As I write this, there are only 10 shopping days until Christmas. Sometimes I wish I were one of those hipsters who didn’t give a crap about Christmas, you know, because of the commercialism and the general hipster disregard of most traditions and what not. Think about how easy it would be to skate through the holidays without giving a shit. Just knit a few scarves and call it a day. Alas, I love Christmas. I love everything about it. The crowds, the decorations, the shopping, the food, the cheesy holiday specials on TV…So when my kids decided it was finally time to decorate the tree, my wife turned up the Rat Pack Christmas album and I pulled a Christmas beer from the fridge: Indeed Old Friend, a holiday ale brewed with honey and ginger root.
This particular beer didn’t make it in time for our massive holiday beer blind tasting, but I think it would’ve faired pretty well, even though it doesn’t hit you over the head with Yuletide cheer. Like most people, I have certain expectations of Christmas beers. Years of conditioning have told me that they should taste like boozy candy canes and gingerbread cookies. It’s an over-simplification that’s happily disproven by nuanced beers like this one.
Old Friend pours dark cherry with a solid head and smells vaguely of honey, which is one of those odd adjuncts that can either be overwhelming and take over the beer, or get lost entirely. When I first dug into Old Friend, I thought the beer leaned towards the latter scenario. It took me a few sips before I even found the honey, but once I discovered it, the honey influenced every aspect of the sip, from the mouthfeel (which moves from chalky to slippery from the beginning of the sip to the end), to the aftertaste, where the honey lingers long after every other aspect of the beer has dissipated. There are also notes of milk chocolate and raisin, but the honey’s the thing in Old Friend.
That’s not to say this is an overly sweet beer. The honey adds more of a richness than anything sugary, and the ginger root is there to give the malt backbone a bit of an edge. I could’ve used a bit more ginger—a layer of spice would’ve been interesting—but overall, it’s a well-balanced take on the holiday ale that offers an interesting twist on the style.
Brewery: Indeed Brewing
City: Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Style: Holiday Ale
Availability: 22 ounce bottles, seasonal