West Sixth Brewing - Christmas Ale
Serving Temperature:52–59° F
Suggested Glassware:Tulip, Snifter, or Goblet
This month we’re happy to feature the festive West Sixth Christmas Ale. It’s produced only once per year, and is only available in limited amounts in Kentucky and Cincinnati until it runs out. For our Rare Beer Club members, West Sixth has produced a special 750-ml bottling which is being exclusively released through the club, and perhaps a small number of bottles in their main Taproom.
Around this time of year there are many spiced seasonal ales that vie for our attention, but we tend to lean towards big, bold, winter warmers that have layered complexity and pronounced flavors, which the West Sixth Christmas Ale delivers in spades. From its dark, sweet, and complex maltiness to its array of spices with orange peel, cinnamon, and nutmeg, it delivers everything we enjoy about this style.
The Christmas Ale pours an opaque deep amber-brown with a pale coffee rim topped by a tightly bubbled tan head, leaving behind a fine layer of lacing with each sip. A generous amount of fruit aromas are detected just above the beer’s surface such as dark cherries, blackberries, dried dates, and candied orange peel. Pulling away from the surface with our noses just above the rim of the glass we were greeted by a dense bouquet of spices – cinnamon, nutmeg and mace, ginger, clove, cardamom, and allspice. We were also reminded of a well made fruit cake, mulled wine, and potpourri showing dried floral notes and touches of noble hops. Beyond that comes layers of caramel, toffee, molasses, and toasted candy sugar. As it warms, a generous amount of nuttiness and sweet roast emerge, complimented by a delicate earthiness.
As we sip, the spices, fruit, and malt build to a crescendo for our tastebuds of dense fruit cake draped in the toasty warmth of cinnamon and nutmeg, supported by luscious caramel, nutty toffee, and cocoa. Dark chocolate bitterness emerges mid-palate, accentuated by lightly grippy Magnum hops. This full bodied Christmas Ale exhibits a finely bubbled smooth and creamy mousse with a long festive finish. There are some vinous and rum-like flavors that come forward in the finish as well, which allowed us to taste and experience something new from the first sip to the last.
Given the 9% ABV, style and overall flavor profile, there seems to be room for a bit of cellaring time for the West Sixth Christmas Ale, but we suggest to drink now and celebrate the season. For pairings, look to hearty stews and caramelized desserts.
West Sixth Brewing hit our radar pretty early on after they were founded in 2012, and this sustainability-minded brewery in Kentucky has been making some exceptional beers that see very modest distribution. From their core year-round IPA (packed with Cascade, Centennial, Citra, and Columbus hops) to more occasional offerings, like this exceptional Christmas Ale and imperial stout releases, West Sixth has been continually knocking it out of the park. The brewery distributes solely in its home state of Kentucky and nearby Cincinnati, Ohio, but the local emphasis has also helped them grow in leaps and bounds over the past ten years.
In addition to world-class beers, we appreciate the mindfulness West Sixth shows toward the surrounding communities, as well as their efforts toward environmental sustainability. Along with supporting nonprofits through campaigns like Sixth for a Cause, Wooden Nickel, Pay It Forward Cocoa Porter, and Pedaling for a Purpose, the brewery also releases a sustainability report each year—highlighting efforts in areas like farming and land management practices, resource utilization/recycling, charitable giving, and community involvement.
West Sixth currently operates four taprooms in Kentucky: the Main Taproom and Brewery in Lexington, West Sixth Nulu in downtown Louisville which is celebratring its second anniversay, West Sixth Box Park in Newport, and the West Sixth Farm in Frankfort. The Farm is a 120-acre property on which West Sixth grows all kinds of different regional ingredients for their beers: hops, blackberries, and raspberries, along with barley, sorghum, squash, pawpaws, sugar beets, and chili peppers. Open seasonaly, the West Sixth Farm offers free property tours on the first Saturday of each month (including its trellised hop yard, cider/berry orchard, chickens, and catch-and-release fishing pond), an on-site taproom, weekend food trucks, and four-plus miles of mix-use trail system, the outer trails of which are open year-round. Learn more on the brewery’s website at westsixth.com.
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