7/25/19: Christmas in July! (Rockmill Brewery's Holiday Ale)

1:18 PM

You never if you'll be lucky enough to find a Christmas beer on store shelves when Christmas in July rolls around. Sometimes, my luck holds out and I'm able to nab a wintry-spiced bottle amongst the sweltry July days but, last December, I made a snap judgement to not push it.

So, when was collecting the final beers for my big 2018 Christmas Blow-Out, I picked up an extra bottle: Holiday Ale from Rockmill Brewery. One glance at its ABV told me it'd keep for a good while and I squirreled it away in a cool, dark place for today.

Wouldn't you know, the bottleshop I grabbed this from still has two bottles of it on the shelves! Maybe if this is good enough, I'll go back for another one and keep it for next year's Christmas in July post. Let's find out if this is a likelihood, shall we?

Rockmill, based in Lancaster, OH, has only one written bit of information on their website: They're housed upon a former horse farm. There is, however, an embedded YouTube video that goes a little more into the place behind today's beer. Mathew Barbee, the owner/brewer, is incredibly inspired by Belgian ales. He adds an sugar to the boil of each and every brew (a Belgian technique) to help enhance the mouthfeel. Also a cool thing to note is that Rockmill beer is brewed with water from the brewery's property--seems like they keep their process in-house as much as possible.

Most of the information I need on Holiday Ale can be found on my bottle: It's a 9% ABV abbey ale brewed with spices. The back label lists those spice-like ingredients as Vietnamese cinnamon, orange-infused candi sugar, and cacao nibs. It's Untappd page lists the beer as strong, woodsy, dark, and dry.

The stuff in my bottle has a fantastic abbey ale bouquet: strong, dark, dry, woody. There's some banana and clove. I'm picking up on the orange and a bit of the cinnamon, but I can't find the cacao. There's also an earthy quality to it that, in a way, grounds it. Henrietta, the cat most near when I popped the cork, stuck around long enough to give it twelve super-quick whiffs. I'm guessing that means she thinks it's interesting, but not interesting in a way that would hold her attention for very long.

She's in that awkward stage of kittenhood right now.
I have to say, I'm impressed with how tempered the booziness is in the 9% ale. When I take a swig it's on the fringes of what I'm tasting, but it doesn't detract from the rest of the beer. Long in the finish, it has a warming sensation that's definitely attributable to the alcohol content but, really, that's about it. As for the other flavors, I'm finding, without issue, the orange and the cinnamon. I'm finding that dark, woodsy abbey ale backbone. I'm getting a little clove from the yeast. And, immediately upon swallowing, I find the cacao, lending a strong unsweetened chocolate note that serves as the bow wrapping the beer's flavor.

There's a lot of carbonation to be found here (the bottle's a gusher). It's big and prominent. Yet, it's reminding me of the way snow piles up outside my windows on those long winter nights. You know, the kind where you look outside when it's dark and see it in the orangey glow of the streetlights. That's what the mouthfeel is.

When I was a kid my family lived in-town before moving out to the country. One year (I must've been in 4th or 5th grade) we got a lot of snow. All the kids in the neighborhood realized that the snowplows were pushing all of the snow to the end of one street into a single giant snowmound. We claimed that mound as our own.

We turned the thing into a giant snow fort. We had a massive snowball fight. We spent a good chunk of time playing king of the hill and trying to push each other off the top. By the end of that first day, our parents realized what was happening and the snowmound was labeled off-limits. But, damn, that day we had with our found fort was fun.

This is my first Rockmill offering and I'm impressed. This ale gets a solid 9.0/10 from me. It's officially put Rockmill on my map and it's bringing a little Christmas to this awfully hot July day. Tomorrow, I'm heading back to my bottleshop to nab another one.

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