12/26/18: Thirsty Dog Brewing Company's Barrel Aged 12 Dogs of Christmas

3:58 PM

Merry Christmas! Okay, I know Christmas was yesterday, but humor me; I was incredibly ill. But, I'm feeling better now (finally) and celebrating by nestling down with a very special ale.

You may recall exactly three years ago when I said that Thirsty Dog's 12 Dogs of Christmas was my favorite Christmas beer. Between then and now I've tried a lot of Christmas brews, only a portion of which have made it to the blog. Shockingly, 12 Dogs has remained my favorite; it's what I consider to be the pinnacle of the style, and is the beer of which I consume the most each November and December.



Tonight, I'm hoping to de-throne it. I've known that Thirsty Dog offers a Barrel Aged variant of the stuff for a while now (a place near me had, until early October this year, two giant $50 bottles of it) but I've never found it packaged in a way that was easy for me to purchase and consume. Until this year. That's right: Barrel Aged 12 Dogs of Christmas is back and in twelve-ounce bottles. I cannot wait to get my first taste of the stuff.

But first, let's talk about Thirsty Dog. According to their "About Our Beers" page, the Akron, OH-based company puts beer quality first and foremost. They use high-quality ingredients to make beers that appeal to palates that are neglected by American microbreweries.

Returning to the beer at hand, Barrel Aged 12 Dogs definitely follows that quality-favorign outlook. It clocks in at a sizeable 10.4% ABV. and is brewed with cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, honey, and a secret recipe from Old Saint Nick (which is, quite obviously, exactly what comprises regular 12 Dogs). Thirsty Dog's standard beer of Christmas wonder was then thrown into bourbon barrels for nearly a year. The result will, hopefully, be an extreme version of the beer I've come to enjoy every holiday season.

The initial aromatic note I'm getting from my bottle is oak--it's an enveloping characteristic here. Beyond that, I get the honey and the nutmeg, with a touch of the ginger. There isn't a big alcohol burn in the bouquet, nor do I find any cinnamon. All told, BA's 12 Dogs has the exact nose I expected it to have. I'm amazed. Purrl isn't--she gave it two whiffs and nothing more. I guess she's not much of a dog cat.


What I'm getting from the flavor is, similarly, exactly what I expected. The oak character returns, gracing my palate immediately upon my first swig. Once that dissipates, I find the flavors that fill a bottle of regular 12 Dogs: spicy Christmas goodness, i.e. nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, and honey. It tastes like a pie, a cookie, and a warming beverage all at once. Then, I get a touch of bourbon before the whole affair finishes and I find a boozy warmth lingering in my throat.

Digging into the mouthfeel, this dog has some bite. The carbonation is present and sharp, without being anything that could ever be called "fizzy." It compliments the beer fantastically, like it is always has, but even more so now with the oaky, booziness of this barrel aged version.

When I was a kid, I really liked building Gundam model kits (nerd as a kid, still a nerd now). I remember one Christmas I got a GP02 kit and spent hours constructing it in front of the TV as it played A Christmas Story on loop. It's a small recollection that, to some, may pale in comparison to an ale of BA 12 Dogs' caliber, but it's one of my fondest Christmas memories. I was happy my parents thought to get me the kit and I enjoyed building it in the company of my family.

I am incredibly happy with Barrel Aged 12 Dogs of Christmas. Thirsty Dog, somehow, found a way to improve upon a masterpiece. What I'd hoped for at the top of this post came to pass: This is now my favorite Christmas beer. The price may be daunting to some of you (this bottle was just about $7), but don't let that deter you from picking up some of this stuff. It is truly in that "highest possible recommendation" tier for me.

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