Beer Review 0283: Olde Hickory Christmas Ale
Today’s beer comes from the Olde Hickory Brewing, located in Hickory, North Carolina, at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Anyone who reads this website with any regularity will know this is a local brewery for me. Founded in 1994 by Steven Lyerly and Jason Yates, production started on a seven barrel system and quickly outgrew, forcing upgrades.
Olde Hickory isn’t a giant mega brewery, instead choosing to make beer in small batches, 800 gallons or less at a time. (Just to show how “small batch” Olde Hickory are, my bottle of Christmas Ale has a hand marked “enjoy by…” date.) Distribution for their beers seems to be limited to Tennessee and North Carolina, so this one might be hard for most of my readers to find.
Christmas Ale is brewed with orange zest, cinnamon, ginger, and local honey. This beer is released each November, and is Olde Hickory’s most popular seasonal offering. But Olde Hickory hit one of my biggest pet peeves with this bottle: there’s no ABV (alcohol by volume) listed. Ping up their website, and the ABV isn’t listed there, either. Come on, guys — alcohol content is very pertinent information and should be on the bottle somewhere. So, I’m going into this one blind, and it’s the first beer of the night, so I hope this isn’t a big ABV monster…
Pouring produced an average size head, soapy in texture, and fast diminishing. The beer was a golden-orange color, and was completely clear of particles and sediment. As I sampled, the liquid left behind a few wispy clusters of lacing.
The nose was pretty straightforward in terms of the ingredients described on the bottle — there was plenty of cinnamon and ginger up front, along with a healthy backing of orange peel. This brew was fairly sweet to my nose and the local honey really came out, introducing notes of chamomile tea. The surprise was the yeast; while I can’t be certain, it sure seems like a Belgian yeast was used — I picked up a moderate bubblegum aroma. While it doesn’t quite smell exactly like Christmas, it does fit the season pretty well…
On the taste, flavors of ginger and orange peel jump out first, bringing on some cinnamon in the middle. Christmas Ale was nowhere as sweet in taste as in smell — and the local honey brought on flavors of chamomile tea and even lavender. The finish introduced just a small hit of bitterness; otherwise it was clean and twangy with the honey. This is a medium-bodied beer, with a thin mouthfeel that was fairly foamy, and it did dry out the palate.
This is an easy drinker that has those classic Winter Warmer flavors, but the honey throws in a kick that I’m afraid you will either really love or intensely dislike. I enjoyed this beer but when seeking out something of this style, I think I’d tend to reach for something else. And not having the ABV printed on the label really trips me out.
Olde Hickory Christmas Ale, 86 points. Price: $3.99 US for one 22 oz. bomber size bottle.