Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Merry Christmas, and be careful not to put an eye out.

I'm a sucker for a cork in a cage. Obviously, I'm not the only one, as even retail magnums like Trader Joe's have jumped on the bandwagon by commissioning Canada's Unibroue to brew and bottle a house holiday ale . And what's not to love? To the uninitiated, the punted bottle with a mushroom of oak restrained by twists of wire says "champagne" - a word so intertwined with notions of romance and sophistication that the French demanded to have it all to themselves. To the casual beer enthusiast, the Trappist archetype of Chimay, with its own (somewhat outdated) connotations of quality, craftsmanship, and piety, are more likely. But to the true beer snob, the joy of seeing that little pink elephant becomes unbridled the moment he's found wearing his Santa hat.

It's the existence of whimsically experimentational cork-finished Christmas beers, in their endless variety, that reminds my sometimes jaded tastebuds of the boundless craft, and palate of the world's brewers. It's as close as the major brewhouses ever get to homebrewing, really. They demand to be shared, and they demand to be enjoyed slowly. They're the epitome "seasonal" and celebrate diversity and chance in an industry that thrives on consistency and conformity, and it's for that reason that Des and I decided to bottle our 2005 Christmas ale in similar fashion.
For those of you to whom I unfortunately wasn't able to hand off a bottle of our 10% strong dark Belgian ale with mysterious and insidious spices, I apologize for the remainder of this post.
Postscript: For the few folks out there who've found themselves in possession of a bottle of our 2005 Christmas ale, some quick words of advice. 1) While it's ready to be drunk now, it will benefit from being aged many months upright in a dark, cool spot (not in the fridge). 2) At last tasting, the refermentation hadn't produced enough carbonation to make the cork a dangerous projectile, but it'll likely be a concern as it matures. Heed the lesson of the Red Ryder. 3) As it's developing quite the layer of sediment from the refermentation, be mindful of pouring it so as not to disturb the bitter dregs. Oh, and don't drink it too cold - 50 degrees is probably about right. And enjoy!


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