7/25/20: Christmas in July! (Illuminated Beer Works' War on Xmas)

10:39 AM

Can you believe it's finally Christmas in July? 2020's been a whirlwind of a ton of different stuff but at least it's all going by super quickly. Today, though, is a day for me to slow down. I'm celebrating the day with a beer. Tonight, I'll be watching a Christmas movie, listening to some Christmas records, and breaking into one more Christmas brew. If you want to see what that second beer is, you'll have to follow along on my Untappd.


But, I can get into a bit about today's first Christmas beer now. In fact, I'll give you a whole post about it. Sure, the temperature might be pushing 90° right now, but I'm happy to be out on the porch with a beer I remembered to grab in February before it was all sold out. That beer, by the way, is Illuminated Beer Works' War on Xmas, a spiced holiday stout. Again, it's nearly 90°.

Illuminated Beer Works (I'll be referring to them as IBW for the rest of this post) is based out of Chicago, IL. According to "The Cult" page on their website, they focus on artisanal urban farmhouse-style beers that change with the seasons. Today's beer is definitely a seasonal.

War on Xmas' official writeup, which can be found toward the bottom of IBW's "Tart, Sour, Dark & Wild" page, is an 11% ABV white egg nog milk stout. It's thick, with a richly textured body that boasts accents of nutmeg, Vietnamese cassia bark cinnamon, and Indonesian vanilla beans.

You know what? Despite the heat today, the stout's description alone gets me excited for the beer.

Let's get into the bouquet. Taking my first whiff and, thankfully, this smells like Christmas. I get the cinnamon, the nutmeg, and the vanilla. I'm also picking up a woody quality. Not necessarily oak, more akin to fresh sawdust; it definitely gives the stout a hearty, earthy backbone. While War on Xmas doesn't eggactly have that creamy, almost minty quality I relish in my favorite nogs, it's sweet and full of yuletide cheer.

The whole of the stout's still in my can and, if I didn't know better, I'd never guess it was a white one. The nose on this is big and bold, with all the roasty goodness you'd want from the style. While I'm obviously a big fan of the stout's aromatics, Purrl only gave my can two whiffs. Guess it's not for her. Her loss.


While I couldn't find the booze in the stout's bouquet (you'll note I didn't mention it above at all), it's here in force in the flavor profile. That 11% had to show up somewhere, right? But I'm getting ahead of myself. The first flavors I'm hit with on my swig are vanilla and malty, milk sugary sweetness. There're toffee and caramel here, too. There's a bite of spice from the nutmeg, but I'm not getting much cinnamon. Then, after I finish my swig, the alcohol makes it appearance. Hoo, boy, does it show up. But that's not the final thing the beer has to say. See, War on Xmas has a long finish and there, at the far end of it all, I get boozy eggnog. Think nog that's been garnished with bourbon. It's damn near perfect.

Before moving on from this portion, I should tell you that I can now believe that this is a white stout. Its bold and brash, sure, but that good roasted coffee quality I seek out in stout is absent. This is because white stouts don't really use many roasted malts, which is fine. It wouldn't be the style otherwise.

Okay, mouthfeel time. Velvety smooth. Full. Eggnog-like. Absolutely fitting for the beer itself.

Now, I know I don't usually do a bit where I discuss how a beer looks (it defeats the whole "straight from the bottle" spin of this blog), but this is a white stout and I'm genuinely curious as to how it looks. So, for the second time this month--I promise this won't become a habit!--I'm pouring a bit into a snifter.


Wouldn't you know? That's a white stout. Cloudy amber with a small head that doesn't have much retention. Yep. That's how War on Xmas looks.

I have a lot of winter memories. But, lately, when I think about winter a single image comes to mind: During January of 2019 we got a pretty good snowstorm where we live. Luckily, it was on a day that I had off from work, so I didn't have to sweat heading out and shoveling the drive before hopping in the car and hopping the roads were clear and salted.

No, I got to enjoy the day. I raised the blinds on our living room window, brewed some coffee, and started a fire in our stove. I sat back on the couch and watched the snow fall in big, fluffy flakes that contrasted beautifully against the gray sky and dark brown of the wintry trees. Sure, I cracked into a dark sour ale after I'd finished my coffee.

That was a perfectly warm way to pass that winter morning, and that's exactly what I'm recalling as I sit on my porch enjoying this white stout on this blazing hot day. Is it a particularly Christmassy memory? No, but it's what I have.

What a great Christmas in July. This year's been pretty shitty, as I'm sure I've mentioned on the blog a time or two before this post. But, today's definitely a highlight. Like I said, as the sun sets, I'll throw a Christmas record or twon onto my turntable and break into my last Christmas ale saved from holiday season 2019. I'm glad I remembered to grab a War on Xmas four-pack in February--it's helping me to savor the day. I'll just get to the point, here: Illuminated Beer Works' War on Xmas is a phenomenally Christmassy white stout. I'm talking 9.5/10 phenomenal. Grab it this year if you see it.

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