Tuesday, December 25, 2012

The 12 Beers Wrap-up

As I sit here and finish up both our Christmas ham on the Saffire and a 14 pound turkey precariously spinning on the Summit's rotisserie, I can't help but reflect on what a great year it has been.  I'm blessed with a lot of things.  One of which is sharing my often grammatically incorrect blog ramblings with you.  

Daily blog posting is hard.  My hat is off to those who can manage it, along with real work that pays bills and doesn't add to the waist line.  

From a photography standpoint, I had a few shots I really hated, and some others that really surprised me.  I'm trying to do more with light and I like the results.  I feel energized as I head into the difficult dark nights of winter.  

On the beer front, what can I say?  I had a lot of great beer.  Although I was disappointed on a few, there is nothing I would have turned away.  Also, a big thanks to Zoë who yet again gave me the best advent calendar a guy could ask for: beer.  I always say, "this is the last year I'm doing this" only to come back and do it again anyway.  Such false bravado.  

Not so this year.  I'm already planning on picture locations for 2013. I just need Zoë to bring the beer.

Merry Christmas, everyone.  Cheers.

12 Beers to Christmas: 2012

Merry Christmas!

Season's Grillings

1 Beer to Christmas: Criminally Bad Elf

It wouldn't be Christmas without one of the bad Elf/Santa themed beers.  

1 Beer to Christmas: Criminally Bad Elf

Although Criminally Bad Elf is a barley wine, a style I love, I felt this brew, like its salacious Christmas relatives, missed the mark.  With a good amount of alcohol present from beginning to end, there was also a medicinal cherry flavor I just could not shake.  Drinkable, but not memorable, exactly what I would expect from a gimmick beer.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

2 Beers to Christmas: Bell's Christmas Ale

We are about to the end of our countdown and appropriately enough, tonight is a sip of something close to home.  Bell's, based in Michigan, has been churning out some pretty amazing beers over the last twenty seven years.  Their Christmas Ale is always a solid perennial must have.  Christmas Ale is not my favorite beer in their stable (hello, Hopslam!), but a good one nonetheless.

2 Beers to Christmas: Bells Christmas Ale

Christmas Ale is full of sweet malt, with a bit of bready-ness going through it.  The sweetness gives way to some earthy hops and a bit of pepper.  There is a mild smokiness that runs throughout.  Easy drinking and interesting enough to grab another.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

3 Beers to Christmas: Scottish Midnight Sun

The porter has long been one of my favorite beer styles.  However, in the beer world, it is often underrepresented.  Dating back to the 18th century in England, the porter practically went extinct in the early 20th century.  It was not until the United States craft beer explosion in the 1980s and 90s that it made a comeback .

The porter was originally a blend of three different beer styles and was a mainstay of workers in central London.

Today, porter's can be found under the flags of many brewers, but it still seems to take a backseat to more popular styles and interpretations.  There is just something about the roasted dry character of the porter I love.  I always seek them out.

3 Beers to Christmas: Scottish Midnight Sun

Tonight's brew, finally, is a porter.  It comes from the William Brothers Brewing Company in Scotland.  

As the name suggests, the beers pours a dark, dark black.  The nose has hints of chocolate.  Upon my first taste, I was immediately met by that wonderful flavor of roasted malt.  It worked really well with a mild sweetness that followed all the way through.  The mouthfeel wasn't as full as I expected and I was stumped as to the strange taste "bump" in the middle.  It turns out, it was ginger.  I loved it.  

This was one of these beers that seems to drain a glass before you realize the glass is drained.  A great beer for a frigid night and a setting sun.  I do love my porters.

Beer & Chocolate, a Sweet Pairing

Pairing great beer and great food is a no brainer.   Although perhaps not your first thought, pairing great beer and great chocolate is as well.  In fact, craft beer and well, craft chocolate, have quite a bit in common.

This Christmas, Samuel Adams is teaming up with San Francisco based craft chocolate maker TCHO to introduce the Samuel Adams Beer Lover's Chocolate Box.  Samuel Adams brewers worked closely with TCHI chief chocolate maker Brad Kintzer to create special chocolates with the Samuel Adams Winter Classics Variety pack.

Chocolate & Beer

Although wine is traditionally viewed as the ultimate chocolate pairing, Samuel Adams and TCHO argue differently, explaining the malty rich taste of beer nicely matches premium chocolate and, unlike wine, the carbonation of beer can cleanse the palate, preparing the taster for the next delicious bite.

A couple disclosures: I like beer. I sorta like chocolate.  In reality, I do not eat a lot of sugar.  I drink only three liquids: water, coffee, and beer.  No soft drinks, no energy drinks, no cookies, no cakes, no cupcakes, and in general, no "sweets".  When it comes to desert, I would rather have a scotch, or a sip of port.  I'll skip the 1000 calories carrot cake.  Even though I could easy eat it.

So, as I opened up TCHO's chocolate box, I was a little skeptical.  

TCHO Chocolate

The first thing I noticed was the care in packaging  Yes, I understand this has nothing to do with the actual chocolate, but I feel it's worth noting.  A lot of care went into the design.  In fact, it had rather "Apple" like qualities to it.  I like "things" well built.  Even chocolate boxes.  It's all in the details.

Second, since chocolate is not my thing, I was intrigued by the total pairing idea.  As a guy who grew up with junk food, Baby Ruth, I'm looking at you, the idea of "craft" chocolate was appealing.

TCHO Chocolate

It shouldn't come as any great surprise, but this little 8 gram morsel was delicious.  When I paired the Dark "Fruity" piece with Samuel Adams White Christmas, it was even better.  Chocolate and Beer pairing is not dunking a Kit Kat in a glass of Natty Light, it's exploring two similar, yet dissimilar tastes, and watching, or rather, sensing what happens when they cross paths.

Pairing Suggestions

There is a certain amount of bitterness to the dark chocolates I really enjoyed.  It is not something I eat a lot of, so I was quite taken.  Most interesting to me, was the whole beer/palate cleansing process.  The carbonation really does sort of "clean the deck", if you will, to ready the mouth for another bit of chocolate.  It was a neat experience.

I'm saving the SeriousMilk Cacao for a pairing with some Chocolate Bock I've squirreled away in the beer fridge.  I'm curious as to what the chocolate on chocolate does.  Will the chocolate v. chocolate cancel out the chocolate in the bock and bring out other tastes?

Empty Wrappers

It took a lot of restraint to not eat the entire box and to be fair, Zoë helped.  

If you are looking at a neat idea to help ring in the holidays, consider adding chocolate along with your next beer tasting.  It's well worth the sweet experience.

Note: Samuel & Adams & TCHO provided me with the chocolate box.  My opinions above are, of course, my own.  After all, I'm pretty sure no one else would want to claim them.

Friday, December 21, 2012

4 Beers to Christmas: Adnams Explorer

I was first introduced to Adnams during one of our trips back to England.  At the time, I was able to locate it in Ohio, but for several years thereafter the exporting stopped.  

Well, apparently no more.  We found it again when stockpiling this year's Christmas beer countdown.  I'm quite pleased.

4 Beers to Christmas: Adnams Explorer

Explorer is a blonde ale that is incredibly easy drinking and rather sessionable.  It has a rather full mouthfeel, with earthy notes of citrus and hops.  The malt is mildly sweet with a bit biscuity taste and a lightly spiced finish.  I consider it a solid English ale and unbeknownst to me, chock full of American hops!  I knew there was a reason we had a special connection. 

What a nice night to get reacquainted.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

5 Beers to Christmas: Merry Mischief

Here we go.  Five days.  A work week till Christmas.  Thankfully, those five days don't exactly follow a true work week.  Tonight is Thursaday.  Tomorrow is Friday and past that, I'm taking the next week off.  I can't wait.

Thursdays are a special dinner night for me.  It's Friday eve and as a matter of good routine, I always swing by the "Little Store" on my way home.  Run by my good friend Eric Jerardi, part fishmonger/fine meat purveyor/wine enthusiast/blues guitarist, Jerardi's little store is a North Dayton treasure.  

A weeknight stop is always a guarantee to take-home the most exquisite cuts of meat and the freshest fish.  Between Eric, Carol, his friends, and parents, a stop at Jerardi's is second to none.

My meat selection for tonight was the veal chop.  My beer selection, Samuel Adams' Merry Mischief.  It was a holiday smorgasbord.

5 Beers to Christmas: Samuel Adams Merry Mischief

Samuel Adams has done an amazing job of producing some amazing speciality beers.  In my opinion, Merry Mischief is one of the best.  This is not my first taste of Merry Mischief.  In fact, I have had two bottles and a growler before tonight.  I like it that much.

Merry Mischief is a wonderful holiday take.  It's like a gingerbread cookie, with a healthy amount of warming alcohol and a good bit of molasses, nutmeg, gingerbread, & cinnamon.

I like it.  A lot.

Let there be no doubt about it.  This is a big beer for those who like big beers.  It clocks in around 9% ABV.  If you aren't prepared for a full bodied spiced stout engagement, this might not be your beer.  For those who are, let me pull you a pint.  You won't be disappointed.

I have a bottle in the fridge I can't wait to share with my brother.  I know he will love it.

Oh wait, the veal chop.  I've got a big wow for it, too.  Prepared only with salt & pepper and because of our miserable weather, it was only cooked on cast iron..on the stove.  Inside.  Yeah, not on the grill.  Don't judge me.

Verdict?  Fabulous.  I gnawed at the bone while sipping  a little Merry Mischief.  Content is not a word I use to often,  except for tonight.  Nothing compares to a simple veal chop.  Nothing.

5 beers to go and I can't be more thrilled with a little merry mischief…and veal, what more could a guy ask for?

Note: Samuel Adams provided me with one bottle of Merry Mischief.  Oddly enough, it was today.  The same day I had already planned on talking about a bottle of Merry Mischief I had already bought, as well as the memories of a previous bottle and an entire growler.  Christmas is coming soon and apparently I need to get my Gingerbread love.  Soon.  Karma rocks.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

6 Beers to Christmas: Point, Belgian White

Another night and another trip back across the Atlantic.  Tonight's beer gives me a bit of familia familiarity.  Stevens Point, Wisconsin is not just home to a brewery, it's home to my Aunt, Uncle, and 9 cousins.  Although a visit with family is not possible tonight, a taste of their local brewery is.

Stevens Pont Brewery, or Point, for short, has been brewing for over 150 years, but has only distributed beer outside of Wisconsin the last twenty years.    

6 Beers to Christmas: Point Belgian White

Belgian White is a Belgian Style Wheat Ale.  It poured a cloudy straw color, with a very small head that faded as fast as it appeared.  The nose had bits of orange, while the taste had more orange, with a little bit of spice, and some fleeting sour.  

Although I'm drinking it right before Christmas, I can totally see this as a summer session beer.  Light, crisp, and refreshing.

Now, to tackle Zoë's traditional Christmas cake.  I can't wait for that, too.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

7 Beers to Christmas: Delirium Noel

Stateside didn't last very long.  With 7 beers to go, I found myself squarely in Belgium.

I love Delirium Tremens.  The beer, not the sickness.  Delirium Noël is a Christmas riff on the Tremens.  Delirium Tremens is great.  Delirium Noël is good.  

7 Beers to Christmas: Delium Noel

Noël clocks in at 10% ABV.  If you plan on singing Noël upon consuming, get your singing in soon.  Noël's alcohol hit is fairly subdued considering the punch it packs.

Noël pours with a one finger head which quickly dissipates.  The nose consisted of sweet malt and raisins.  The taste was interesting, as it hung out completely in the front of my mouth.  It's like it wouldn't leave.  Even without an eviction notice.

More sweetness, a little bit of raisin, a touch of citrus, and a slight, slight warming of alcohol. All in the front of my mouth.  Again, good, but not great.  

Of course, still good enough for me to want another.  Just as long as it's before I sing.  Which, for some in my life, is a very, very long time.  Cheers.

Monday, December 17, 2012

8 Beers to Christmas: North Peak Siren

After bouncing around the world for the last two beers, it's nice to make it back to the cozy confines of the midwest.  For more times than I can count, I've been meaning to try out something from North Peak in Traverse City, Michigan.  Well, wait no more.

8 Beers to Christmas: North Peak Siren

Siren is an amber ale and a fairly solid one at that.  It poured a reddy mahogany with a two finger head that dissipated rather quickly.  It was malty and sweet, with a hint of molasses.  Hoppy and spice undertones then worked their way towards the end.  

Siren wasn't an amazing beer, but it was solid and enjoyable.  This yields high marks in my book.  I'm glad I finally made my way to the peak.  It was worth the trip.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

9 Beers to Christmas: 8 Wired Rewired Brown Ale

What a treat.  The third beer in my countdown takes me back to 8 Wired in New Zealand.  

8 Wired Rewired Brown Ale

Brown ales are not my favorite style, but Rewired may make me reassess.  It poured a dark mahogany with a solid two finger head.  The first thing to surprise me was how full the mouthfeel was.  If Newcastle Brown is a comparison, there is no comparison.  Rewired was malty, nutty, with a hint of tart, and a spicy/hoppy finish.  

It was really outstanding.  If you've yet to experience New Zealand craft beer, you are missing out.  Rewired is highly recommended.  

What's on the Grill #257: Beef Skewers with Angry Orchard Apple Ginger Chimmichuri

If you haven't noticed, hard cider is everywhere.  Over the last year, cider has become the fastest growing adult beverage with an astounding 31.3% market gain in 2012.  It even outpaced craft beer.  Although cider has a deep history in the United States dating back more than 150 years, it went extinct, in part, thanks to Prohibition.

In the early colonial days of the US, apple orchards were started not to eat apples, but to make cider.  Although I don't recall hearing about it in elementary school history class, Johnny Appleseed's orchard planting spree had less to do with taking a bite out of an apple and more with making sure there was a certain fermented beverage on the breakfast, lunch, and dinner tables.  Yes, cider was an all meals drink.

With the push into the 20th century, cider started to experience a decline as newly arriving immigrants from Europe brought a taste for beer.  Finally, the outlaw of the sale of alcohol in the US, during our period of prohibition, served a death blow.  Orchards were either burned or migrated to grow more sweet apples, a sharp contrast from the bittersweet apples used for cider.  

Cider in the United States never recovered.  Until now.

Although I've never been a huge cider drinker, I find myself, and my friends, grabbing it ever more frequently.  Angry Orchard, especially their Apple Ginger, is in my opinion one of the best.  Zoë even seconds that, and having been born and raised in England, that's saying something.

Not only is cider great to drink, it is also fabulous to cook with.  So, grab a glass, fire up the grill, and get skewering.

Beef Skewer with Angry Orchard Apple Ginger Chimmichuri

Beef Skewer with Angry Orchard Apple Ginger Chimmichuri

Adapted from Chef Andrew Urbanetti

8 wooden skewers, soaked in water or metal skewers, not soaked in water

1lb. flat iron steak, cubed
4 spring onions, golf-ball sized (or sweet onion/green onion)
½ cup parsley leaves
½ cup cilantro leaves
1 Tbls ginger, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp red pepper flakes
½ cup olive oil
½ cup Angry Orchard Apple Ginger Cider
1 Tbls  white vinegar
1 Tbls  kosher salt

Cut spring onions into quarters, and set aside.  (Note, I couldn't locate spring onions so I opted for a combination of green onions and sweet onions.  Either will work.)


In a food processor, combine parsley, cilantro, ginger, garlic, red pepper flakes, and salt.

Filling the Processor

With the processor running, pour in olive oil, cider, and vinegar.  Reserve half. Since you are only using a half cup of cider, it's a great excuse to drink what's left.  I find it helps keep the cook sane.

Adding the Angry Orchard

Although anything "beef" can be skewered, I really like to use flat iron steak.  It's relatively inexpesnive, very tender, and quite flavorful.  

Sliced Flat Iron

Skewer steak and onion, and marinate in remaining sauce.

Marinade in Bag

There are two schools of thought here.  Marinade the ingredients separately and then skewer or skewer and then marinade.  The biggest issue with the latter is ensuring good contact between the sauce and meat.  Even though I've already skewered the meat, I still use a plastic bag, being careful, of course, not to skewer the bag.

Skewers in the Bag

The bag wrapped skewers allow for easy overhauling and blending.  Marinate, chilled, for at least one hour, or up to two days.

Pre-heat the grill. Remove skewers from marinade, shaking off excess. 

Grill over high heat until meat is medium rare, about 4 minutes. 

Serve with reserved chimmichuri.

Beef Skewer with Angry Orchard Apple Ginger Chimmichuri

And of course, some Angry Orchard.

Beef Skewer with Angry Orchard Apple Ginger Chimmichuri

Note: Angry Orchard provided me with Chef Urbanetti's recipe and some sample bottles of Angry Orchard.  The bottles fit nicely next to the huge stash of Angry Orchard I already own and will continue to buy.  It's great stuff.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

10 Beers to Christmas

Beware of big things in small packages.  Or, in this case, 12% beers in less than 12 ounce bottles.

Scaldis Noel is  a strong Belgian Ale from the Dubuisson brewery in Wallonia, Belgium.  Although I can't pronounce Dubuisson and couldn't give you directions to Wallonia without getting you lost, I can state that Scaldis Noel is a pretty amazing beer.

Scaldis Noel

After a dark and murky pour, my first taste consisted of a lot of sweet malt, followed by the taste of raisins and dark fruit.  There was a little bit of licorice in the finish and also, slight heat from the alcohol. This beer could be easily downed without a hint of the 12% ABV.  That's scary.  It's also why it's so good.

I love Belgium.

Friday, December 14, 2012

11 Beers to Christmas

We are at t-minus 45 minutes.  Zoë's parents are due to arrive from England for Christmas and I need a drink.  

Ahhh, just kidding on the latter.  The drink is simply a requirement of the countdown, nothing more.  Really.

Oddly enough, the one beer I pick from my countdown stash is an imperial ESB (Extra Special Bitter), the quintessential English beer, amped up.  Sort of like me right now.

When I picked Heavy Seas' Winter Storm, I was thinking strong ale, spiced ale, something ale…but not an imperial ESB.  The nose was fairly unremarkable.  My first taste was full of malt, a bit of spice, and a slightly hoppy finish.  ESB's are a wonderful balance between malt and hop and this brew hit the mark.

Winter Storm

Winter Storm is very, very English and to my palate, very, very good.  Now, excuse me, I'm off to the airport. 

Thursday, December 13, 2012

12 Beers to Christmas

It's that time of year again.  While some prefer their advent countdowns with ornaments or chocolate, I, not surprisingly, prefer beer.  

For the past five years, Zoë has created my very own beer advent calendar.  A careful selection of beers to help me countdown the days till Christmas.  Oddly enough, every year we sort of screw up how many beers that is.  Math.  Crazy.

Anyway, seeing I already know what lies ahead, I'm pretty excited.

Evil Twin Brewing Soft XMas

Up first is Soft Xmas from Evil Twin Brewing in Denmark.  Although I am unfamiliar with them, a quick look at their website intrigues me.  They look flat out crazy.  I like that.

Soft Xmas was a good beer, even though it was a little different.  It poured about as black as night.  The nose was sweet as molasses.  So much so that I was expecting a really full mouthfeel on the first sip and was surprised when it wasn't there.  It still felt good, but visually, I was expecting to be just about chewing it down.  

The cherries mentioned in the name are definitely there.  In fact, there was a sweetness and tartness that flowed through.  It finished with a chocolate like bitterness.  Although my description may seem as if though I didn't like it, I actually did.  It was just different and in my book, different can very often be good.

So, we are off.  Let the countdown begin.  Cheers!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012


Today, most importantly, is my brother's birthday.  That being said, it is also the final release of Stone Brewing Company's Vertical Epic Series.  Starting on 02-02-02, it ends today with 12-12-12.

Stone Vertical Epic 12-12-12

Sadly, we jumped on the vertical series a little late, i.e. 2007.  In the interim, we picked up a 2006, but are missing 2002-2005.

Stone Vertical Epic Series

The Stone Brewing Company has pushed craft beer in all sorts of different directions.  All of which, in their own unique way, taste incredibly delicious.  

Stone Brewing Company is a pretty amazing place.  My two trips to their brewery/bistro gardens in Escondido, California are incredibly memorable.  I wished I lived a thousand miles closer, although my liver may tend to disagree.  What Stone is doing is simply amazing and to enjoy the tail end ride of their vertical epic series is a definite guilty pleasure.

A taste of Stone 12-12-12

With the holidays rapidly approaching, the Backyard Brewers will assemble for a Vertical Epic tasting after the first of the year.  It shall be an event not to miss.  I cannot wait.  In the meantime, I will scoop up as much 12-12-12 as I can.  It's a spice laden big beer journey.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Houston: The Petrol Station

Although none of my siblings live close by, they more than make up for their distance by living in great places to visit.  Case in point, my youngest brother Matthew.  He lives in Houston.

Although he lives in Texas, I was actually born there.  A point I constantly remind him of.  Yes, even though I was only there for three months.  

At the holiday dinner table, I usually remind Mom, much to her embarrassment, my only Texas memory was her knees and a bright light.  Nonetheless, three months in San Antonio makes me a native and I can guarantee when we see the Astros play, none of my siblings sing Deep in the Heart of Texas at the 7th inning stretch louder than me.

So, yeah.  Visting Texas, and Houston in particular, is always fun.

As what tends to happen, when one of us visit another, an unexpected sibling shows up at the airport.  This time it was my sister, Anne.  

Our weekend was short:  a couple great meals at local gastropubs, Jonathan Coulton in concert at Fitzgerald's, and a trip to The Petrol Station.

First, let me apologize for the pictures.  I was using a point and shoot.  I was lucky to have that, as whenever I pull out a camera, Matthew makes a run for it and not because I'm taking picture of him…I'm just taking pictures.  Thankfully he can't run when he's not looking at me.

The Petrol Station - At the Bar

The Petrol Station looks to have been just that, a petrol station.  It is also a true neighborhood bar, with homes in the surrounding blocks.  Better yet, it's minutes from Matthew's house.

We arrived at night and if it were not for all of the cars out front and Google maps on my phone, we would have driven right by.  The Petrol Station appeared to be low key and that was fine by me, as it is really all about the beer.

I first "discovered" the Petrol Station when I reviewed Stone Brewing Company's list of the 2012 Most Bitter Bar winners.  They were the national winner.  My local, Boston's, was tied for the win in Ohio, so needless to say, I already felt the beginnings of a kindred relationship.

Beer Under Lights

The interior part of the Petrol Station is small.  The main room is mostly bar and a combination of tables, benches, and stools.

The Petrol Station - Taps

Chalk boards list the rotating taps and a food board displays what's available from the kitchen.  The beer list was impressive. Since we had already eaten, a return trip will be needed to survey the culinary scene.

The rear door of the bar spilled into a rustic backyard.  Dozens of chairs, high tops, and picnic tables, were spread out across the expansive lawn & deck.  Overhead, a canopy of trees provided cover while our table was illuminated by incandescent bulbs strung above.

Into the yard

A journey even further into the back revealed more seating and a fire pit.  It was a brilliant bit of atmosphere.

As the three of us sat and caught up, I was lucky to have Stone's Enjoy By, which was currently in Texas, as well as Burton Baton from Dogfish and Ranch Double IPA from Victory Brewing.  All on draft and all IPAs.

The bartenders were helpful and knowledgeable and although the line for the bathroom was a little long on the way out, a return trip is guaranteed.  I still need to try the food and perhaps, another pint.




Sunday, December 09, 2012

Angry Orchard

Admittedly, when I grab a drink from the beer fridge, I don't immediately think cider.  Zoë, however, always does.  My stance changed after a trip to the Boston Brewery almost a year ago.  

Angry Orchard - Twist Off

For it was there we had our fist taste of Angry Orchard and of the three styles, Angry Orchard's Ginger Apple was something completely different.   We were hooked.  

Zoë moved away from her traditional English ciders and I actually reached for one.

Angry Orchard Apple Ginger

When it comes to entertaining mixed palates, a stash of Angry Orchard is a necessity.  This is doubly so in the summer and, as the time approaches, the holidays.  It's timid enough for casual drinkers and interesting enough for those who like bold flavors.

Angry Orchard Hard Cider

Stay tuned over the next couple weeks as I bring not only more Angry Orchard, but some great grilling recipes leveraging what I believe to be the best use of apples & time: hard cider.

Note: The great folks at Angry Orchard provided me with a few bottles.  I bought a lot more.  You should see my fridge.  It's full.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

It's getting hot out here

I'm finding it difficult to believe it's early December and I've been outside this week wearing shorts.  Yes, shorts…in December.  Nothing like having my pasty white legs illuminated by Christmas lights.

The summer in winter weather "forced" me to change my evening plans and grab something for the grill.

Red Sky by the Saffire

It also "forced" me to grab a beer for dinner.  Since it was so warm, I opted for something summery, as it just wasn't the type of night where I felt like reaching for a porter.

In keeping with the warm weather theme, I opted for The Bruery's Trade Winds.

The Bruery - Tradewinds

As trade winds pushed ships from port to port, the same winds that ushered in my warm evening pushed this Belgian tripel in front of our Christmas tree.  

Trade winds is brewed with rice and Thai basil.  The basil inclusion intrigued me.  The beer poured with the a typical big multi finger "Belgian head."  The color was a pale orange.

As I stuck my rather large nose into the glass, I detected bread, banana, and a bit of spice.  My first taste was more banana, accompanied with orange.  The basil came more towards the end.  I thought it wasn't rather pronounced and actually quite subtle.  The finish brought a last wave of spice.

This was an unusual beer.  It was a really good Belgian with an interesting twist, even though the twist wasn't that interesting.  Although I didn't walk away wowed, I  still found it enjoyable.  I was also wearing shorts.  In December.