Friday, December 1st, 2017

25 Days of Christmas Carols And Craft Beer Pairing

Ron Swarner


25 Days of Christmas Carols And Craft Beer Pairing

The Peaks and Pints pairologists have released our definitive list of “25 Days of Christmas Carols And Craft Beer Pairing.” The revered group of bartenders spent this year listening to more than 253 Christmas carols and drinking 3,816 craft beers, which obviously has nothing to due with our area code or address.

“We listened to every Christmas carol at least 11 times,” said Peaks and Pints bartender Joe Rosati. “Once for the lyrics, once for the tune, nine times to pair the perfect beer.”

We aware that everyone might not agree with the list. “We were strictly objective, and did not let sentimental associations or drunkenness cloud our judgment,” added Peaks bartender Max Tomhave.

“Hell yes ‘Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer,’ Elmo and Patsy’s poignant ballad of loss and redemption, made the list!” screamed Peaks bartender Kristen Marlo.

Peaks and Pints will pair a holiday song with a craft beer daily on this blog post, teasing it on our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts.

“Feel free to launch the song on our jukebox, or own it all to yourself via your phone headphones,” suggests Peaks bartender Erin Miller. “Either way, the paired beer will be on draft or in our cooler.”

Without further ado, here are the 25 Days of Christmas Carols And Craft Beer Pairing starting with Day One, Friday, Dec. 1, some with commentary and analysis by the Peaks and Pints staff.


“It’s Christmas Day.” Merry Christmas! On this day we’re enjoying a modern garage-y band digging deep into the ghosts of psychedelic Christmas Past and still only yank out the Jesus and Mary Chain, the mid-’80s vintage Brit-pop band whose proto-shoegaze sound is all over the Cosmonauts’ track: “It’s Christmas Day.” The Cosmonauts sing their way right to the point, letting us know: A) that there is no snow in Los Angeles on Christmas, and there never has been, and B) that there are only about 16 words in this song, but it’s not important that you know exactly what they are: cool. Beer Pairing: Anchor Brewing Co. in San Francisco brews the cool Happy New Year/Christmas Ale (a.k.a. Our Special Ale) every winter that: A) is a deep mahogany brown with a creamy, tan head and boasts aromas of fruitcake, molasses and Christmas spruce, and B) tastes of creamy bittersweet chocolate, coffee, roasted malts and toasted nuts. Anchor has released a holiday beer every year since 1975, making the brewery one of the great-granddaddies of the craft-brewing scene.


“Merry Christmas Baby.” Originally released by Johnny Moore’s Three Blazers in 1947, Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band performed the song live Dec. 31, 1980, which was later released in November 1986 as the B-side to “War.” The song is about a lover who is feeling amorous after a middle-of-the-night visit from Santa. They were given a diamond ring and some presents and gush: “I haven’t had a drink this morning / But I’m all lit up like a Christmas tree.” Beer Pairing: The Boss’ song should be paired with a craft beer inspired by The Boss: Spruce Springsteen. Backwoods Brewing Company and The Pine Box in Seattle collaborated on Spruce Springsteen (9.5 percent), a winter warm ale brewed with brown sugar, cinnamon, orange peel, and, of course, spruce tips. Red amber color with a beige head, Spruce Springsteen hits the nose with roasted malt, toffee and spruce, followed by notes of pine, cinnamon, chocolate, berries, oranges, vanilla and caramel. It’s smooth throughout with a velvety finish.


Songs for Christmas. The list’s most ambitious effort is holiday anti-consumerist Sufjan Stevens’ Songs for Christmas (Asthmatic Kitty). This boxed set assembles five (yes, five) discs of Christmas-themed ditties, with thoughtful covers juxtaposed with originals that explore the season’s ups (“It’s Christmas! Let’s Be Glad!” and “Put The Lights On The Tree”) and downs (“That Was the Worst Christmas Ever!”). The lion’s share of this bounty isn’t simply good holiday fare; it’s good music, period. Talk about a Christmas miracle. Beer Pairing: Fantôme de Noël, brewed by Brasserie Fantôme, is a dark and entirely unique holiday seasonal beer, ringing in at a whopping 10 percent. The alcohol content probably goes a long way toward explaining that warm and satisfied feeling one finds on the very first sip. A rich, dark-flavored beer with lots of deep-roasted chocolate malt, this saison is still fairly dry, with a hint of sourness at the core.


A Charlie Brown Christmas. If you love A Charlie Brown Christmas, the 1965 Peanuts tale of a manic-depressive kid with an unusually large noggin and rapidly receding hairline who laments the rampant materialism of Christmas, it’s likely you live on a compound surrounded by weak twig-trees bent over by single decorative balls, and co-host an anti-government shortwave radio show with your dog who thinks he’s a fighter pilot. You also like Vince Guaraldi Trio’s soundtrack for the holiday TV special. Pressed to 180-gram vinyl and housed in a sleek, old-school style jacket that flaunts the original 1965 album artwork, this record is a classic one to put on while you’re getting cozy by the fire. Beer Pairing: Speaking of weak twig-trees … in Belgium, Old St. Nick delivers a bundle of sticks to those who have behaved badly throughout the year. Just to be safe, we suggest stepping up your game foregoing cookies and leaving Santa a pFriem Family BrewersBelgian Christmas Ale brewed with spices for the festive holiday season. The base beer is a Belgian-style Dubbel with an addition of coriander spice to make for a pleasant winter warmer. The festive beer pours dark reddish brown and offers aromas of caramel and toffee along with some spices. As the beer warms the spices come to the forefront, just like Charlie Brown’s friends.


“I Want An Alien for Christmas.” Fountains of Wayne’s “I Want An Alien for Christmas” bottled the essence of a 21st-century child’s Christmas wish: “I want a little green guy about 3 feet high with 17 eyes that knows how to fly.” Beer Pairing: You know what w want for Christmas that also gets big air? 10-Lords-Ap-Leaping. A decade ago, Placentia, California based The Bruery debuted the first in a line of “12 Beers” brewed in honor of nearly 250-year-old “Twelve Days of Christmas” song. The first beer was obvious — A Partridge in a Pear Tree, a Belgian strong dark brewed with spices. Each year, the Belgian strong dark style has varied, from Two Turtle Doves to this year’s 10 Lords a Leaping (10.5%). In lieu of 10 Lords, the brewery has 10 spices “leaping” into this seasonal release: coriander, orange peel, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice, mace, anise, dried apples and cloves — with cloves leading the bunch. Overall, the flavor is moderately sweet, wheaty and spiced with minimal bitterness.


“Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer.” “You know the drill,” says Peaks bartender Kristen Marlo. “Halloween wraps up, holidays come around, you step into a store and KAPOW! Whapped in the face and knocked about the ears by a whole mess of lousy sounds. You’ve just been assaulted by “Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer.” Elmo & Patsy’s song, recorded and released in 1979, became the No. 1 Christmas song in 1983, and remained there for five straight years. “Grandma getting run over by a reindeer went from tragic accident to goofy singalong under your watch,” adds Marlo. Beer Pairing: Heathen Brewing’s Reindeer Tears bourbon barrel-aged barleywine seems appropriate to pair with the song. No doubt the reindeer that ran over grandma teared-up when it witnessed the torn pantyhose and skewed wig, not to mention this 10.6%, 94 IBU craft beer will run over most people. “I detect a tangy sweetness, not unlike dried apricots and candy apples,” explains Marlo. “It has a nice, big boozy finish much like a cognac — sugary and decadent — though remarkably drinkable. Just what Grandpa needs when he hears the news.”


“Father Christmas.” Power-pop progenitors The Kinks created their own carol, “Father Christmas,” and imbued it with playful late-20th-century greed: “Father Christmas, gives us some money/ don’t mess around with those silly toys/but remember the kids who have nothin’/when you’re drinkin’ down your wine.” Beer Pairing: Of course, when lead singer Ray Davies mentioned wine, he meant Hale’s AlesBarrel Aged Wheatwine, hopped with El Dorado and aged in third generation barrels. “You’ll taste oak and whiskey in this vibrant beer,” says Peaks bartender Jack Hagey. “In typical Kinks storytelling fashion, this tune features a man dressed as Santa being mugged by a gang of violent children, who scream at him as they hold him up, ‘Father Christmas, give us some money … give all the toys to the little rich boys.’ The kids do eventually ask him for one gift: a machine gun.”


“Little Drummer Boy.” This song, in its purest iteration, is a song about a young man who, at the urging of the Magi, offers his dope beats to the baby Jesus. But why is no one baffled over the rudeness of this Little Drummer Boy? If you just gave birth inside a horse stable in the middle of winter and some little boy came by insisting on banging his snare drum when you finally got the baby to sleep, would you want the scenario romanticized in song? Beer Pairing: The wreath on Three Magnets Brewing’s Wreathing Havoc Imperial Winter Red Rye Ale dons an expression only repetitive drumming could muster. Doesn’t matter; the craft beer is pure joy. The 9.4 percent winter warmer starts in the nose with subtle hints of berries and burnt sugar, moves to the tongue with a toasted raisin and rye spice, and finishes strong with maple and pine.


“The Best Instrumental Christmas Music & Crackling Fire Sounds 24/7.” Nothing feels cozier than a crackling fire during this time of year, which is why it’s become a custom to celebrate Christmas and the holiday season by burning a Yule log in the fireplace. Yet, it was inevitable that modern technology and ancient tradition would come together. And lo, was born the Youtube Yule log. Christmas carols and crackling fire sounds makes Kevin MacLeod’s “The Best Instrumental Christmas Music & Crackling Fire Sounds 24/7” Youtube Yule log our favorite. Beer Pairing: “I should probably say I love drinking Deschutes Jubelale next to a crackling fire while reading a leather-bound book surrounded by the smell of rich mahogany. But, I don’t. I absolutely love drinking Deschutes Jubelale next to a crackling fire while cheering on the Seattle Sounders!” exclaims Peaks bartender Erin Miller. “The spices are present but played down enough to give the brew a toasty and warmly Christmas-like character.” Indeed. Fig notes are particularly strong, complemented by notes of dates, spiced almonds, toffee and ample malt. “There’s plenty going on, but the beer is amazingly well-balanced,” adds Miller. “It finishes with soothing notes of baked bread and a distant smokiness. Go Sounders!”


“You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch.” The lightest of all Christmas carols is, ironically, a song about a curmudgeon who spirals, in his curmudgeonliness, into criminality. “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” was created for the 1966 cartoon version of Dr. Seuss’s book How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and the lyrics are indeed written by Theodor “Dr. Seuss” Geisel. The song is essentially insult comedy that rhymes, and each joke — each burn — is spectacular:

You’re a monster, Mr. Grinch!
Your heart’s an empty hole.
Your brain is full of spiders.
You’ve got garlic in your soul,
Mr. Grinch!
I wouldn’t touch you
With a thirty-nine-and-a-half foot pole!

Beer Pairing: It’s only natural to pair a Grinch with a pirate — a Jolly Roger pirate, brewed by Maritime Pacific Brewing Co. George and Jane Hancock founded the ma-and-pa brewery in an old transmission shop in 1990 in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood. In 1997 they opened the Jolly Roger Taproom named, as they say, “in honor of our most popular holiday brew”: Jolly Roger Christmas Ale. A beer fridge staple, Jolly Roger English strong ale combines rich malt character with a blend of fresh Northwest Chinook and Cascade hops. It’s spectacular. Peaks and Pints has the beautifully-aged 2010 Jolly Roger in our cooler.


“Fruitcake.” Leave it to the B-52s’ Fred Schneider to craft the best Christmas camp this side of John Waters. His wonderfully kitschy dance party band, The Superions, released Destination … Christmas! (Fanatic) in 2010, which includes “Christmas Conga,” the jolly “Crummy Christmas Tree” and the sexy “Santa Je T’Aime,” which proves that Fred can ho-ho-ho with the best of ’em. But, for today’s beer pairing we chose their “Fruitcake” song.

The are all nuts,
Citrus peel, lots of stuff,
Add what you feel!
Sticks of butter, cinnamon,
Molasses, lots of dark rum,
Artificial color, artificial flavor,
If your family don’t want it,
Give it to a neighbor!
It’s fruit cake!
It’s fruit cake!

Beer Pairing: Brouwerij St Bernardus is famous for both their beers and their heritage. The brewery used to brew the famous Westvleteren beers before the monastery returned all production back to within the abbey’s walls.  Their Abt 12 quad represents what Westvleteren 12 used to be before the abbey changed their yeast strain. St. Bernardus’ Christmas Ale is brewery’s Abt 12 offering, but gussied up with rich malt, dark dried fruit, fig, hints of anise, nutmeg, cinnamon, brown sugar … basically a fruitcake.Fruit cake!

Heavy as lead
If it hits in the head!
Fruit cake!
It could kill you dead!
Fruit cake!
Yeah, fruit cake! 


“Naughty Would Be Nice For Christmas.” In 2012, a very pregnant Jennifer Nettles of Sugarland opened up the Country Music Awards show with a saucy song that makes no secret about her Christmas wishes: I’ve got your sugar if you’ll show me your spice and There’s no penalty for peeking early under my tree. Beer Pairing: Corsendonk Christmas Ale has all the sugar and spice Nettles needs. Brewed with Pale, Munich and Caramunich malts, plus Kent Goldings hops, this rich, dark, joyous brew has sweetish, yeasty-spicy and slightly fruity aroma of caramel, coriander, toasted coconut, some raisins and a touch of chocolate with similar tastes followed by a medium long, quite bitter, moderately yeasty-spicy and slightly roasty finish.


“White Christmas.” After 76 years, “White Christmas” is still the bestselling Christmas song of all time, which is interesting given that fact that composer Irving Berlin didn’t even celebrate Christmas: He was a Jewish man who emigrated from Russia as a child. Christmas was a sad day for him, which is why the song is melancholy and wistful. The sadness continues as it was first broadcasted 18 days before the Pearl Harbor attack. Beer Pairing: Inspired by Colorado’s white winters, New Belgium Brewing’s Accumulation White IPA seems like an obvious pairing with the song — in terms of the whole snow thing. The wintertime favorite features Mosaic and Amarillo hops, tropical aroma and soft citrus, mango and lemon flavors, followed by a bitter bite. The medium-bodied IPA pours unfiltered gold and blizzard white with a snowy head.


“Deck The Halls.” Fa la la la la la la la! The music to Deck the Halls is believed to be Welsh in origin with roots in the tune “Nos Galan” dating back to the 16th century. In the 18th century, Mozart used the tune for a violin and piano duet. “A year ago, part of the lyrics were used for the grand, over-the-top, razzly-dazzly love story that surprisingly didn’t make you puke one bit — La La Land,” says Peaks bartender Kristen Marlo. The song could afford to give away ‘la la’s as there are 12 ‘Fa la la la la la la la la’s in the song, making a total of 96 ‘la’s. La dee frickin’ dah. Beer pairing: Double Mountain Fa La La La La. Duh. This year’s Fa continues with bags full of Centennial hops to warm your heart and soul. Centennials take the reins with pine and citrus, and a resounding chorus of Gambrinus Organic Pilsner, Munich malt and Crystal malt echo the refrain.


“Blue Christmas.” This was the favorite song of many pairologists, with its complex use of “blue” as a trope: blue snowflakes, blue memories, etc. We all agreed that only Elvis captures the full blueness of the carol, managing to say blue 13 times in his version. Beer Pairing: Brewery Ommegang Winter Is Here — a Belgian-style double white ale, brewed with pilsner malt, white wheat malt, and soft red wheat flakes, hopped with Saaz hops, and spiced with white pepper, sea salt, coriander and sweet orange peel in a 750ml blue label bottle — pairs well with the song due to all the blue happenings in last season’s finale. First, special guest star Ed Sheeran’s character is unexpectedly executed by special-er guest star Rick Astley. Second, a free agent Viserion the dragon joined the cast of The Neverending Story on Broadway. Last, Jon Snow and Daenerys had disappointing sex after Daenerys refused to bend the knee.


“Grandma’s Homemade Christmas Card.” There are many Christmas carols about Grandma, but our panel believed that this song says it all. Merle Haggard sings of his elderly grandma making a Christmas card out of scraps of discarded magazine inserts. Beer Pairing: Some things you can never un-see, and a knitted reindeer sweater your grandma gave you is one of them. Iron Horse Brewery pokes fun at her craftwork with its delicious vanilla milk stout, Cozy Sweater. Full of holiday cheer but a little lighter on the alcohol this brew wears a dark and chocolaty beer foundation. Then comes the lactose adding a smooth and round mouthfeel, plus a touch of sweetness with vanilla beans. Expect a sweet latte flavor mixed with some other tastes of roasted malt and a little bit of vanilla.


“Over The River and Through The Wood.” “Over the river and through the wood” … this standard winter holiday song is familiar to millions. Originally published Flowers for Children, Vol. 2 in 1844, the poem has long outshone the rest of the poems in that volume. The formal title is “A Boy’s Thanksgiving Day” though it’s also often used as a Christmas song, with lyrics changed — “Hurray for Christmas Day!” — and “grandmother’s house we go” inserted instead of grandfather’s abode. Maybe there was a divorce. Beer Pairing: Sierra Nevada Celebration IPA. You’ll have to go over many rivers and through many woods to reach grandmother’s house, which is a tiny cabin in the woods, at last according the Sierra Nevada Celebration IPA’s label. In the midst of many big and malty winter ales, Celebration Ale (6.8%) provides a comfortable winter home for the season’s displaced hops … and grandfather. A little darker than the average American IPA, this ale has a citrusy, piney and resinous hop character and a medium body.


“Have a Holly Jolly Christmas.” Everyone loves this upbeat song by Burl Ives, especially the dude kissing all the girls under the mistletoe: “Oh, ho the mistletoe/Hung where you can see/Somebody waits for you/Kiss her once for me.” Oh by golly could holly be Holly? Beer Pairing: Lazy Boy Mistletoe Bliss holiday brown ale — and not because the “lazy boy” on the beer label is as large as Burl Ives, but rather for the even more obvious “mistletoe” reference. Grab a bottle out of Peaks and Pints’ cooler and dig the toasty malt scents, brightened by sweet caramel and a spritz of apricot. Holly would savor the caramel-chocolate combo that washes over her tongue, while grassy hops and a hint of orange add balance in the back. After a few, Holly might just work up the courage to stand under that mistletoe.


“Suzie Snowflake.” Sung by heartthrob George Clooney’s grandma, Rosemary Clooney, this particular carol is a vivid example of the carpe diem tradition. “I haven’t long to stay,” says Suzie Snowflake, just before she lands on the back of a border collie out for a walk. Beer Pairing: Hair of the Dog Doggie Claws is a natural pairing, even beyond a possible canine connection. This holiday barlywine is a sweet, hoppy and boozy tipple with layers of complexity. The 11.5 percent alcoholic strength is boosted by the addition of wildflower honey collected from the slopes of Mt. Hood. Suzie Snowflake’s dog walk will, no doubt, end with her falling off in the snow; the toffee, raisins, bananas, molasses, honey and booziness will help heal your sadness of Suzi’s eventual demise.


“A Marshmallow World.” This was a popular hit in the ’50s, and deserves a comeback. The gifted Arthur Godfrey with the Chordettes and the Cherry Sisters performed it. Mr. Godfrey makes effective use of onomatopoeia as he croons, “It’s a yum-yummie world, made for sweethearts.” Beer Pairing: The yummy Imperial Eggnog Mud Mountain Milk Stout by Puyallup River Brewing Company pairs well with the song, as Candy Man Eric Akeson uses fresh vanilla beans, cocoa nibs, oats and six different specialty malts, including Chocolate malt, making this milk stout one of the easiest drinking dark beers on the planet. Add cinnamon, nutmeg and other holiday spices and you have Imperial Eggnog Mud Mountain Milk Stout, with creamy flavors of eggnog, spice, coffee, roasted nuts and chocolate. Akeson makes the world taste good.


“Mele Kalikimaka.” This is an admirable attempt to incorporate other cultural traditions into our provincial WASP celebration of Christmas. Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters tell the inspiring tale of the Three Wise Men getting lost on their way to Bethlehem, and ending up in Hawaii. Beer Pairing: “Duh … if the dudes are truly wise then they will drink Wingman Brewers beers,” says Peaks bartender Amber Milhans. “Tacoma’s Wingman has planes and coconuts. It’s Stratofortress Belgian Strong Dark Ale aged in bourbon barrels on dark rum-soaked cedar planks with notes of figs and ripe fruit will get you to Hawaii — aloha 11.4 percent! Their P-51 Coconut Porter will keep you there — aloha 8 percent!”


“Frosty the Snowman.” Our pairologists were moved to tears by the picture of poor Frosty running here and there all around the square, frantically trying to have some fun before he melted away. If you listen carefully to the song, you realize Frosty is not quite the jolly, happy soul he was made out to be, condemned as he is to melt away, the sun being hot that day. Beer Pairing: ScuttleButt Brewing Company’s 10 Below Ale. While the name suggests this Imperial Dunkelweiss from the Everett, Washington, brewery could keep Frosty from melting, the 7.4 percent ABV strong chocolate flavors of 10 below Ale is exactly what one needs to keep warm. It’s a malty beast with just enough hops to make it drinkable, and make Frosty’s fate forgettable.


“Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town.” The consensus among the pairologists was that the best version of this song about a vindictive voyeur — “He sees you while you’re sleeping, he knows if you’re awake, he knows if you’ve been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake” — was done by the Beach Boys, with their sweet voices belying the dark theme of the song. You better watch out, indeed. Beer Pairing: Santa’s Little Helper (10.5%) is Port Brewing’s offering to replace the milk and cookies the big guy must be getting tired of by now, right? On tap at Peaks and Pints, Santa’s Little Helper smells like Santa’s chocolate cookie kitchen. Once the palate adjusts to the liberal cocoa flavors, an entire advent calendar unfolds: milky ganache, toasted marshmallows, bourbon and Tahitian vanilla toffee. The finish lends hints of sweet crystal malt, warming tones of alcohol and a touch of hops, making a perfect accompaniment to leftover fruitcake and sugar cookies.


“I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus.” This perennial favorite, sung by former jockey Jimmy Boyd, takes a humorous approach to a child’s shocking discovery of his mother’s infidelity. “Mommy” and “Santa Baby” are just two of many songs dealing with the theme of Santa as sugar daddy. Beer Pairing: “The Pelican Pub & Brewery in Pacific City, Oregon, brews a beer that pairs with Mommy’s merry adulterer — Bad Santa,” says Peaks and Pints co-founder Ron Swarner. “This mysterious dark elixir is filled with complex malt flavors and aromas with toasted malt and roast character, blending seamlessly to the alluring herbal hop aroma that comes from copious amounts of Fuggle hops. Bad Santa doesn’t care if you’ve been naughty or nice; he just wants Mommy.”


“Santa Baby.” As voiced by the sexy Eartha Kitt, this song asks the eternal question: “Santa honey, I really do believe in you, let’s see if you believe in me.” Eartha doesn’t beat around the bush as she implores Santa to “hurry down the chimney tonight” and “fill up my sock.” She assures Santa that she will wait up for him, and ends up with a provocative offer he can hardly refuse: “Come and trim my Christmas tree.” Beer Pairing: “You need a boozy, dark, rich beer to loosen up Santa,” says Peaks and Pints co-founder and cellarman Ron Swarner. “Fremont Brewing’s B-Bomb is a winter ale with dark roasted chocolate malt and rich notes of bourbon, wood and vanilla — a 14 percent delight that is a blend of 9-, 12- and 24-month old ales aged in 12-year-old bourbon barrels. Stop by Peaks and Pints and grab a bottle.  It’s the bomb, Santa baby!”