We are not a beer review site, but we do drink beer, so we’re always quite tickled when craft businesses send us some of their tasty suds. In this reoccurring column, I will highlight those generous businesses, focusing on the innovative packaging techniques and cool products that good PR companies and clever in-house marketing folks put together for the media. Over the last few weeks, breweries from across the country have been sending along some holiday-tinged loot to my CBB doorstop. I’d like to thank them for their magnanimity. Here goes…
Great Lakes Barrel Aged Christmas Ale
Being based in Cleveland, Great Lakes Brewing Co. has always held a special warm spot in my otherwise ice-cold, beer-fueled heart. Its Christmas Ale (a wonderful mixture of honey, cinnamon and ginger beer flavors) is the liquid equivalent of seasonal cheer in Northeast Ohio. Even better, Great Lakes recently released a barrel-aged version. Even better than that, they sent that barrel-aged version to me (and it’s a limited release). In fact, Great Lakes pulled together this swanky Christmas Ale kit below.
Barrel Aged Christmas Ale was released in 22-ounce bottles exclusively at the Great Lakes gift shop. Aged in bourbon barrels for six months, Great Lakes describes it as “holiday spices and sweet honey wrapped up with notes of wood and vanilla, adding depth and good tidings.”
- Barrel Aged Christmas Ale will be presented in a beautiful screen-printed 22-ounce bottle with a festive ornament tag.
- Every bottle of Barrel Aged Christmas Ale is tagged, numbered and signed, GLBC’s way of showing that complex brew you’ll be sipping is the real deal.
- Limited quantities available at the GLBC gift shop.
- The cinnamon, honey and ginger of Great Lakes beloved Christmas Ale is now backed with hints of vanilla, wood and smoke.
- Pairs with: Roast duck, spiced desserts and a yule log on the fire.
Rogue Ale’s Santa’s Private Reserve
Rogue Ales and Spirits brewmaster John Maier is certainly a beer buddah, but he also kind of looks like Santa Claus (at least in this picture). The Newport, Ore.-based brewmaster has certainly been giving us the gift of craft beer for three decades. His Santa’s Private Reserve is always one of my end-of-year traditions. I’m an especially big fan of this classy, wooden-boxed version of Santa’s Private Reserve, which showed up to my CBB headquarters, complemented with matching glassware.
The double hopped red ale is housed in a snazzy Santa serigraphed bottle with snowflakes that glisten as much as the fist-pumping Santa on the glass (the snowflakes actually glow in the dark too). Unlike other Christmas-type ales, the beer is crafted without the use of twigs, spices or fruits. The recipe has also won 10 awards, including three World Beer Championship gold medals. I also love that Santa’s is brewed with hops and barley from Rogue Farms (which is an awesome place to visit). Santa’s Reserve has been a seasonal favorite for 15 years and counting now. Crazy.
Rogue Ale’s 20,000 Brews By the Sea
This might be my favorite beer gift of 2016. Earlier this year, CBB traveled to Oregon to visit Rogue Ales in Newport and Rogue Farms in Independence, Ore. While we were there, I interviewed brewmaster John Maier, and after we were finished, Mr. Maier waved me over to try a special beer he was preparing to bottle — his 20,000th batch — named 20,000 Brews By the Sea. Here is me trying it at the brewery, equipped with the proper eye-wear for weeping.
Rogue was kind enough to send along an actual bottle of the rare beer, which will probably end up in my nostalgia collection (never to be drunk). Using his signature mark of brewing beyond traditional styles, Maier dreamt up this complexity bomb by employing a unique double mash technique and brewing with 20 varietals of hops and 20 different specialty malts weighing in at 20 degrees plato. The beer was finally ready after 20 days of bottle conditioning, though Maier says it can be cellared for another 20 years (good news for me). So, when the zombies attack, I’ll be cracking open this bomber.
This is one badass little bottle opener, and we thank Marty Jones for sending it along (check out his excellent marketing services at Ideas and Inks). Bartenders, caterers and beer professionals are constantly opening bottles. Why should these hard-working, beverage pros be relegated to obtuse bottle openers (or worse yet — teeth or eye sockets). Let us introduce you to the GrabOpener ST (code name Steel Tooth). Like the original version, it is designed to remove caps with a simple, quick, one-handed grab.
This new Steel Tooth version has a lightweight body with a very long-wearing stainless steel hook, making it ideal for those who open hundreds of bottle per month and want to carry something small. I now keep this in my pocket at all times.
Schlafly’s From The Ibex Cellar
The Ibex brand has been Schlafly Beer‘s exclusive, limited release nameplate, but now the brewery is opening that exclusivity up to the public at large with a new Ibex Cellar series called From The Ibex Cellar. The new collection, over a year and a half in the making, will feature six hand-crafted beers aged in the same Ibex Cellar, the room beneath the historic Tap Room in downtown St. Louis. The first installment was just released, called Schlafly’s Barrel-Aged Imperial Stout, and look — some showed up on my living room floor.
The “From the Ibex Cellar” beers offer a more accessible extension of Schlafly’s extremely limited Ibex series (only available in 750 ml bottles), now known as Ibex Rare. Ambassador Brewer Stephen Hale explained in the press release:
“The project is inspired by our building and rooted in our history. The Tap Room was a printing company in its former life so that dedication to craft inspired us. The beers showcase the talents of our brewing team as well as our new craft bottling line and oak foeders at the Tap Room.”
The “From the Ibex Cellar” beers feature big beers brewed in exclusive, smaller bottles that pay homage to the Ibex with the majestic symbol embossed in the glass. The packaging mimics the striking architecture of the Schlafly Tap Room’s building from the pitches and peaks to the arches that hold up the cellar below. A typeface from the 1900s, discovered by one of the Schlafly designers in the St. Louis Public Library archives, inspired the exclusive design for the label and packaging.
The beers spend extended resting times in spirit barrels of different varieties in the Ibex Cellar. Then, the beers make their way upstairs to Schlafly’s new Hoof & Quill Room, featuring a new craft bottling line as well as two new foeder tanks, made with Missouri white oak from Missouri’s very own Foeder Crafters. Pretty awesome, right?
Oh yeah, I also got this sweet Schlafly’s dog calendar
I like beer. I like dogs, and well, calendars are OK too. The combination seemed to work in my mysterious “Orange Room,” which is where my girlfriend makes me put all my weird stuff. Hey Schlafly dog calendar, welcome to my weird stuff.
Thanks to everyone and enjoy a safe and happy holidays. Cheers.