Gingerbread + Beer = ?

by Justin D'Olier on November 16, 2010 | (2) Comments |

Random beer

Guess who forgot to take a picture of their Gingerbread Ale?

Flavored beers are like a box of chocolates; you never know what you’re gonna get. (Also, they’re typically overpriced, some inedible, and if you leave them out in the sun all day, they are kinda gross.) But, I had high hopes for Bison Brewing Company’s Gingerbread Ale, a wintertime seasonal offering from the Berkley based brewery.

Bison Brewing Company is a 100% USDA certified organic brewery. They even offer a “Drink Neutral” program that allows the more extreme environmentally conscious beer consumers (or at least those with sufficient guilt) to purchase carbon offsets for each case of beer they consume. More importantly, they make decent beer so when I saw Bison Brewing Gingerbread Ale at Whole Foods, I got excited.

The Gingerbread Ale is a spiced holiday porter, brewed with ginger, nutmeg, and cinnamon. It has 6.0% ABV (alcohol by volume) and combines two of my favorite things: gingerbread and alcohol.

Gingerbread? Awesome.

Beer? Awesome.

Put them together and you should have a one-eyed puma fighting a flaming eagle on the top of Mount Everest awesome. (Yes, I’m aware that neither a puma, even one with the full two functional eyes, nor an eagle could survive, let alone wage war, at the top of Mount Everest. That’s what makes it awesome.) Unfortunately, the beer did not quite fulfill my lofty expectations.

The Gingerbread Ale has a rich brown color that looks (perhaps unsurprisingly) like a glass of liquid gingerbread. It has a strong roasted malt aroma with a rich caramel quality and hints of cinnamon and nutmeg. Unfortunately, the roasted malt and caramel also dominate the flavor of the beer, which only has a hint of cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger. The spice notes come through slightly stronger in the finish, which provides a nice bitter contrast to the rich roasted caramel flavor of the beer. All in all, Bison Gingerbread Ale is a well balanced holiday porter, it’s just not much of a gingerbread beer.

This is primarily a reflection of the beer style. Porters are an ale derivative that include dark roasted malts and, much like a dark roast coffee (think your typical Starbucks uber-black blend), this imparts a beautiful dark color and bold roasted flavor, but limits the complexity of the flavor, since the strong roasted quality masks secondary flavors. This works great for a bitter Chocolate Porter, less so for a gingerbread ale.

I recommend Bison Gingerbread Ale for environmentally conscious beer quaffers looking for a balanced holiday porter. Those looking for gingerbread flavor might want to stick to cookies.

2 responses to “Gingerbread + Beer = ?”

  1. Mel Galarneau says:

    I almost always avoid flavored beer (unless it’s LAMBIC!). Pumpkin ale has forever scarred me. I find that they are usually not worth the price nor can I tolerate drinking more than one per session and who wants that??