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7 DAYS A WEEK

Brewing for the Holidays

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There are two highly enjoyable roles of homebrew in my book: brew for my own everyday consumption, and brew for gatherings of friends and family. When I have folks over for cards, I'll break out a growler or two. If I'm throwing a party I'll be sure to have a keg on hand. Usually nothing fancy, just good everyday beer. But the Holidays call for a little something extra, I feel. It's a special occasion, and, well, maybe a bit of that sibling rivalry comes into play, too. Impressing your buddies with your beer is fine, but when you get my extended family into a room, the pressure is on.

So this year, I'll be breaking out a couple of treats from the cellar. One is a two year old Foreign Export Stout gone wild. The base for this beer was Northern Brewer's St. James Export Stout, a limited edition kit that is no longer available (but you can see the recipe attached). This was like an imperial Dry Irish Stout with a twist: I added some Brett Brux to the secondary, along with some US medium-plus toast oak cubes. The finished beer was quite unique. Rich, dense, alcohol notes with vanilla-like oak and serious Belgian funk character. Dry as licking sandpaper, too. My second contribution to the holiday feast is a Cyser (mead made with apple cider and honey) that started in Fall of 2010. This was also a fairly unique brew. I took four gallons of cider and added wildflower honey to get the gravity up to about 1.085. I divided the must into two different vessels, then pitched the Vintners Harvest AW-4 yeast into one and the Wyeast Rudeshiemer strain into the other. After aging for several months I blended the two back together again and bottled. The result is a very complex cyser with a sweet apple impression and generous acidity. A quick poll around the Northern Brewer offices reveals some other fascinating treats: Brewing TV videographer

Chip is hosting family this year with a keg of a Rye IPA and one of a Chocolate Stout, made with 5 oz of dark baking chocolate. He was gracious enough to bring in a bottle of each today, and I think they'll pair well at the dinner table. With food, not each other. Jeez, guys.

Jake has some Italian Primitivo wine from a year and a half ago and also a Barley Wine from this Spring.

Dawson is serving a smoked oat something-or-other he made from mystery grains he found at his house. This one I've had, and it is good. He's also got an Argentine Malbec.

Tim from customer service brewed up an American Lager to bring to his in-laws' house. They are "not beer people", so he figured it wise to select this unoffensive style. I know some of you readers are nodding your heads and identifying right now. Perennial blog-poster

Steve is serving a Cherry Lambic Stout with organic cherries. Now that's good livin'.

Gabe over in customer service has a Winter Warmer, and also an IPA of his own recipe called Nancy Drew IPA.

Joan from our Milwaukee store brewed the Saison de Noel and packaged it in some awesome bottles with labels and gold wax. Now that's going to impress some family!

Dan, our renowned big beer guy on staff, takes the cake with this absurd selection: •Imperial Brown Ale w/ Maple Syrup and Pecans- aged 1.5 years (straight and bourbon oaked) •Old Ale- very strong, very dark, and funky with Brett- aged 1.5 years (straight and bourbon oaked) •Funky Blond Ale- high ABV with pils and flaked wheat, using old ale blend yeast- aged 8 months (a white wine soaked oak batch, and blended between straight and cranberry batches) Ahem. I hope you've got some small taster glasses at your place, Dan. Wherever you're headed, and whatever you're drinking, all of us here at Northern Brewer wish you Happy Holidays!