Top 10 Christmas Beers from Vecenie Distributing Company

Top 10 Christmas Beers from Vecenie Distributing Company                 by:  Rick Perrotta

Tony “The Beerman” from Vecenie Distributing wishes everyone a Beery Christmas & Hoppy Holidays!

Tony is (proclaimed mostly by him) the local go-to craft beer guy. His short bio .. national accredited beer judge with the BJCP, conductor of Beer School for the Pgh. Cultural Trust, teacher of a yearly beer seminar at the University of Pittsburgh & past/present member of TRASH, the oldest local home brewing club. Currently he is Specialty Brand Manager for Vecenie Distributing Co.

Here is his “Top Ten Winter Beers List”. Unlike David Letterman’s, Tony’s is in alphabetical order by brewery.

Anderson Valley – Winter Solstice

The brewers at Anderson Valley have been plying their trade for decades and their well-honed craftsmanship is on full display with this fabulously balanced winter warmer. The beer pours a translucent copper accompanied by a thick, creamy head and the aroma of molasses and pecans. At the outset, the Winter Solstice tastes strongly of malts, caramel, and nuts. The finish is smooth as silk. A hint of spice really brings this beer to life and makes it a perfect pairing for deserts. At 6.9% ABV, it’s strong enough to create that nice warming sensation associated with the style but just light enough that drinkers can enjoy multiple offerings.

Bell’s – Double Cream Stout

Beer lovers need to put this dark, malty stout at the top of their wish list. Many beers are dark, but this one is pitch black, with a coffee colored head that has great retention. This goes for any good beer, but make sure to pour the Double Cream Stout into a pint glass to fully appreciate its cosmetic value. According to the label, which features a stark picture of leafless, winter branches on a white background, this beer is made from 10 different malts and it shows in the complex flavor. Coffee and chocolate abound, but there are also hints of toffee, spices, and raisins. Letting it warm a little will reveal its hoppy character as well.

Bell’s –Winter White

The good people at Bell’s have made the list twice! This wheat beer is made from a Belgian yeast strain and, surprisingly, considering its sharp character, no spices. It pours a wonderfully cloudy golden-straw color and carries a thick white head. The Winter White comes with a moderate amount of carbonation which makes it very refreshing and helps bring out the flavors of tart apple and even some subtle banana.

East End – Snow Melt

Most readers are probably already familiar with East End Brewing Company as it resides right here in Pittsburgh and has a well-deserved reputation for brewing quality beers, including the perennial favorite Big Hop IPA. Their seasonal winter beer, the Snow Melt Winter Ale, pours chestnut brown and is topped with a very attractive foamy white head. Taste wise it’s a mix of toffee, malts, and piney hops. The body is reminiscent of English porters but with a touch more carbonation. Very smooth and very drinkable.

Erie Brewing – Ol’ Red

The label for Ol’ Red reads, “Inspired by the long arm of the law,” and indeed, this beer packs quite a punch. Pours a deep reddish brown. The taste and smell is a nicely balanced mix of spices, oak, fruits, and caramel. The Ol’ Red is very powerful up front, but has a smooth finish that makes it easy to drink even considering the 10.1% ABV.

Heavy Seas – Winter Storm

Pours a dark red color with a thick, creamy head. Carries the aroma of butterscotch and caramel. Like many of the Heavy Seas varieties, the Winter Storm has a very well-balanced, complex flavor featuring hops and malts almost evenly. Do not serve this one too cold, as the flavor really comes to life as it warms, revealing hints of toffee and brown sugar.

Lancaster – Winter Warmer

Pours an immaculate red mahogany, with a tan head featuring tight lacing. Evident is the aroma of plums, raisins, and homemade bread. The smooth feel and moderate carbonation help to balance out the 8.9% ABV. The flavor is a complex blend of English and American hops. You can feel good about this one long after it’s gone as well – proceeds help support the wolf sanctuary of Pennsylvania.

Stone Brewing- Double Bastard Ale

What can be said? One of the best beers in the world from one of America’s finest breweries. The Double Bastard, a stronger, sweeter version of Stone’s famed Arrogant Bastard, pours a deep red-amber with a creamy, off-white head. It smells and tastes strongly of caramel and hoppy bitterness. Initially sweet, tasting of burnt sugar, with a warming sensation on the back-end that goes on forever. Incredibly well-balanced with moderate carbonation, and smooth like honey.  Complete with their trademark verbose write-up on the back of the bottle, this beer is a pleasure in every regard, from packaging, to pouring, to of course drinking. At 11.2% ABV, feel free to take your time and savor the “liquid glory.”

Victory Brewing – Old Horizontal (now in 22oz “beer to share” bottles)

Wow. Talk about a beer that lives up to its name! Drinkers who aren’t careful are sure to end up horizontal, thanks to the 11.0% ABV. It tastes of chocolate, caramel, and honey, and the body is downright chewy. It is so sweet it is a desert unto itself, and what a desert it is. Old Horizontal is definitely a sipping beer, and is perfect for the cold winter months. Enjoy this now or buy a bottle and let it sit for a year.

Wolavers Organic – Alta Gracia Coffee Porter

Wolaver’s is the premier brewer of organic beers, and they bring the same exquisite level of detail to the Alta Gracia Coffee Porter as they do their other styles. Pouring almost black, with a thick, creamy colored head, this beer is a wonderfully complex blend of chocolate, vanilla, caramel, nuts, and of course, coffee, that is not overpowered by any one flavor. Coffee drinkers and beer drinkers alike will enjoy this terrific porter.