Saturday, December 17, 2005

Opening night for Saturnalia MMV was a blast.

Saturnalia MMV is underway, and as usual, there are surprises to be recounted and updates for consideration.

Unhappily, the firkin of Gale’s Christmas Ale (2003) proved “off,” and it was scratched. In fairness, the two-year old cask ale came to us with an asterisk, and we took it on in the hope that strength and spice might be sufficiently stabilizing influences, but although we expect an element of funky tartness in the Gale’s product line, salad vinegar is a different matter, indeed. There’ll be a refund, so in the end, it was an acceptable gamble.

Remember the Peanuts comic strips and Lucy always pulling the football away just as Charlie Brown attempts to kick it? Welcome to my wonderful world of annual wholesaler error in the form of North Vernon Beverage Co., Inc., and a Saturnalia scratch for Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale. Those of you reading who enjoyed drinking the nectar at Buckhead’s in Jeffersonville … well, see, those were OUR KEGS you were savoring. I hope they were good.

Meanwhile, proving that wholesalers also screw each other, and not only retailers, World Class Beverage (Indianapolis) did exactly what it was supposed to do and still came away empty handed. WCB sent a truck to Chicago to get multiple kegs of Young’s Winter Warmer that had been promised to it, but once there, was shorted, leaving none for us.

As for the beers that managed to make it through our doors and have been tapped for Saturnalia, I’m most pleasantly surprised by the Schmaltz He-Brew Jewbelation 5766, an ale I was determined not to like. It boasts nine malts and nine hops -- and 9% abv. Generally speaking, such made-for-PR beers are far too busy in terms of flavor, and yet the Jewbelation is an excellent, warming specialty ale, utterly indefinable in terms of style. I stand corrected.

From the field of American microbrewed Christmas ales, Anchor’s annual dark and spicy concoction always has been a great personal favorite, and it’s no exception in 2005.

The Belgian contingent fully displays its expected classiness, with two Dolle Brouwers ales worthy of mention. Dolle’s Special Extra Export Stout marries the expected rich roastiness and shadings of dry chocolate with the characteristic yeasty West Flanders funk, reminding us that the world’s most interesting Guinness is the Foreign Export Stout sold in the Low Countries.

My first pour of Dolle Stille Nacht provoked worry -- where was the usual burst of over-carbonated jet spray that I’ve come to expect from Dolle kegs? The hint of sour apple in the nose – should that be there? Was it spoiled or oxidized? The proof’s in the palate, and I needn’t have worried. With just a ripple of carbonation, this example of Stille Nacht (kegged in late 2004) is hearty, warming and almost mead-like in its honeyed elegance. Super, super example of the Belgian brewing craft.

Saturnalia’s lone German representative from Mahr’s of Bamberg offers a cleaner profile for those preferring a safer course. The UK’s Santa’s Butt quite possibly is the driest Porter I’ve ever tasted, while its companion, Seriously Bad Elf, might be best described as an Imperial Bitter, with excessive strength and a commensurate English hop bite to match.

All in all, it was a very satisfactory Friday, and of course the band plays on ‘til all the kegs are gone.

There was one other noteworthy glitch. You’ll figure it out soon enough.

Here are links to much appreciated media coverage:

Winter draft Rich O's has some heady brews on tap, by Susan Reigler (Courier-Journal Critic).

LEO’s tips, by Kevin Gibson.

Also, I was told that LEO’s Cary Stemle gave Saturnalia a nice tout on television, along with last evening’s musical performance at Destinations Booksellers in New Albany.

Thanks to everyone for your help in making these special events so enjoyable.

1 comment:

Mat Gerdenich said...

The Hebrew Jewbelation #9 is in deed an outstanding beer. The #8 was outstanding as well.

It will be a long wait until next year to see what Mr. Jeremy Cowan creates to celebrate the 10th anniversary of He'Brew Beer. Ten malts and ten hops???

Mat