest is described on Full Sail's signature short and squatty bottle as a premium red lager. While it's part of their session line of beers, the ABV is, in my opinion, pushing the limits of what should be called a session beer at 6.2%.
It's a very nice beer. Heather and I both enjoyed it. Having had and enjoyed Full Sail's Session Black Lager, I expected to appreciate this one. It tastes exactly as I anticipated it would and that's a good thing. It's a mild beer that is easy to drink, spiced up with just a bit of those standard holiday beer flavors. It would probably be the perfect holiday party beer and I plan on testing that theory at my company party this week.
Samuel Smith's Winter Welcome Ale (Untappd Profile)
Beer #2, December 14
Winter Welcome Ale is described on the back of the bottle as having a "full body resulting from the fermentation in 'stone Yorkshire squares.'" I'm not sure what that means, but the beer itself is nice and malty. It has a red hue to it when it's held up to the light.
Overall, I think this beer has a very pleasant start. I love malty beers and definitely tend towards drinks that have that sweet character. Winter Welcome finishes a little strangely though. It's almost bland. It's lacking a character to it that often distinguishes craft beers from others. It's still a pleasant beer but I think I prefer something a tad more robust.
Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier Urbock (Untappd Profile)
Beer #3, December 15
I'm not going to try and type the name of this beer a second time. It's a German smokebeer. Thankfully, the back of the bottle is a bit more readable than the front. It describes the beer as the "complex sibling of the classic Maerzen Smokebeer."
It's a smoke bomb, pure and simple. I don't think I would be overstating it to say that Heather despises these beers. About all she likes doing with beers with this level of smoke is put them inside a chili. I, however, don't have the same distaste. They aren't my favorite things in the world, but I can enjoy nursing one with small sips over a long period of time.
Sixpoint Diesel (Untappd Profile)
Beer #4, December 16
This is an interesting beer. It's 6.3% ABV and pours from a 16 ounce tall can. It's a stout of sorts, but the can itself doesn't really talk about it. It instead hints at it with flowery language like, "Light pierces through the roasted pine forest."
It's actually a bit light for a stout, both in flavor and color. It also lacks any sort of sweetness in the flavor. It's a pleasant beer, but if I'm going to be drinking a stout from a can, it's Oskar Blues Ten Fidy for me.
Lindemans Faro (Untappd Profile)
Beer #5, December 17
Faro is a lambic style beer. The bottle describes it as being "made from barley, unmalted wheat, and wild yeast." It "has Belgian candi sugar added to produce the traditional, classic Flemish beer." The bottle itself is a gussied up 12 ouncer, complete with foil wrapped top and, to my surprise, a hidden cork under the traditional bottle cap.
Ah lambics. So wonderfully fruity it doesn't really feel like you are drinking a beer. I'm almost ashamed to admit how much I'm really starting to like this style. For me, this is my second favorite beer of this set so far (behind the Full Sail Fest). I think it's safe to say that it's Heather's favorite.
Brasserie d'Orval Orval Trappist Ale (Untappd Profile)
Beer #6, December 18
Orval is one of seven bottled and labeled beers produced by Trappist Monks. Trappist beers are the perfect example of what it means to be a Belgian beer. A hang tag on the bottle describes the beer as "exotically fruity & intriguing" with a "profound hop bitterness" and "long, dry finish."
Rochefort 10, another Trappist beer, is one of the first fancy beers I ever tried, buying a single bottle from Beers of the World some 4 years ago. It remains one of our favorite treat beers. We pick it up for special occasions. This is the first time I had the opportunity to try Orval. Because of my love for Rochefort 10, I had high expectations going in. It's a great beer. It really can stand up with other Trappists. However, it doesn't have the same fruity and pleasant punch that Rochefort 10 does.
Ithaca Cold Front (Untappd Profile)
Beer #7, December 19
Ah, to have an upstate New York beer during this fine 12 beers of Christmas celebration. Cold Front is Ithaca Brewing Company's winter seasonal. Described on the bottle as a Belgian-style amber ale, it's ABV is 7.2%.
It's a very interesting beer. It starts out on the palate like a wit beer, in a way similar to Ithaca's summer seasonal, Partly Sunny. It finishes like a spiced holiday beer though, that's for sure. Cold Front is a strong beer from one of our favorite local breweries.
Full Sail Imperial Porter (Untappd Profile)
Beer #8, December 20
Full Sail's imperial porter is described as being part of their 2011 brewmaster reserve. It's called "an amplified robust porter with a deep black color, a roasty malt flavor, and a rich malt sweetness that's smooth and drinkable."
It is much smoother than a lot of imperial porters I've had and I'm not sure that's a good thing. It doesn't have the same transitions of flavors that a lot of other imperials have. It's a nice beer, but if I'm going to be drinking something from this brewery, I think I'm going to stick with their sessions. They fill a nice niche.
Crispin The Saint (Untappd Profile)
Beer #9, December 21
The Ninth beer of this 12 Beers of Christmas event is a hard cider from Crispin. Described on the bottle as being part of their artisanal reserve, it uses Belgian trappist yeasts and organic maple syrup.
We didn't drink this one correctly, as we poured before reading the bottle. We were supposed to turn the bottle to redistribute the sediment and then pour it over ice. We did neither, but it still tastes very nice. It has a light yellow, semi-opaque color. Taste wise it's very reminiscent of Unibroue Ephemere but with an even more potent apple flavor. We like it a lot. Makes us think we need to invest in trying more ciders.
Anderson Valley Winter Solstice (Untappd Profile)
Beer #10, December 22
We're getting close to the end and what better time to have the Winter Solstice Ale than on the winter solstice! It's a canned beer from Anderson Valle Brewing Company described with the ever so descriptive "ale with natural flavor added."
Heather and I were excited to try this one. We had seen it on the shelves and meant to pick it up at some point. Sadly, we were a bit disappointed. Overall, the beer was just kind of flat and bland. It had a deep, rich color with a taste that didn't live up. It's best attribute is probably that it's relatively easy to drink.
Firestone Walker Union Jack IPA (Untappd Profile)
Beer #11, December 23
It's Christmas Eve Eve and we're having Firestone Walker Union Jack. It's an IPA with a 7.5% ABV. The only additional text on the bottle reads "Passion for the Pale."
A hop-bomb had been noticeably absent from the 12 Beers of Christmas lineup until now. We've never actually tried anything from Firestone Walker Brewing Company before. This IPA is a pretty standard American IPA. There's a huge focus on the taste of bitter hops and not much else. I like to have a beer like this every once in a while and appreciate this single occurrence during this event.
Shelton Brothers Pickled Santa (Untappd Profile)
Beer #12, December 24
Now it's actually Christmas Eve and the final beer is Pickled Santa. The bottle features a depiction of Santa stuffed in a pickling jar and describes the beer as having a "ruddy chestnut color, with hints of cinnamon, coriander, and nutmeg."
When I first poured the beer into one of my parents' snifters, I got a strong smell of bananas. There aren't any bananas in it. I don't know why I smelled bananas, but I did. I enjoyed the beer and it was definitely a fun way to end the event. Heather actually got me a bottle of this one for Chirstmas last year so it is the second time we had it.
Well, tomorrow is Christmas, and as such, this event draws to a close. It was a lot of fun and we really like the concept behind it. If Nathaniel Square doesn't do it next year, we may make our own for our family and friends.
This post was updated on December 24, 2011 at 9:27pm EST
Mike on December 13, 2011 at 9:43pm EST