First Draft columnist Collin Castore says the brew has malt and spice complexity.
With the Great Lakes Brewing Co.'s ubiquitous Christmas Ale arriving on shelves this week it seemed like a fine time to highlight another Christmas Ale that is every bit as tasty and a lot closer to home – Barley's Christmas Ale.
Beers, meads and ciders, which contained sugar, ginger, nutmeg and cinnamon, originated in England in the Middle Ages. These "wassails" were drunk in the winter months to ensure a good cider apple harvest the following year. It's hard to pinpoint the exact moment when this style began to translate into American craft brewing as "Christmas" ale but beers that contained some form of holiday spice started showing up in the early 1990s.
The first Barley's Christmas Ale was brewed in November 1993 to celebrate the brewery's first anniversary. The recipe has been slightly refined but remains largely unchanged since those early days, brew master Angelo Signorino says.
A British pale malt base gets organic black locust honey, fresh Chinese white ginger, orange peel and cinnamon to create a rich golden copper ale where malt and spice complexity take the reins rather than hops or yeast.
Many regional craft breweries produce and bottle one or two batches of beer to last throughout the entire holiday season, but Barley's brews its Christmas Ale weekly. It is available on draft at each Barley's location in the Short North and Grandview Heights area, and at other beer bars and restaurants across town.
Prices hadn't been confirmed as of this writing, but it will cost around $5.50 a pint.
Barley's will celebrate its 21st anniversary and tap its annual batch of Christmas Ale at 8:30 p.m. Nov. 8 at the downtown location, 467 N. High St. I encourage everyone to take the time to try this fresh local brew. You just might find a new favorite.
Collin Castore is a founding partner of Bodega, Barrel & Bottle and Seventh Son Brewing Co.