The sweet taste of caramel and toffee and the tang and spice of the most classic holiday fruits fill up a glass. Who would have thought momâ€™s Christmas cookies could be brought out in a beer? Fermenting since September, two new holiday brews will be among the 100-beer lineup at Mayor of Old Town this December.
Samichlaus, an Austrian lager with 14 percent alcohol, and Delirium Noel, a New Belgium creation, will be on the menu to warm chilled patrons. But just what makes a holiday beer? Bar Manager Michelle Peth provided some insight.
â€œI think the words to describe how they taste are sweet, spicy, chewy, bold, big and warming,â€ Peth said. â€œYou will find they are all darker, heavier and stronger beers.â€
She describes the seasonal beers as a sliding scale: the colder it gets outside, the darker the beer. Darker beers tend to be heavier and higher in alcohol content because the amount of fermentable sugar is greater. When the yeast eats the sugar, it creates more alcohol. This is what gives the feeling of warmth that comes from drinking it.
â€œWhen I think of winter beers, I think of beers you can sip and sip, and it warms you starting at the ears,â€ she said.
For Christmas, Peth said she likes to get beers with toffee, caramel and fruit tones to them.
â€œItâ€™s all like Christmas candy and Christmas cookies and holiday fruits,â€ she said. â€œThose are the items that people had available for centuries to use to brew and to cook, so now they are associated forever with the season.â€
The spicy, festive flavors that come through in the beers often come from the type of yeast used. Different strains of yeast eat different types of sugars, which create different flavors that come out through the beer.
â€œA German yeast would create the banana-and-clove flavor that you get,â€ Peth said. â€œAnd then the Christmas ales you might get more of apricot, spicy and fruity.â€
She expects to begin serving the two beers by the end of November or early December and should last until February, depending on when the kegs run out.
â€œI honestly go with opening the door and feeling the weather outside when I am putting out the next beer,â€ she said. â€œWhen I unpack some of my winter clothes I know its time to start seeing some of these dark beers.â€
Beer Tasting for Dummies
Get the most out of your holiday brews by knowing the right way to taste them. Michelle Peth teaches the secrets of beer tasting.
1. Look at the beer and then smell it. You want to smell with your mouth slightly open because you have smell receptors on the back of your palate.
2. When you taste the beer, let it roll across your tongue first. Then when you swallow with your mouth closed, exhale through your nose. This is called retro-nasal. You are getting more of the aroma that way.
3. Hold your hands fully enclosed around the beer to warm it up. Like an over-chilled white wine, beer is chilled to hide flaws. As the beer warms up you can really pick those out and when a beer tastes amazing as it warms up, thatâ€™s when you know itâ€™s a good beer.