Monday, December 31, 2012

The End is Nigh

Well, it is for my week off from work, anyway.

For the past few years, I’ve taken the week between Christmas and New Years off from work. It truly is one of my most favorite times of the year. Not just because it’s a break from the daily grind, but it’s a very “family” time for Amy, the kids and I. Aside from the usual merriment of Christmas, the week also brings sledding, crackling fires in the woodstove, movie nights and epic battles of Uno on the living room floor, and of course surviving the apocalypse (yeah, I know that was the Friday before Christmas, but who's counting? Certainly not the Mayans.) In any case, as Lionel Ritchie said, the week is easy like Sunday morning.

It’s also a time for me to stretch my beery wings. Usually new beer comes to me at the pub, as quick samples after work. Having a week to do not much more than relax allows for a little broadening of my beery horizons. I don’t have to be home at a specific time, because I’m already home. I don’t have to worry about getting up in the morning for work, and I’m not driving anywhere. It all works out for the best. So what did this beery week off bring? A little bit of everything, actually. Of course, I tippled on a few of my standbys during my time off—Southern Tier Old Man, Full Sail Amber—but there were a few special ones in the mix, as well.

The week kicked off with the inaugural run of my home brewed gingerbread beer at a little get gathering we had at our house, with the neighbors, on the 22nd. The spicy brown beer went over pretty well, I must say. It’s a pungent, dark brew, with a more than subtle gingery, cinnamon and clove bite followed by a bittersweet blanket of molasses. My mother-in-law likes it, so I must have done something right.

Marley’s Ghost made its appearance that night, as well. Truth be told a few bottles of the funky black stuff may have been popped for Alan, Chad, Ron and Ethan at Beau’s Oktoberfest at the end of September—but the rest was kept for a few month longer, and quickly dispatched by the neighbors. Bretted beers are an acquired taste, but all in all everyone seemed to agree that it grew-on them. It ended up being thinner than I expected, and for a beer that was hopped with four ounces of East Kent Goldings, it was decidedly un-bitter. Regardless, the project and beer were well worth the yearlong wait.

Other than my own yuletide themed brews, the only other “Christmas” beer I had was a modest little holiday brew from England. Harvey’s Christmas Ale, to be exact. It’s become a bit of a Christmas Eve tradition for me to knock back one of these fruity and rich brews—in it’s weighty bottle—while I’m cooking up the evening’s meal. I really love this beer—in fact it’s the only beer that I keep the bottle when I’m done. There is a small colony of them, perched on my desk, even as I write this post.

Rolling through the merriest of merries, Christmas morning—after which it appeared as though a Toys R Us had exploded in our living room, I settled down with a snapping fire in wood stove, episodes 5 and 6 of HBO’s Game of Thrones on DVD, and a gifted bottle of Guden Carolus Classic (Thanks to Nina and Bruce.) The winey, bruising, 8.5% Belgian Brown Ale, was the perfect elixir to top off what is always, without a doubt, the craziest day of the year. Remember winter is coming.

Oh, and did it ever come.

Thursday brought 8 to 10 inches of snow to Albany and a two-and-a-half hour, marathon, snow blowing effort that evening. I have a pretty big snow blower, but this stuff was like lead. My reward for burning off the calories put on earlier in the week was to add on a few more in the form of Theakston’s Old Peculiar—perhaps my favorite British beer. Oliver’s received a case of it (yup, just a case) back in early October, and I’ve been holding onto a few bottles since then. OP is pretty rare around these parts. It must be five or six years since I’ve seen it in the area. As I trudged through the cumbersome white stuff, the scent of snow blower exhaust clinging to my beard, I said to myself, “I will have you Old Peculiar, oh, yes, yes I will.” And, I did.

The biggest surprise of the week came Friday evening—although, it should have been Saturday morning with bacon and eggs—with my first taste of Founder’s Breakfast Stout. I’d heard the hype over this double chocolate, coffee oatmeal Stout, but I’ll be honest the hype didn’t do it justice. This baby, with a baby on the bottle, honestly tastes like the best cup of greasy spoon, diner coffee, you’d ever want to try. This beer knocked my socks off—in fact, it may have taken a few toes with it, too.

So, where does that leave us? With tonight, I suppose—New Year’s Eve. In keeping with the tradition of looking back, I picked up an 8-year-old, paper-wrapped bottle of Schiender Aventinus (2004). Although, the ball still won’t drop for another hour and fifteen minutes, the game plan is to substitute the Aventitus en lieu of Champagne, so what I think of it is going to have to wait until next year, and on that note…

Cheers to the New Year.

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