12/1/23: West Side Brewing's Holiday Ale

7:20 PM

It's now, officially, the holiday season here on the blog, folks. December 1st has finally rolled into town, bringing with it chilly weather, yuletide cheer, and dark evenings.

I (might, depending on illnesses on the home front) have a big Chirstmassy weekend lined up: hanging lights, getting and trimming the tree, piecing together a Christmas list, a maybe a little more present shopping. 

A can of Holiday Ale in front of a Days Until Christmas countdown sign, with "24" selected.

Despite all that, I'm making time tonight to do up the first Christmas beer post of 2023. I have a small smattering of holiday brews to discuss (Anchor went under, so their Christmas Ale will, for the first year since I started blogging, not be featured as there isn't one), so we might as well get started now! To start the season off (hopefully!) right, we're settling down with some Vince Guaraldi Trio and West Side's Holiday Ale.

West Side's located in Cincinnati's Westwood neighborhood. The brewery, which was first conceived in 2014, ran a successful Kickstarter campaign in 2017. Since, they've officially launched and have taken to putting out beers that I've come to enjoy. Case in point: Their mighty fine Oktoberfest-style lager.

Holiday Ale's listed as a 6.42% ABV amber ale that's brewed with Galaxy hops, orange peel, cinnamon, and ginger. It's presented as a malty and spicy (flavor, not heat) ale.

The nose on my can is definitely spicy; I'm finding the orange, the cinnamon, and the ginger, sure, but I'm also getting honey, biscuit, and toffee. There's also nutmeg, but that might just be my brain filling in the logical gap here. There's a touch of extra citrusiness from those Galaxy hops. Overall, yeah, Holiday Ale smells Chirstmassy enough! I like the bouquet, even though Háma only gave my can four whiffs.

Cat Háma sniffing my can of Holiday Ale.
This guy woke up just in time to smell the beer.
Those good malty flavors are the first to grace my palate, toffee and honey and caramel. Landing closely after these is the cinnamon, which is followed in short succession by the orange and the ginger. These latter flavors are what prevail strongest in my swig, lingering into the finish with the citrus (and almost peach) of the hops, only to be usurped by the honey and cinnamon again as it draws out to its conclusion; this is a long finish--it just keeps going and going, seemingly never stopping.

The ale's mouthfeel is just what I want. A little sharp, somewhat full. Really fitting for the spirit of the season.

Last weekend, Michelle, Lottie, our toddler, and I drove home from Michigan. We'd been up visiting family for Thanksgiving (and I picked up a beer that you might see around these parts this month). The day we left for home was cold and overcast and, shortly before we packed up our car and piled in, snow started falling. It didn't accumulate much, but it was the first real snow we'd seen this season and we were excited.

The first two or three hours of our drive were through the storm. It was gorgeous seeing the snow falling against the bare brown trees and tall evergreens. We queued up a bossa nova Christmas playlist and enjoyed the drive. This sole can is like that drive: calm and pleasant.

Look, I'll never say no to a West Side beer. I've liked everything I've had from them (and I'm hoping they'll do a pumpkin beer next year so I can drink/talk about it here). Their Holiday Ale gets an 8.5/10 from me. It's good stuff!

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