Whether looking for a good stocking stuffer, a gift to cover a night of Hanukkah, or perhaps for a good, less expensive gift in general, there’s no gift quite like our incredible local beer. Here, we provide a special angle on the gift of great beer. These local beers make great stocking stuffers and will become fridge stuffers and ultimately gifts that keep on giving [and improving] with age.
If you have yet to try aging beers, shame on you. Much like wines, flavors evolve in aged beers, and the results are amazing. Doing a vertical tasting comparing different years is fascinating. My Dad’s favorite beer has long been Highland’s Cold Mountain. I always enjoyed it but never was as fanatic about it except to make sure my brother and I could get him some for Christmas. But after I had it aged for a year? Mind. Blowing. An explosion of vanilla, a perfect mellowing of spices. That first taste was like something that should have been sipped from the Holy Grail.
So, to help simply holiday shopping, and to encourage both shopping and drinking locally, I asked a few of our bomber- and bottle-producing breweries and beer shops their advice. And who knows? You might end up buying yourself some, too…
Triple C Up All Night
Triple C Brewing Company
Interviewee: Head Brewer Scott Kimball
Up All Night: Coffee fades pretty quickly, some of the more delicate coffee flavors within a month, so as this beer ages, instead of being heavy on the coffee, it will be more rounded with the chocolate malts more pronounced. Also because of the high ABV (10%), the alcohol “kick” will mellow with time.
Bourbon Barrel Aged Up All Night: Like with the non-barrel-aged version, the coffee will be subdued with time, but unlike the non-barrel aged version, the alcohol from the beer has had time to mellow and be filtered in the barrel, so it drinks smoother. As it ages, the little extra kick of bourbon will mature and turn this 10 percenter into an easy drinker.
The Dude Imbibes Rum Barrel Aged Imperial Milk Stout: This beer had just a touch of coffee that has already mellowed since we released it in October, making the milk stout flavors more prominent. As it ages, expect the spicy, boozy kick from the rum barrel to be more subdued.
White Blaze Winter Ale: A great winter seasonal with cinnamon and vanilla beans. Expect it to get a little sweeter with time, making the toasted coconut and caramel maltiness come out.
*If you can find an extra bottle of The Dude Imbibes, combine in even parts with White Blaze for an incredible concoction their taproom offered for a while. You could call it, “The Dude Blazes.”
The Olde Mecklenburg Brewery
Interviewee: Director of Sales Ryan Self
Bauern Bock (doppelbock) and Yule Bock (weihnachtsbockbock): These actually come as part of a Christmas mix pack of 12-oz bottles (OMB has transitioned away from bombers), so you can give a variety pack… or keep the others for yourself. Your call. Fresh, these bocks hit with some hotness and booziness upfront, especially the Yule, which has a touch of noble hops. But after a year with some overall mellowing, the fruit should become much more pronounced. Self says these are also good candidates within six months if you want to try them between vertical tastings.
Bourbon Barrel Aged Fat Boy Baltic Porter: While not here yet, it’s worth noting. At the end of January 2015, OMB will release 500 bombers of a Four Roses Bourbon barrel aged version of this gem. To get your hands on it, though, you will likely need to get a ticket to the breakfast event, for which there will be only 250 tickets. A $40 ticket will get you breakfast, a pint, the pint glass, a bomber, and a first right to buy a second bomber for $13.99. Tickets will go on sale in the next couple weeks, so stay tuned!
Olde Hickory The Event Horizon
Olde Hickory Brewing Company
Interviewee: Founder Jason Yates
Olde Hickory Christmas Ale
While not technically in Charlotte, this is one of the region’s biggest producers of bombers and is readily available at Charlotte’s bottle shops. And you should care about clean water in Hickory because we and our drinking water are downstream!
Christmas Ale: Get plenty of this steal at $3.99 (many OHB bombers are incredible deals). Over time, the ginger mellows, and more of the orange and honey presents itself.
Event Horizon Imperial Stout: One of the state’s crown jewels of dark beer is also one of the best to age. It will be on shelves by Christmas. The vanilla, chocolate, bourbon and other flavors in this bold, full-bodied beer are well maintained and become more balanced and smooth over time.
Lindley Park Imperial Stout: Yates also recommends this bourbon barrel aged brew, which adds tangy raspberries to rich chocolate and honey.
Imperial Stout (regular) and Irish Walker Barleywine: These two are also both readily available and make great candidates for aging, if you have the patience!
From some of Cheers Charlotte’s sponsoring bottle shops
Michael Brawley of Brawley’s Beverage recommends Highlands Cold Mountain. While a tough find at this point, he’s been known to leave ‘Easter eggs’ around the store, so don’t hesitate to drop in and peruse the store — you never know what you might find!
Jason Glunt of Salud Beer Shop recommends sours for a year of aging, especially those from Asheville’s Wicked Weed, which has quite the variety of sours. He also expects good things after a year from Fonta Flora’s Echoview, a Belgian tripel with blackberries, honey and lemon balm. Like OHB, Fonta Flora (Morganton) is upstream of us and our water, too.
These two guys have many of the beers discussed here, and they’re a great resource for anyone looking to give the gift of great beer!
A few final tips when aging beer…
- Buy as a ‘now-and-later’: one for now, one to age. If possible, buy three or four. It’s interesting to see how the beer ages after six months and even two or more years.
- If possible, wax the tops of the bottles to ensure a good seal for the duration of the aging.
- Store in a cool, dark place.
- If you share a fridge with anyone, especially a significant other more ‘into the brevity thing’ of drinking beer sooner and not letting a bunch of beer accumulate for aging, be ready for resistance. Leftover mini fridges from college are great for this!
Most breweries in the area do at least some bottling, so be sure to check with them to see what they might have on-hand, even if it’s better for more immediate consumption!