12/25/20: Thirsty Dog Brewing Company's 12 Dogs of Christmas Rum Barrel Aged

7:25 PM

Here we are, suddenly, on the other end of Christmas. Did you have a good one? Were you able to see your family, either safely-distanced in person or through some video chatting service? Was Santa kind to you? Regardless of how you spent the day (or if you celebrate it), I hope you had some fun. I hope that you got something nice, even/especially if you gave it to yourself.


Me? I had a good Christmas. I gave a lot of really great presents and got some of the best gifts I've ever received. It was a fun day, and I'm excited to settle in with tonight's beer, the final beer of the holiday season and the last one I'll be doing up on the blog in 2020. This beer took me by surprise--I found it by sheer luck in a local bottleshop. I didn't know it was releasing, nor did I know it even existed.

I'm pleased as punch to introduce you to Thirsty Dog's 12 Dogs of Christmas Rum Barrel Aged. 

Akron, OH's Thirsty Dog crafts small batch beer that's complex yet approachable. They put care into choosing their ingredients, striving to make beer that stands in stark contrast against homogeneous American macro beer. Here's their "About Our Beers" page if you want more information on why and what they brew. 

If you've been a reader of my blog for a bit, you'll know that I'm no stranger to 12 Dogs of Christmas. I drank the original here and the bourbon barrel aged variant here. Both are 10/10 offerings and ones that I look forward to drinking whenever I can.

Rum Barrel Aged 12 Dogs isn't present on Thirsty Dog's website, so, as always, we'll get our info from Untappd. Here it's listed as a 10.4% ABV rum barrel aged variant of 12 Dogs. That's it. My bottle doesn't have any additional details. Let's see what I can find through drinking it.

The nose on this thing is that classic 12 Dogs bouquet I've come to associate with Christmas--cinnamon, honey, nutmeg, allspice. You know, those standard, reliable holiday ale aromas. But this all takes a backseat to the rum barrel aging. It's raisins, burnt caramel, molasses, and oak, without a noticeable rum burn. I can also pick up on a bit of peach, which is a surprise for me. Lottie (I figured I'd get her in on this since, you know, she's a dog) can't get enough of the ale's nose; she gave it twenty-seven whiffs.


My first swig is classic 12 Dogs on the fore--the spice, the caramel, the bite of honey. It's all the deliciousness I know but, of course, with the rum barrel aging. The barrel itself's here with oak, raisin, and sugar. Honestly, it tastes a little like a rum and Coke in the finish, which I can get behind, and this is accompanied by the boozy warmth I hope to find in every single barrel-aged beer with this ABV. I'm happy to report that RBA 12 Dogs tastes as good as I'd expected.

There's not a lot of carbonation in the beer, meaning that it doesn't drink like any ale I've had. It's a little more of a light barleywine. By this I mean it's just effervescent enough to not be something I can describe as syrupy. I'm a little shocked by the lack of bubbles.

Since I'm drinking from a glass, let's talk a bit about how the ale looks. It's a little darker than the standard amber color of a pint of 12 Dogs. The rum barrel imparts a slight ruby hue, making the beer almost cranberry in color. As for the head, there is none. It was a white  finger when I initially poured the beer but that dissipated within seconds.

In undergrad, I used to go to liquor pitchers at a local bar with my buddies every Wednesday. During the warmer months, I'd get a whiskey sour. When winter rolled around, however, I'd switch to rum and Coke.

One year, we decided to have a Christmas takeover of the jukebox (this was before people could pay extra to have their song play next). We brought a $20 bill with us and loaded up a playlist of all the Christmas songs we found on the jukebox. This was a bar that we frequented by frat guys so, as you can expect, they weren't super happy. At one point, a guy walked up to the jukebox and exclaimed "It's all Christmas!" The bar cleared out early that night, and we had the place to ourselves (well, there were a few folks who hung around after catching the holiday spirit).

Thirsty Dog's 12 Dogs of Christmas is my favorite beer. So, whenever I encounter a new variant of it, my hype for it is through the roof. 12 Dogs Rum Barrel Aged is a mighty fine beer that doesn't quite live up to the lofty expectations--I was looking for a little more oak from the ale. I found, unexpectedly, a deep rum and Coke flavor (this grew the more I drank). Don't get me wrong--it's still a stellar beer (9.5/10 as far as I'm concerned), it just falls a hair short of the mark of perfection I'd set for it.

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