In today's BiR, I'll be discussing a Flemish Red from a small California-based brewery, as well as TWO years' varieties of a Christmas beer from a Hershey, PA brewery.
Starting, though, with Lost Abbey, a contract Belgian/Abbey-style brewery that works with San Marcos, California's Port Brewing Company. I had Red Poppy, a Flanders-style Red Ale that is based in their Brown ale that is then aged in oak barrels with sour cherries. The cherries come through as the primary piece of the flavor profile, which also includes just a bit of funkiness at the very end of the drinking experience. Red Poppy comes heavily carbonated, resulting in an effervescent mouthfeel. To me, this was an enjoyable Flanders Red, though not the best I've had.
While in Pennsylvania over the holidays, I had the opportunity to revisit Troegs Independent Brewing for the first time in a few year. For this review, I'll be discussing their Christmas seasonal Mad Elf, which they had in both the current 2016 and year-old 2015 varieties in their tasting room.
The 2016 Mad Elf is a mighty ale brewed with honey and cherries, and it has a massive 11% ABV. Many standard fall and winter spices, including cinnamon, clove, and all spice, are used in this beer along with the honey and cherries, and there's even a little bit of cocoa used in the recipe. You'll find all of those flavors in an intense, boozy, spicy ale that pours a ruby-to-copper color. It is truly a terrific ale, though that boozy note can get a bit overwhelming.
In the 2015 Mad Elf, that boozy note has been cut down significantly (though kicks back up a bit as it warms), turning this into a magnificent tasting experience. The 2015 still brings plenty of cherries, but the cocoa that was used but not that present in the 2016 really comes forward. The fall and winter spices are still present, especially the clove and all spice notes. But that spiciness has also cut down a significant amount. In fact, as great as the 2016 vintage is, the overall mellowness of the 2015 made for a much greater drinking experience for me. I expect that if you are used to a lot of high-gravity, high alcohol beers, the 2016 will be just as terrific.
Both are truly great offerings from Troegs.