Saturnalia Winter Solstice MMXII, which kicks off on Plaid Friday, November 23, at NABC’s Pizzeria & Public House. This is the ninth edition of Saturnalia, which first took place in 2004.
Saturnalia is my personal favorite of the draft festivals we persist in staging (if a bit less grandly than in the past), although this might yet change if we’re able to resume the Sandkerwa showcase the way I’d most like to do it. By late summer of 2013, it might be possible, but more on that another time.
The primary reason why I enjoy Saturnalia has nothing whatever to do with approaching weeks being the “most wonderful time of the year.” Rather, it’s the freedom and fun afforded by the fest’s concept, enabling us to assemble a special short-term draft list unbound to a specific style territory, i.e., all hoppy, as with Lupulin Land, and all more highly alcoholic during Gravity Head.
For Saturnalia, we always try to find representative samples of winter and seasonal styles (themselves pleasingly varied, stylistically) and augment them with others that strike us as somehow festive in purely subjective ways.
Not only is it fun, but it’s also educational, providing me with frequent polemical opportunities to pontificate about the importance of unleashing our innermost pagans. Following is the boilerplate program information and beer descriptions in text format. You can view and print the program here. A slight, late change is the vintage of the Struise Tsjeeses Reserva; it is 2011, not 2012.
NABC’s Saturnalia is our time to emphasize festive draft beers for the holidaze, featuring NABC’s winter seasonals: Naughty Claus, Solidarity and Bonfire of the Valkyries (the latter slated to appear early in 2013, shortly after Saturnalia’s conclusion).
In pre-Christian Rome, Saturnalia was the annual winter solstice celebration coinciding with the feast days for Saturn (the god of sowing and the harvest), Consus (god of the storage bin) and Opa (goddess of plenty).
Many of our contemporary winter holiday traditions derive from Saturnalia’s pagan roots, including the hanging of wreaths and garlands, donations to the needy, prayers for peace, time off work to be enjoyed with family, and of course eating, drinking and merriment.
NABC pays tribute to these ancient pagan origins with Saturnalia. Dozens of special kegs from the USA and around the world – some rare, some seasonal and others just plain festive – will be pouring at our Pizzeria & Public House at 3312 Plaza Drive.
When the doors open at 11:00 a.m. on our new Saturnalia kick-off day, Plaid Friday (November 23), the first wave of sacrificial MMXII Saturnalia selections will be tapped in the traditional, ritualistic manner, and the hedonistic pleasures will begin. The remaining kegs will be deployed as the days pass, and the revelry is expected to continue throughout the month of December.
Pricing and portion sizes vary according to alcohol content and style. During the festival’s run, information and updates will appear on our web site, www.newalbanian.com and Facebook page. Always check the blackboards for the daily Saturnalia lineup.
NABC’s Naughty Claus 2012 will open Saturnalia MMXII in late November, and our Solidarity closes it after Christmas. All the rest of our house-brewed beers will continue to pour throughout. Saturnalia’s run.
Anchor Christmas Ale (“Merry Christmas & Happy New Year”), 2012 Vintage
This holiday ale’s recipe has differed a tad each year since inception in 1975, but the conceptual links with trees (on the bottle label) and the winter solstice have endured throughout. 5.5% abv.
Boulder Never Summer Ale
American seasonal ale brewed with 2-row barley and British dark caramel malt; Nugget, Willamette and Cascade hops; and a “top secret brewmaster’s spice,” all on behalf of “the drinking town with a skiing problem.” 5.94% abv.
The base beer is Tank 7, Boulevard’s “farmhouse” ale. Saison-Brett takes Tank 7 an edgy step further; it is dry-hopped, introduced to wild Brettanomyces yeast, and aged a bit. We’ve aged it more.
Boulevard Nutcracker Ale
It’s a classic winter warmer, but with a distinctly American twist of freshly harvested Chinook hops, flown to the brewery from the Pac NW. 5.8% abv.
Breckenridge Christmas Ale
Dark mahogany in color (two row, caramel, chocolate, black malts) with Chinook and Mt. Hood for balance. Very Colorado, with a healthy 7.4% abv.
Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout 2011
Chocolate’s the point, although there’s none. Intensely roasted malts and skullduggery are the culprits. Probably better saved for Gravity Head, but the Publican loves Imperials. 10.1% abv.
Clipper City “Heavy Seas” Winter Storm
There is a presumption of “Imperial ESB” in this ale, with four malts and five hops (Magnum, Fuggles, Cascade, Centennial and Chinook). Dry hopped. 7.5% abv.
Corsendonk Christmas Ale
Among the more consistent of Abbey-style producers, Corsendonk’s annual Christmas Ale never ceases to be anticipated. Is that a hint of coriander amid the ruby-chestnut elegance? 8.5% abv.
Noël, from the venerable, family-run Huyghe brewery near Ghent, blends the cleanness of Delirium Tremens (golden) and Delirium Nocturnum (dark) into a unique third way, albeit a shade stronger, prompting the brewery to remind us that it “requires a responsible consumption.” 10% abv.
Great Divide Belgian-Style Yeti
Allegedly equal parts Rocky Mountain abominable snowman and wayward Belgian monk, with fruitiness and spiciness delightfully crossing over into Great Divide’s recipe for Imperial Stout. 9.5% abv.
Great Divide Chocolate Oak Aged Yeti
The usual Yeti hopping is muted; cocoa nibs peek through, combining with vanilla from the oak chips and a hint of cayenne pepper. 9.5% abv.
Great Divide Hibernation Ale
It’s a winter ale, but one that is lagered for three months prior to release. Perhaps overshadowed by some of today’s extreme microbrews, but enduring, unique and worthy in its own right - deep, nutty and smooth. 8.1% abv.
Great Divide Wolfgang Doppelbock
Colder weather fairly begs for Doppelbock, and while this one is from Denver, it is brewed in the textbook Bavarian dark lager style. It’s worth remembering that in Franconia, both Doppelbock and Helles Bock are pre-Christmas specialties, not Lenten fast-beaters. 8% abv.
Translation: Magic Gnome Ale (Norway). This vivid testimonial to the power of creative malting is brewed only for Christmas, and like an Old Ale should, it exudes holiday “chocolate, caramel and raisins.” 7% abv.
Mikkeller Ris a la M'ale
Sources describe a dessert beer “modeled after a traditional Danish dessert called risalamande.” Accordingly, each dessert ingredient is used: Rice, salt, sugar, vanilla, milk, cream and almond and cherry extract.” We’re expecting sweet/tart and cherryish. 8% abv.
NABC Naughty Claus
Santa needs daze off, too
A rich, full-bodied holiday spiced seasonal, as designed by David Pierce, director of brewing operations at NABC. Malts include Pale, Belgian Aromatic and Simpsons Crystal Medium malts, with Hosey honey added. Hops are German Hallertauer and Magnum. Orange Peel, Sweet Ginger Root, Cinnamon and Nutmeg are the spices (with dry-gingering in the Brite tanks). NABC’s house Chouffe yeast completes the scene. 8% abv.
Solidarity or Death
Baltic Porter is the best way to tip your hat to the activists in the Solidarity independent trade union, and a robust reminder of Baltic foresight in activism and strong beer. 8.5% abv.
New Belgium Snow Day Winter Ale
The brewers looked to a massive snow storm for
inspiration: “This beer is the deep garnet of a roasted walnut and presents a creamy tan head, floating artfully atop.” Must be something about Colorado. 6.2% abv.
New Holland Dragon’s Milk
Aged in bourbon barrels for four months, with accompanying vanilla notes, and a name that derives from historical examples of English special strong ale reserved for the privileged. 10% abv.
Thyme, vanilla, orange peel and candi sugar are among the spices used to accent a dark and brawny winter seasonal, brewed in the hills of the Ardennes. 10% abv.
People's Batch 100 “Captain Black Strap Stout”
Our friends at the Lafayette, Indiana brewery speak: “It's an American Imperial Stout brewed with flaked oats, honey malt, chocolate malt, black malt, caramalt, smoked malt, and black strap molasses.” 86 IBUs and 9% abv.
Ridgeway Lump of Coal
Returning after a very long absence (2004 may well have been the last time for us) is Ridgeway’s atypical British holiday stout - dry, in the Foreign Extra Stout mold, and not just another Imperial Stout. 8% abv.
Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale
It is indeed difficult to imagine another seasonal ale that symbolizes the holidays better than Celebration Ale. A recurring seasonal favorite, with generous doses of Chinook (for bittering), Cascades and Centennial hops, dry-hopped, but not neglecting delicious maltiness. 6.8% abv.
Stone Vertical Epic 11.11.11
Stone’s tasting notes tell the tale: “Upfront the banana yeast-derived flavors are blended very nicely with toasted and toffee-like malt flavors, fruity esters, and balanced hints of cinnamon. Mid palate the Perle and Pacific Jade hops and the Hatch green chili flavors come through. The beer finishes dry, and bitter with just the tiniest hint of chili heat and a touch of alcohol.” 9.4% abv.
Struise Tsjeeses Reserva 2011
One thing’s for sure: The name means Jesus in Flemish, as in “Tsjeeses, what a beer!” Apart from this, Tsjeeses might be a Strong Belgian Pale, or a steroidal Tripel. When barrel-aged, it is known as “Reserva.” 10% abv.
Three Floyds Alpha Klaus Xmas Porter
Who else but Three Floyds Brewing Company would devise a porter with English chocolate and Mexican sugar (or vice versa, or both, depending on the source) that reeks of piney hop essence and is built on a malty foundation? No one. 7.5% abv.
Troubadour Imperial Stout
The Belgian brewery known as “The Musketeers” promises a bitter chocolate impression with a drier finish in an Imperial Stout with a “Belgian touch.”
How might one describe a “Tripel IPA”? Here is how “The Musketeers” brewery does it: “The hop bitterness of an American IPA with the fruity characteristics of a Belgian triple.” A Zythos fest award winner. 9.3% abv.
Two Brothers Hop Juice
A case study in Double IPA: A big malt backbone and a marked citrusy, piney hop character (100.1 IBUs). Made in Chicagoland. 9.9% abv.