Monday, March 7, 2011

It's Not Too Late for Winter Warmers!

One moment you're walking up to your front door, arms filled with groceries and beer; the next you're trampling on a very belated Christmas present left on your front stoop. What a way to start the afternoon -- I love mystery gifts!

Upon opening the festive-looking package, I was greeted with a carefully packed bomber of beer. On the top of a layer of styrofoam peanuts was a single, lone bottle of beer. Frosted Frog Christmas Ale from Hoppin' Frog Brewery. No tag, no note, no nothing. A mysterious benefactor or a simple case of a re-gifted beer, we may never know. Either way, it was a surprise, to be sure.

Hoppin' Frog Brewery is located in Akron, Ohio and is headed by Brewmaster Fred Karm (formerly of Thirsty Dog). The brewery, which specializes in pricey 22-ounce bottles, has a keen focus on hops, with a whole range of IPAs, though their oatmeal imperial stout, B.O.R.I.S. the Crusher, is also a notable stand-out. This will be my first encounter with their winter warmer.

When it comes to purchasing seasonal wintertime beers there are more than a few possibilities one must consider. It is, after all, less a loosely defined style and more a cheeky conglomeration of beers released in the winter months. There really are no hard-and-fast rules with these brews. Sometimes, it simply calls for an ale with boosted flavor, be it heaps more malt or, occasionally, hops, sometimes added spices or fruits are called for, and consistently featuring boosted levels of alcohol. Generally, one can simply look for the labels featuring winter snowscapes, traditional Christmas themes, and company mascots wearing little Santa caps. Winter Warmers, however they may ultimately taste, can provide hours of endless enjoyment during the long, cold winter nights, and, for the last minute Christmas shopper, a bottle of beer makes for a wonderful stocking stuffer!

Some breweries ask themselves, "How much spice do we need?" Here's the problem with that line of thinking: many beer drinkers are left considering the list of purported spices to be marvelous works of fiction. Hoppin' Frog simply asked, "How much spice can these assholes handle?" The spice character here is bolder and more in-your-face then the vast majority of wintertime brews, and subtlety is all but forgotten. Were the FDA to regulate ginger, nutmeg, and cinnamon, I'm sure I'd easily meet the recommended daily intake of Christmastime.

Half a bottle in, I began crying softly. Hot, stinging, even stinking tears quietly rolled down my rosacea-riddled cheeks, causing me to blink erratically and soiling my good t-shirt. My girlfriend quickly noted wafting scents of cinnamon and nutmeg on the air, creating a magical experience, like a second Christmas based in early March. Soon, even the cat was licking my face, eager to get a little tongue's taste of kitty-time Christmas.

Frosted Frog is simply an 8.6% ABV delivery of powderized spices, delivering a serious punt to the gingersnaps from the very first sip. If for a single second you begin to question your liking of cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger, then this beer is simply not for you. I'm sorry, but it isn't.

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