Tuesday, September 08, 2009


My grandmother was a religious woman, so much so that when, as a kid, I took to verbally calling Christmas "Xmas", I got repeatedly shushed and shamed. As THE FALL memorably say at the beginning of their "No Xmas For John Quays", "the 'X' in 'Xmas' is a substitute crucifix for Christ". You think that's true? I'm too lazy and uninterested to find out. Anyway, the holidays and all the hoo-hah around them are so charged with emotion for folks these days that it's hard to find any fun in them - for me, they're a season to get through, and that's about it. Except when it comes to beer. Then the season can go on for as long as possible, as far as I'm concerned. These days, with this beer as my witness, it would appear that they do.

STONE BREWING, JOLLY PUMPKIN and NOGNE Ø all teamed up late last year to put together a collaborative beer imaginatively called SPECIAL HOLIDAY ALE. You can read all about it here. Unlike many of these big-deal collaborations, the fruits of their labor were not sold in big 22-ounce bottles for double figures, but instead in approachable 12-ounce bottles for a mere $3.99. I don't know about you, but I didn't actually start seeing this on shelves until June (!), though it appears to have been released last November. I've stopped making jokes about "Christmas in September" or whatever, because it appears that the holiday beer season has collapsed upon itself, and you can almost always find some of last year's right around the time some of this year's starts showing up. Which, considering it's September 8th, would probably be next month.

SPECIAL HOLIDAY ALE? Well, it's a good 'un. It pours a dark brown/burgundy, and checks in with a big 9% ABV. Yeasty and aromatic. Does not taste too much like a dark, intense Belgian ale, and instead is a more fruity and medium-bodied winter warmer. I believe I found tastes of rye and of berries of some kind, along with a little light spicing that's typical of its ilk. I've read that "juniper berries" are big in this one, so I reckon that's what I'm tasting, but for the life of me I'm not really sure what those are. This is a good beer, nothing off the charts but definitely worth a pick-up if you find one of the last bottles on the shelves. 7.5/10.

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