New Gold Medalist at 12 Ales of Christmas Blind Taste


« Mahoning Valley Flight Crew

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By Dave Shively, Mahoning Valley Flight Crew

When the Mahoning Valley Flight Crew gathers for its annual “Suds With Santa” event, one thing's for certain — crew members and their spouses have learned to come to expect the unexpected. That’s because this annual gathering, now in its 7th year, always includes great food, great company, games, prizes, and an over-the-top white elephant gift exchange.

However, the one expected staple of the evening is always great craft beer and a tasting event, which we affectionately refer to as, “The 12 Ales of Christmas.”

“The 12 Ales of Christmas” is always one of the most anticipated events of the evening. Each year, the host of the party — yours truly — procures 11 different winter warmers for the rest of the crew to sample during a blind taste test. We also include the previous year's winner, to see if it can defend its title as the top holiday craft beer of the season.

Each beer is then rated on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being Excellent.

This year’s line-up included winter seasonals from eight states.

Alaska: Winter - Alaskan Brewing Company

California: Snowy Plower - Coronado Brewing

Maryland: Naughty Egg Nog Ale - Flying Dog Brewery

Massachusetts: Winter Lager - Sam Adams

Michigan: Cabin Fever - New Holland Brewing; Pine Knob Pilsner - Rochester Mills Beer Company

Ohio: Citra Noel - Columbus Brewing Company; Dad Happy Holiday Ale - Rhinegeist Brewery; The Grynch - Birdfish Brewing

Pennsylvania: Blizzard of Hops - Troegs Brewing; Winter Cheers - Victory Brewing Company

Vermont: Sick Day - Long Trail Brewing Company

This collection of brews had everything — from coffee- and chocolate-infused brown ales, to medium-bodied ales with cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and peppermint. But at the end of the day, the IPAs won the day, as reflected in the evening’s votes of the top three beers.

Voted the gold medal winner in the “12 Ales of Christmas” for 2016, was Citra Noel, from Columbus Brewing in Columbus, Ohio. Citra Noel is an amber red ale, which balances a perfect hop portfolio, with a citrus aroma and finish. Rated: 3.83

Close behind in 2nd place was the 2015 winner, Troegs Brewing’s, Blizzard of Hops. This American IPA pours out in a hazy amber color, and has hints of orange, and pineapple, and was the hoppiest beer of the night. Rated: 3.70

The bronze medal winner of the evening went to a new brewery to the region, Alaskan Brewing’s Winter. Winter is brewed in the style of an old English ale, with spruce tips, which gave it a piney aroma. The finish was clean and mildly hoppy. Rated: 3.66

We hope our reviews give you the confidence to try a new brew this holiday season. The Mahoning Valley Flight Crew wishes you and yours a very Merry Christmas and peace in good health in the New Year.

Photo credit: Nate Shively

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