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Relax. Laugh. Drink Good Beer.

Tis the season for merriment and joy, or if you prefer, for rampant consumerism, non-stop parties, seasonal exhaustion, and over-spending.  Maybe a mixture of both.  However you approach the holidays (or however they approach you) I’d argue its good to lighten up a bit, not take yourself too seriously, and laugh once in awhile.  It’s especially helpful if you can laugh at yourself this time of year.  Didn’t get your kids that perfect present they wanted?  Oh well, they’ll be fine.  Didn’t make it to every party you were invited to or family gathering that was planned?  They’ll be fine too.  Didn’t bake as many holiday goodies as you hoped or get cards sent out or go on that perfect trip this year?  Hey, relax, sometimes things don’t work out as you planned.  At its best, this time of year celebrates what you do have as opposed to focusing on what you don’t.

The fine brewers at Lagunitas seem to have this concept figured out nicely, and they are able to laugh at themselves along the way.  Normally the seasonal beer for Lagunitas is their popular Brown Shugga Ale, but as they prepare for a new brewing facility early in 2012, they are brewing at capacity with their year-round beers.  A problem arose when they realized they didn’t have the time or space to brew Brown Shugga, which takes longer to make than most of their other beers.  So a few months ago when they realized this predicament, they decided to brew something else for the holidays as a substitute.  To poke fun of themselves for messing up, they called it “Lagunitas Sucks Holiday Ale.”

Whether I was feeling particularly Scroogish as I meandered my local Nugget this week I can’t really recall, but I was looking for a Holiday beer to review and this one caught my eye and made me laugh.  I approach seasonal beers this time of year with the same amount of fear and trepidation that I do a trip to the mall.  I generally dislike most versions of beer that “taste like Christmas.”  In other words, I don’t like beer with nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, or other holiday spices for the most part.  Still, I felt a holiday duty to review something seasonal, and this succeeded in making me chuckle in the store (much to the consternation of a few other beer shoppers who looked at me funny – hey, lighten up, its Christmas!) so in the cart it went.

There was nothing telling on the box about what this beer actually was, sort of like a wrapped Christmas present, but I assumed a holiday ale spoke for itself.  I had just reviewed Pliny the Elder, a double IPA, so I was looking for something completely different to review.  I’d hate to be labeled a Grinch who only drinks hoppy beer.  So, when this holiday ale poured a bright orange color I was taken aback, and when I sniffed it and the apricot, pine, citrus scents came to the fore, I felt like I had opened a Christmas present meant for someone else.  Wait!  This toy doll must be for my sister, not me!  Truthfully, I was rather excited to get this unexpected gift, sort of like that first Christmas.  Still I figured the coriander would make an appearance in there somewhere and ruin it, or rather, make it more holiday-esque.

It didn’t.  Calling this a holiday ale is a bit like wrapping up your cat and giving it to someone as a gift.  Neither make much sense, and the only thing that makes it a gift is that you wrapped it, like the only thing that makes this a holiday ale is the time of year it was brewed.  In truth, Lagunitas needed to brew something more in line with the timeline of their other beers, and this cereal medley extensively dry hopped beer was just the ticket.  It drinks an awful lot like their other hoppy beers, but is a lovely addition.  In no way, shape, or form does this taste like Christmas, which is maybe for the best depending on how you feel about such things.  Considering the amount of hops used, I’d expect it to be more bitter but it carries it well and has a sweetness to balance it out.  I wouldn’t call it too sweet, however, but it might be that the level of sugary treats in my house this time of year has warped my pallet.  Hard to say.  It was a delightful beer that was nicely balanced all around.  I’m not sure what their template was for it, but you get the feeling they took one of their other recipes and just dry hopped it to change it up a bit.  It tastes much, much different from their normal Double IPA – the Maximus – even though the style is similar.  Whatever they’ve done, I liked it and wouldn’t mind it a bit if they kept brewing this.  At the price however, there are better versions out there.  Still, this is worth a try if you are a hop-head.

As I mentioned, the idea was to review something much different from my last beer, when in fact what I received was very similar.  Alas, I suppose I could have panicked, headed back to the Nugget and got something that tasted more holiday, but then I wouldn’t be able to laugh at myself for messing up.  And then I wouldn’t have enjoyed the unexpected gift either.  The beer is a limited release so you won’t see much of it come January.  If you are interested in a taste you better make your move.  Grab a six pack, put the sugared-up spoiled kids to bed, kick the relatives out of the house, take a deep breath, relax and enjoy.  You’ll be glad you did.



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