The 12 Beers of Christmas

Those of you who have been following our date night escapades know that we like our beer as much as we like our food.  When we read about Food 101’s “Twelve Beers of Christmas” dinner in our local newspaper, it took us about five seconds to decide to go.  Chef Justin Keith likes his beer too, and for this special event, he combined twelve specific holiday beers with a five-course dinner that left us full, satisfied, and unable to drive home.   Read on to learn the details of the best date night ever!

As the late, great Larry Munson would say: “get the picture”.  The dinner was held in the back dining room of Food 101.  Each beer was not a full 12-ounce pour, but was in 4-ounce flight glasses.  That would be 48 ounces of beer for the night, but the last few beers didn’t get finished.  The beer for every course was served before the food.  Chef Keith came into the dining room after each course was served and explained to us what we were drinking and eating.  Here’s everything that we consumed, in the order it was served.

The beers began with Sierra Nevada Celebration

Aperitif: Beer 1: Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale.  6.8% alcohol.  Sierra is in California, and we actually know the brewmaster’s parents.  That’s our claim to fame with this brewery.  As for the beer, it was hoppy and a good way to start the night before the first course was served.

Course 1:  Beer 2: Rogue Santa’s Private Reserve.  6% alcohol.  This one was good.  It had a mild hop finish, but there was a pine scent to it as well.

Heads up! St. Bernardus Christmas Ale. 10% alcohol!

Beer 3: St. Bernardus Christmas Ale.  10% alcohol.  The head on this beer was amazing.  It was our first high-gravity beer and the first Belgian-made one.  I put an asterisk next to it, which means I really like it.  Buy this beer if you can find it, but be careful, because the 10% alcohol is well-hidden and it will kick you if you drink too much of it!

Fromage! Artisan Cheese Plate

Artisan Cheese Plate.  The cheese platter arrived on a nice cutting board with brie and bleu cheese.  It was a mild blue, which is a good thing because we are not big fans of bleu cheese.  However, the cranberry preserve that came with the course made the bleu cheese quite tasty.

Bell's Winter White: Wheat beer lovers unite.

Course 2:  Beer 4: Bell’s Winter White.  5% alcohol.  Eve is a wheat beer girl, so she was jazzed when this one came out.  They added some extra malt to the mixture, but kept the golden color and added a hint of banana.  This was the only wheat of the evening, so it definitely stood out when compared to the darker mixtures from the other breweries.

Beer 5: Blue Moon Winter Abbey. 5.6% alcohol.  OK, so we all know that Blue Moon is a Coors product, so we were expecting a mass-produced wheat beer.  This beer was surprisingly good and didn’t look anything like what we are used to from Blue Moon.  They added a lot of malt to this beer, giving it a much darker color and a good caramel taste.  I made a special note that I really liked this one too.  A pleasant surprise.

You know what they say about oysters...

Blue Point Oyster Crudo.  Three oysters on the half shell that had coriander and cilantro on top.  The spices gave the oysters a kick, almost like putting hot sauce on it.  We haven’t had raw oysters in years and we slid them happily down our throats.

Course 3: Beer 6: Anchor Christmas Ale.  5.5% alcohol.  This was our first chocolate-flavored brew.  We have a dear friend in Tallahassee who loves chocolatey beer and he would have been glad to see this on the table.  This beer marked the half-way point of the evening, and the best was yet to come!

Beer 7: New Belgium Snow Day Winter Ale.  6.2% alcohol.  This beer brought us back to the hoppy beers, but it had chocolate and caramel undertones, which went well with the Anchor Christmas Ale.

Chestnut Soup: Not polite to lick the bowl.

Chestnut Soup.  This soup was a big winner.  Chef Keith really nailed this one, and Eve wanted to lick the bowl, but that, of course would not be polite, unless you have consumed at least six beers by this point of the night!  This is not on Food 101’s regular menu, and if you are lucky, they will add it soon.

Course 4: Beer 8: d’Achouffe N’Ice Chouffe Belgian.  10% alcohol.  Chef Keith hit us hard with the next two beers, both high-gravity entries to go with the main course.  The Belgians did not disappoint with this beer.  It was fruity, and went well with the next beer.

Ommegang Adoration: Red, fruity, and 10% alcohol.

Beer 9: Ommegang Adoration Winter Ale.  10% alcohol.  I marked this one as being one of my favorites.  It was malty very fruity and had almost a red color to it.  They make this beer in Cooperstown, NY, and it could go into the beer hall of fame!

Rabbit pot pie: Wonderful main course

Braised Rabbit Pot Pie.  This is not your mother’s pot pie.  It had slow-roasted rabbit, along with wild mushrooms, parsnips, and butternut squash.  The whole thing was topped with a light, biscuit-like pastry.  Chef Keith created a dish that was worthy of the Food Network.  We really enjoyed the main course!

Course 5:  Before we talk about course 5, let’s just say that we had reached our alcohol intake limit, so we would like to preface the following comments with the fact that the room was not spinning, but things were becoming a little tilted.

Santa's Little Helper. Can you taste the chocolate?

Beer 10: Santa’s Little Helper Porter.  6.5% alcohol.  This was an oatmeal porter with a chocolate finish.  We enjoyed the sip or two that we were able to get down.

Beer 11: Sweetwater Festive Ale.  8.6% alcohol.  Fortunately we had tasted this beer at a previous event, so we knew what was coming.  We really like this beer and have a six-pack in our beer fridge.  It’s dark and you get hit with a nutmeg scent.  And at 8.6%, one bottle goes a long way.

Grandma may not approve of the fruit cake, but we did!

Not Your Grandmother’s Fruit Cake.  I happen to be one of the few people in the world who likes fruit cake.  Our dessert course was moist and full of good things.  That’s a divine egg-nog sauce that comes with it. Grandma would eat it, but she would wonder why it was so light.  Chef Keith finished off the meal perfectly.

Disgestif: Beer 12: Samuel Smith’s Winter Welcome.  6% alcohol.  I could only take about a sip of this beer.  From what I remember, it was malty and fruity.  We need to try this beer again as we had been over served in beer by the time it came.

There was no way we could drive home after this meal, so we had to call our son to come get us.  Yes, it’s kind of embarrassing to have to do that, but hey, we’ve been telling him not to drink and drive for years, and maybe this will reinforce it.

Holiday greetings from Food 101.

The Bottom Line:  This was a blast and we got to try so many different beers.  There was almost too much beer if that was possible and we would have been just as happy with six beers.  We will do this again, but maybe not drink as much of the early beers so that we can enjoy the later offerings. Food 101 is going to do this again next year, and we hope some of you will check it out.  It was a fun holiday gift to ourselves and a great way to end the year.

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