Moerlein Christkindl Winter Warmer Ale

One brother glues antlers to bottle and makes some genuinely entertaining bottles filled with entertaining beer. The other brother gives me cans filled with entertaining beer. Honestly, I appreciate them both equally. After all, I clearly like trying new beers, and these guys are contributing to the cause.

The deep ruby colored beer has very little head, and what it has goes away entirely. A few faint bubbles around the rim are all that remain, but that lets the aroma come through a bit better. That aroma is spices above dark fruits and earth; chocolate and sweet malt are laying the groundwork for this effort.

First sip is solid; coffee, chocolate, spices, and a definite earth are all heavy-feeling tastes that this is loaded down with. It's nice, but it's not smooth, dry, or otherwise easy to define. It's so stiff that the spices on top of it seem almost to belong to a different beverage. The earth and coffee and chocolate are really solid and deep while the spices are rea…

Sweetwater Festive Ale

Sweetwater has been kind of all over the place. They haven't had any real stinkers, but their best standout... actually, it was really good. What the hell am I thinking? My brother wouldn't steer me wrong (much like he wouldn't disappoint me by giving me bottles that didn't have antlers at X-mas).

So brown that it has turned black, the beer has a head with an off-white hue made from many tiny bubbles and a few big ones. It attempts to make some lacing on the sides of the glass, but it's failing pretty miserably. The aroma is smoky chocolate with a mocha bend. The spices are light and barely perceptible.

First sip is a lot heavier with the coffee than the aroma let me know. The chocolate is dark and bitter, and it intermingles with the coffee and smoked oats. I don't know where the spices are, but I might have been taken off-guard by the coffee. I'm not a coffee fan; this isn't enough to ruin the beer, but it's not welcome.

Tip-in is sweet and vanill…

Boulevard Snow & Tell Scotch Ale

Yup, it's another beer from my brother with antlers inexplicably glued on it. Look, it may not look great for the picture, but I like that my brother went through the effort to glue the little googly eyes on the beer with that stupid, beautiful shiny nose. So, a Boulevard has this decoration, and they were on my "naughty" list, when I had my first, but they have bounced back, so this might be very good.

The very dark amber beer is liberal with its head, but it's not too much to handle. The tight bubbles nestle nicely on the top of the beer like a sweet little mattress. Speaking of sweet - the brown sugar, molasses, and syrup sweetness is carried right over to me from a foot away, and I'm also digging the oaky addition at the outskirts of the smell.

First sip is smooth, but the end has an oak dryness to it that doesn't let go in a hurry. I can definitely taste the brown sugar and molasses, and there is some vanilla added for brightness. Still, that oak finish …

Great Lakes Christmas Ale

The only other beer I've had from Great Lakes was their amber, and I liked it very much. I'm going through the Christmas beers that my brother stuck reindeer antlers and faces on before giving to me; This one is from his current home state of Ohio. So, let's see if he picked me out a good one.

This surprisingly clear copper beer didn't have much head from the get-go, but what little head I coaxed out is fluffy enough, and it never really goes completely away. The aroma is sweet with spices and honey (just like it says on the label) with very little thought given to the hops. The spices are prickly, but I'm not getting a bite of floral or citrus hops that I might come to expect. I don't even think I smell pine.

First sip makes me forget all of the worries I had about there not being hops in here. No, hops are not forward, but they do seem to be backing up a very nice warmly spiced malt with that sweet honey bringing up the rear beside the hops. The hops are defi…

Brooklyn Winter Lager

Brooklyn has given me some good performances in the past, and - as you can see - my brother hooked me up with the festively-decorated bottle. So, this one is another one that is classified as a winter beer, but this is a lager. How will it do against the ale I had last time?

The dark brown beer has a good amount of head that fizzles down to a quarter inch or so of foam that makes the whole festive countenance of the beer seem more like a party. The aroma is roasted grains, bitter dark chocolate, and alcohol just nestled into the warm rug of malt.

First sip is the roasted grains joining coffee grounds and vanilla. The sip isn't particularly bad, even for someone like me who doesn't like coffee. It seems like it has a lot of carbonation, and that's making me burp a bit just from the sip. Odd.

Tip-in is mild carbonation tingle with the roasted grains and a caramel malt mixed with some earth under it. The middle widens to include more grains, some dark fruit, and that's ab…

Abita Christmas Ale

It's that time year again. My brother furnished me with a few of these reindeer–inspired beers. I think this year they are all some kind of Christmas ale or winter warmer, but I wound up labeling this here as a brown ale, as that's what their website says. They cover their bets and also call it a dark ale, so they're getting two labels. This particular beer sparked my interest, as Abita has not really inspired me in the past, but this is just the kind of niche that might be their breakout hit.

Well, they call this a brown ale, but it has more of a mahogany look to it. The head is thick with this one, and it sticks around for a while. Even after it is left to settle, the foam is like a sponge sitting on top; I'm kinda digging it. It's got a sweet, bready malt aroma with maybe some brown sugar and a hint of the mahogany that is coloring it. I can tell you it certainly smells intriguing.

First sip is a little rough. These Christmas ales tend to have a rather stoic per…

Southern Grist Loud Whisper Pale Ale

Is it wrong that I now think of any beer below 6.5% ABV as kind of quaint and pedestrian? Well, no small brewery in Nashville should be considered pedestrian. I've run into so many that are really outstanding that above average is the new norm. Does that mean the average raises? I'm not here to do math, so no.

The pale yellow beer is misty and has a nice, thick white head that leaves more lacing than you might expect, but it's not like IPA-level lacing. The aroma is dank citrus and wheat. I expected a bit of pine, but I really can't smell much past the citrus and faint grains. Maybe wheat was the wrong word, and I should stick with grains - it's definitely a grainy smell, but when you get right down to it, is there a big difference between wheat smell and barley smell?

First sip is lemon zest with oranges, tangerines, and grapefruit backing it up. The grains assert as wheat (kind of disappointing after my whole "wheat v barley" tangent). It's a simple…