Monday, December 9, 2013

'Tis The Season

Okay, the Christmas Season can officially begin.

When I think of the Christmas holidays, I think of spending time away from the office and of spending quality time with family and friends. When I think of Christmas, I think of gently falling snow, of fireplaces, of lights and music, and of the smell of festive trees and fresh-baked treats.

The smell of gingerbread is intoxicating.

Big Rig Brewery gets that.

Jeff O'Reilly (left) and Brewmaster Lon Ladell

On Friday, the local brewery released a festive ale that is a collaboration with Brewmaster Lon Ladell and beer aficionado, Jeff O'Reilly. And they released this ale in two versions.

Gingerbread Porter (5.6% ABV)
Big Rig Brewery
Ottawa ON
Beer O'Clock rating: 4

Appearance: caramel brown with red highlights and a creamy taupe head that dissipates quickly.

Nose: while the ale was closed at first (it pours too cold for this style of beer: best to let it warm up), I was able to discern molasses and spice. When the beer nears room temperature, it has a definite bouquet of fresh-baked gingerbread cookies.

Palate: ginger, cinnamon, and molasses, that culminates in a warm, malty beverage. It is well-balanced, with lots of rich flavour and comes to a good, solid finish.

Overall impression: while this is a flavoured porter, it does not display the characteristics of a traditional porter. Rather, the porter is more of a template from which the gingerbread was designed. With vanilla pods, sticks of cinnamon, and organic ginger added during the conditioning process, the resulting flavours make this beverage an instant holiday classic. It's a heart-warming, palate-pleasing ale that I will enjoy for as long as it lasts.

Lon and Jeff brewed 1,100 litres of Gingerbread Porter, so expect it to be gone by Christmas.

One beer that did not last was a one-off, cask-conditioned version of the Gingerbread Porter. On steroids. Jeff added crème de menthe, cherry brandy, Kahlua, and Goldschlager to the mix. What resulted was a gingerbread cookie in a glass, with candy cane sprinkled on top. There was a distinct, candied nose and lots of mint on the palate, making this sweet version (clocked in at an estimated 7.5% ABV) an extra treat.

Lon pours the cask-conditioned version.

While the cask-conditioned porter didn't make it through the night, you can enjoy the regular Gingerbread Porter at Big Rig. It's also available in growlers, which you can purchase at the brew pub or you can have it delivered to your door, using Ottawa's newest service, Brew Donkey. This company is dedicated to bringing the best Ottawa-area craft beer to your door. They also organize tours, so you can get to the breweries.

Beer life in Ottawa gets better all the time.

In Other Beer News

Interested in craft beer and want to become a certified aficionado? The next level-1 Prud'homme Beer Certification course will be held at The Clocktower Brew Pub, on Bank Street, for four evenings, starting January 20. For more information and to register, go here.


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