Well, it’s officially Christmas, which means it’s time for Christmas beer. I could try to taste them all (and I’m not saying I won’t try), or I can have one that is a LOT of beer. For the moment, I chose the latter option.
That’s Lakefront Brewery’s Holiday Spice Lager. And it’s good, but it’s not perfect. Although, part of that may have to do with my (rather recent) discovery that the iteration I found at the store was their previous recipe (from 2011). They have apparently changed it since.
The biggest different, at least going by the information on my bottle, and the information on their new label, is the omission of nutmeg. Hopefully they ramped down the clove as well.
But here’s how this one turned out:
Appearance: (5/5) This beer looks like Christmas. A finger and a half of white, relatively thin head rises atop, but then slowly recedes to nothing. No lacing down the glass to speak of, but then, with the alcohol content this beer has (Holy 11% ABV, Batman!), you wouldn’t expect otherwise. The beer pours a beautiful, coppery-red.
Aroma: (4.5/5) Okay…this beer smells like Christmas. With the 11% ABV, you’d think the first thing to sting your nose would be the alcohol. Surprisingly (or not), the first thing that hits your nose is the clove. That gets followed closely by the orange and cinnamon. Getting a little nutmeg, but it gets easily lost behind the clove. I may just pour one of these in a potpourri crock on Christmas morning. No…I don’t have a potpourri crock.
Taste: (4/5) Okay, unsurprisingly, this beer tastes like Christmas. Maybe a little too much like Christmas. You get the sweetness from the honey, and you get the clove and cinnamon spice. But the cinnamon…isn’t quite right. It’s cassia. It’s very intense. Almost like Atomic Fireball candy. Part of that may be the alcohol, though. It’s a lager-style Winter Warmer, as Lakefront mentions. But you don’t get the burn of alcohol, but you certainly do get an alcohol-ish warmth. Overall, very tasty, but very intense.
Drinkability/Mouthfeel: (3/5) This is this beer’s Achilles’ Heel. It’s so tasty, so intense, so spicy, and so warm (via the alcohol), that you can only have one at a sitting. The mouthfeel is appropriately substantial. About like a bock. So it’s very smooth in that regard. But it’s such a big beer, and a spicy beer, that it’s best as a nightcap or one to share a bottle among friends on a cold night. I tried two in one night. Had to really work the last half down, it was just so much.
Design: (3.5/5) As I’d mentioned in previous Pro Brew posts, I like to know what I’m drinking. More accurately, I like to know who’s stuff I’m drinking (so I know how to find their other stuff when I like what I’m drinking). Lakefront makes brilliant beer, but their design is terrible in this regard. Their brewery logo blends right into the rest of the label, almost making you think you’re drinking some generic, or rookie’s “Holiday Spice Lager Beer.” I like how they tell me what they used to make it a holiday beer in the center of the wreath, but the typography is a little thoughtless, especially how the wording bumps up against the wreath itself in the corners. Yes, it looks Christmasy, and I’ve seen worse, but I’ve seen much, much better.
Overall: (20/25) When I had my first one of these, I didn’t think it would do as well as it did. But Lakefront’s Holiday Spice Lager grew on me. But it has some growing of its own to do. As much as one would think it’s impossible, this beer is a little too much Christmas. It looks beautiful, it smells great, it tastes great…until you get to the end of one. Then you’re ready for something else. Or, depending on your alcohol tolerance, you may just be ready for bed! But then…isn’t that the point of a big beer like this?