‘Tis the season for winter and holiday beers, some of which are brewed with festive ingredients. Among those that are always a treat to drink are Sierra Nevada’s Celebration Ale, Breckenridge Christmas Ale, Schell’s Snowstorm and Anchor’s legendary Christmas Ale. St. Bernardus Christmas Ale (all the creativity goes into the names, eh?) and Mikkeller’s Fra Til Via are outstanding brews as well.
Another winter/holiday gem was introduced this year and is brewed with toffee made by Bissinger’s Handcrafted Chocolatier: King Louie Winter Toffee Stout, brewed by the O’Fallon Brewery of O’Fallon, Missouri. The name is a nod to the candy company’s origins: In 1668, King Louie XIV of France, who gave the Bissinger family the title of “Confiseur Imperial,” making Bissinger’s the official confectioner of France.
Owens said the toffee used by O’Fallon was specially formulated by Bissinger’s for brewing. Toffee contains a lot of butter, which Owens said is not good for brewing, but the proprietary toffee developed by Bissinger’s retained the confection’s flavor profile without all the butter.
Serving type: 12-ounce bottle. No freshness date.
Appearance: Poured into a pint glass, the color looks black or very dark brown. A finger of dense, tan-colored froth dissipates slowly and evenly, leaving a skim with thick spots and a narrow ring around the edge.
Smell: A faint aroma of festive, holiday spice tints the air from an arm’s length away. Up close, the aroma is chocolaty and fruity. With scents of dark chocolate, toffee, caramel, plum and cherry licorice, the aroma is reminiscent of a holiday cake with a fruit or caramel glaze. It is also a touch festive with holiday scents that are difficult to pin down. Ginger or peppermint, maybe? Or cinnamon? It is also a touch arboreal.
Taste: This beer is rich with robust character, though the mouthfeel is not thick or creamy. There are flavors of dark chocolate, toasted malt, toffee, plum, dark cherry licorice, floral hops, some brown sugar and holiday spice that is still hard to discern. Peppermint? Spruce? Perhaps it is red cinnamon. The fruit and spice become more prominent as the beer continues to warm. As with the aroma, the flavor is reminiscent of a festive chocolate cake topped with caramel or toffee.