For some, this year’s best meal came after Thanksgiving—and it came in a five-ounce glass.
It was a veritable feast of flavors at West Point Market’s fourth annual Christmas Ale tasting Nov. 28 — a smorgasbord of more than 30 mouth-watering and belly-filling beers from some of the best domestic and foreign breweries.
The menu ran the gamut, from sugar to spice to everything in between — from the lighter, fruity fare of Leinenkugel Brewing Company’s Cranberry Ginger Shandy, to Great Lakes Brewing Company’s dark-as-night Blackout Stout.
“This is the not-to-be-missed, quiet event of the year,” says Todd Lewis, a man from Cleveland attending the event for the third year in a row.
He was one of more than 200 people who raised their glasses in gratitude to the gift that — glass after glass — kept on giving from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. at the specialty grocery store on West Market Street.
“We sell it out every year,” says Rick Vernon, owner of West Point Market, adding that the entire menu of samples can be purchased in the store.
Live jazz was provided by the Josh Rzepka Trio. House-made pepperoni and vegetable pizzas, mini Cuban sandwiches, and cheeses were served as appetizers to a heartier main course — a ten-table buffet of ales, IPAs, Belgians and stouts.
Cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and honey made the most frequent appearances in this carnival of spices, most notably in the local classics, Thirsty Dog Brewing Company’s 12 Dogs of Christmas and Great Lakes’ Christmas Ale, which customer Alyssa Mowery (Akron), calls “the standard by which all other Christmas ales are judged.”
While Fat Head’s Brewery’s Holly Jolly Christmas Ale, Hoppin’ Frog Brewery’s Frosted Frog Christmas Ale and Southern Tier Brewing Company’s 2Xmas amplified these staple spices, other seasonal ales, such as those from Bell’s Brewery, Avery Brewing Co. and Breckenridge Brewery, tasted instead of malt, mocha, toffee, caramel and chocolate.
Some of the more colorful concoctions included Revolution Brewing’s Fistmas and Sixpoint Brewery’s Global Warmer, both of them bright, citrusy, hoppy red ales, as well as Spoetzl Brewery’s Shiner’s Cheer, a wheat beer with peach, pecan and hints of chocolate.
“It’s original and refreshing,” says Jonathan Emerson (Akron), as he swirled the aromatic Shiner’s Cheer in his glass. “These are holiday flavors that other beers don’t capitalize on.”
For those preferring a more potent potation, Elevator Brewery’s Horus, a barrel-aged imperial red ale, packed a wallop of complex flavor.
“It’s like a mouthful of premium dried apricots and raisins, with bourbon,” Mowery says.
“I can’t even finish this,” says Tim Stephens, Mowery’s fiancé. “It’s such a heavy, complicated beer. I could write a thesis on this.”
Some of the most popular offerings were the rich and creamy Beligan imports from Corsendonk and St. Bernardus Brewery, which Andrew Emerson, Jonathan’s brother, described as “Christmas pudding, with raisins and figs.”
The more mouth-filling brews included Bell’s full-bodied Java Stout and Left Hand Brewing’s Fade to Black. It’s tastes of black licorice, espresso bean and molasses is not for the faint-of-heart.
The liquid banquet ended with dessert — The Brew Kettle’s Winter Warmer, made with tons of spice and gobs of honey, and Southern Tier’s imperial stout Choklat, brewed with an avalanche of chocolate.
The event proved one thing true — sometimes, the most bountiful harvest is brewed.
West Point Market will host its champagne tasting, Bubbles Bash, on Dec. 12 from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. Tickets can be ordered for $40 per person online.