In the continental brewing tradition that informs our beery American ethos, the arrival of cold weather heralds the release of strong ales and lagers. In a touch that predates the use of hops, some are spiced, placing them firmly within the parameters of Christmas food and drink.
Louisville Metro’s five craft breweries offer creative annual festive motifs for the winter season. The most venerable is Ebenezer’s Spiced Ale, brewed since 1993 at Bluegrass Brewing Co.’s original St. Matthews location, and spiced with ginger, sweet orange peel, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and honey.
BBC’s Jerry Gnagy has another holiday trick up his apron with Wormwood Tripel, a Belgian abbey style set to tap on Dec. 27. Wormwood (that’s right, the stuff of absinthe) is used as a bittering herb.
Hell for Certain does not describe the BBC brewery at Main and Clay. Rather, it’s a spiced Wallonian style with coriander, sweet orange peel and a “secret spice” known only to Ardennes gnomes, from whom original BBC brewmaster David Pierce once took lessons.
Cumberland Brews is in jolly humor with its Kristmas Keester. Owner Mark Allgeier describes the ale, which adds juniper berries to the mix, as “designed to isolate you from other happy-go-lucky Christmas/cheery holiday-goers.”
A Scottish ale called Kincardin is the current Cumberland winter seasonal, and there may be some roasted pumpkin ale (cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and brown sugar) still pouring as a Thanksgiving leftover.
My New Albanian Brewing Co. will unveil Naughty Claus at its Saturnalia Winter Solstice fest on Dec. 12. This year’s version is a British “winter warmer,” with cocoa and mint. Louisville’s only keg of Naughty Claus will be tapped at Flanagan’s Ale House on Dec. 13.
Finally, a shout-out to Browning’s Brewery. The pub and restaurant may be closed, but brewer Brian Reymiller is still making his She-Devil and ESB for local distribution. Look for them, and help keep the dream alive this holiday season.
Roger Baylor is co-owner of the New Albanian Brewing Co. in New Albany. Visit potablecurmudgeon.blogspot.com for more beer.