12 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS #1: Hardywood Park Christmas Morning, Richmond, Virginia
Date: December 25 , 2018
The Story— We’ve tasted this beer twice before at the Holiday Tastings at Mad Fox in Falls Church. They’re wonderful events because the brewers themselves attend and talk about their beers. Hardywood Park Brewery brought this beer in both 2014 and 2015 and we think we remember the brewer saying that the formula had been modified a bit. We think they’ve tinkered with it since, but the essence of the beer remains true year after year.
When we tried to decide on a beer to kick off our 12 days of Christmas, the label said it all. Fortunately, the beer ranks as one of our favorite holiday beers of all time. Though we’ve tasted it before, we thought we’d procure a bottle to share on… Christmas morning as we wrote this post. Should have gotten two. We shared sort of nicely, but detoured a bit from the holiday spirit of giving.
Hardywood Park Brewery began in 2011 in Richmond, Va. it’s located in the Scott’s Addition are which is now home to, depending on how you count them, about a dozen breweries. They’ve expanded to a second Richmond location that focuses more on barrel aged beers and have a new outpost in Chancellorsville as well.
The Beer— Don’t over chill this beer. As it approaches fifty degrees, the coffee comes into its own in the aroma and does its remarkable balancing trick with the spices. At that point, the spices with the rich dark sweet coffee, blend to suggest a spiced coffee rather than a coffee flavored spiced beer. There’s plenty of malt in the taste — caramel with some roast, but it’s surprisingly lighthearted for a 9.2% powerhouse. Lactose, at least in 2018, is very much under control and the chocolate and milk chocolate, while there, seem to be a bit more subdued than in previous years. Evident cinnamon brings just a candle’s flicker of heat, though there’s a sense that it would give more red hots if the chocolate, lactose and malts weren’t so up to the task of crown control. It has enough IBUs for a hoppy American Pale Ale, but you’ll never find them in this in this cabinet of complexity. Chewy with more hints of the gingerbread as it rests on the palate. Ellie got more heat, with a bit of the flavor of hot pepper and more spice before the coffee and more booze throughout than I did. From my point of view, what’s so big about 9.2% – it’s Christmas!!
Value — Excellent. An absolutely superb beer is hard to find at under $15 a bottle these days. A half liter of this dark delight runs between six and seven bucks.
Values: “fair” is a good beer at an above market price, “good” is worth the money, “very good” is a bargain, and “excellent” is a steal.