By: Matt Kenevan
When I was a kid running around Beaver Dam, I imagined the year 2015 would look like The Jetsons – a space-age utopian life where everything was made easy. With the push of a button, George and Jane Jetson or Rosie the Robot could do or make anything in mere seconds, creating all the time in the world for family and leisure. Sure, we’re not driving personal spacecrafts (though the Pope Mobile resembles the Jetson aerocar), but in a lot of ways we’re almost there: The Future. Video communication with people across the globe is as easy as opening FaceTime or Skype apps. We have 3D printers, robots that do surgery, and self-driving cars. Technology is allowing us to accomplish daily tasks at lightning speeds, but this hasn’t necessarily translated to more free time for family and leisure.
Thankfully, the holidays bring with them an old-fashioned sense of tradition that lets us unplug. As busy and hectic as modern times may be, it’s the one time of year that still has the power to make time stand still for a minute while watching the first snowfall, to gather with family and friends, and share cookies made the old-fashioned way.
In many respects, seasonal craft beers are similar to those holiday cookie recipes. One would not bring Chips Ahoy or Oreos to a holiday party. Not because there’s anything wrong with those cookies, but because they’re just not special enough for the occasion. There is a story to tell with each tradition of baking cookies. There are special ingredients and techniques in making them turn out well. There is a pride in sharing them. It’s the same with craft beer. Winter seasonals are very different from the year-round beers. They feature spices and flavors that would not be found in year-round beers: pumpkin, nutmeg, coffee, toffee, chocolate, or molasses. Instead of refreshing and light, they’re rich and robust. And there’s tradition – many a winter beer style recipe originates back to the “old country.”
If baking the perfect holiday cookies or fruitcake isn’t in your wheelhouse, we here at The Beer Dabbler hereby give you permission and encouragement to bring the gift of a nice winter seasonal beer to holiday gatherings as a socially acceptable substitute. There is a huge selection of winter seasonals out in the market. Some of the Wisconsin standards include Capital Brewery Winter Skål, Central Waters Bourbon Barrel Stout, Lakefront Brewery Holiday Spice Lager, New Glarus Cabin Fever, and Stevens Point’s St. Benedict’s Winter Ale. Of course, nearly every brewery in Wisconsin has a winter seasonal, so choose yours according to your personal criteria. Always pay attention to ABV; some winter seasonals are sneaky high in alcohol. Bring some two- to four-ounce tasting glasses so that friends and family can taste a variety without getting schnockered.
Getting back to the future… It has been such an honor and delight to write for LocaLeben magazine these past couple of years! The beer business is booming and my business has grown three times in size of what it was two years ago. Since I don’t yet have the capability to push a button and automate everything, I am going to hand off this column for somebody else to take a turn at writing about beer, but I may come back from time to time as a guest columnist. Until then, keep up the good work in exploring craft beer.