By Jim Cyphert,
Mahoning Valley Flight Crew
With less than three weeks until Christmas, Santa’s made his list and he’s checking it twice.
“Nice” Mahoning Valley girls and boys await treasures this joyous season brings.
Craft beer lovers are no different.
Delicious holiday ales cause us to dream like children with visions of sugarplums dancing in their heads.
Many destinations can make these dreams come true. But Vintage Estate Wine & Beer (VE) – at 7317 South Ave. in Boardman – is one of the best.
That’s opinion – and fact.
IF YOU GO
Vintage Estate Wine & Beer
Address: 7317 South Ave., Boardman
Hours: Mon. - Weds.: 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Thurs. & Fri.: 11 a.m. to midnight; Sat.: 10 a.m. to midnight; Sun.: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Available for Purchase: Flights, pints, growlers, merchandise, food, pick-a-six packs.
It’s our opinion. Plus, ratebeer.com named VE the No. 1 craft beer destination in Ohio and the No. 3 bottle shop in the nation for 2018.
Our friends, owner Jeff McDevitt and James Sforza, one of just 40 advanced cicerones in the world, show us why VE is special every time we get together.
VE offers more than 1,400 labels, has 34 beers on tap and serves some of the tastiest flatbreads in the Valley, including a special flatbread each week.
“Business is good,” McDevitt said. “People like beer and pizza. We continue to bring in rare beers and expand our offering.”
VE hosts Wine University each month. Beer University is in the works.
Sunday, VE held its 10th Annual Blind Christmas Beer Taste. The event sells out months in advance. There’s also a Blind Pumpkin Taste annually, and random monthly tastes.
Holiday seasonals won’t be around long.
“Anyone interested in winter warmers should get here,” Sforza said. “Ninety percent are gone by Christmas. We’re always out by New Year’s.”
Here are the Flight Crew’s favorites:
Bell’s Christmas Ale Scotch Ale (7.5% ABV)
Joe Sanfilippo: ‘‘’Tis the season for some of the best beers of the year. One of Michigan’s finest breweries is Bell’s, and one of its tastiest beers is the Christmas Ale. It’s a Scotch Ale with traditional rich and malty flavors, plus hints of caramel. Checking in at 7.5 percent ABV, this one’s outstanding during the cold winter months. Don’t let this winter pass you by without giving this one a try.”
Brasserie d’Achouffe’s N’Ice Chouffe (10% ABV)
Dave Shively: “Having a variety of winter warmers on hand for your guests is one way to spruce up your holiday gatherings. So, why not add a level of sophistication by including this limited edition Belgian Dark Ale. Like most Belgian beers, you’ll want to be sure to serve this one at cellar temperature, as to accentuate the spices, which include cinnamon, thyme, orange peel and dark candy sugar. At 10 percent ABV, this highly carbonated Ale will soon have you feeling like someone just threw another log on the fire!”
Fat Head’s Holly Jolly Christmas Ale (7.4% ABV)
Roger Gillespie: “Holly Jolly is brewed nearby at Fat Head’s Middleburg Heights brewery. This is a festive winter warmer ale that boasts a 7.5 percent ABV. The color is dark burgundy and it pours with a minimal head. It’s not too sweet with the aroma and first flavor taste of cloves and finishing with a touch of cinnamon. This is an outstanding brew that can be enjoyed by anyone and everyone. Merry Christmas!”
Columbus Brewing Citra Noel Hoppy Holiday Ale (7.3% ABV)
“This one’s an old friend. Two out of the last three years, Citra Noel won the Flight Crew’s 12 Ales of Christmas blind taste. This beer simply looks like the holidays, with its beautiful mahogany color. To balance out its deep, rich, malty base, it features tropical notes from Citra hops. Hurry, it’s only available through the end of the year. I must have made it onto Santa’s ‘nice’ list since I got to review this favorite.”
Tr ∂egs Mad Elf (11% ABV)
Brian Long: “Tr ∂egs Brewery, in ‘sweet’ Hershey, Pa., has its once-a-year Mad Elf on the shelves. This American Strong Ale comes in at 11 percent ABV with a smooth 15 IBU. It pours a deep red plum, with aroma of cherries, malts and spices. Although I enjoyed all the Christmas beers at VE, I have to say the ‘Mad’ in this beer was as in insane … insanely delicious. It captured all the Christmas senses – from the color to the spices, cherries, cocoa and smooth holiday finish. Remember, it’s 11 percent, so maybe have only two or three of these, or you might deck the halls. Cheers and happy holidays!”
Hoppin’ Frog Brewery Frosted Frog Christmas Ale (8.6% ABV)
Jason Jugenheimer: “Winning a blind beer taste is tough … repeating is extremely difficult … winning multiple times is EPIC! That’s what Frosted Frog has done the last several years at VE’s annual Blind Christmas Beer Taste! One sniff and one taste make it easy to see why it’s won and is a favorite every year. The aroma gives the warming smell of cinnamon and other holiday spices that makes you reminisce about baking in grandma’s kitchen. When you taste it, you realize there’s a lot going on. You pick up the wonderful spicing. Cinnamon, along with hints of nutmeg, allspice and whatever else is added to this holiday concoction, dominate your palate. Then the warming begins in your mouth as the sweetness of the malt begins to shine through, leaving a bready hint of cinnamon applesauce lingering before finishing with a tinge of hop bitterness. This is a wonderful winter warmer that’ll be a hit at your holiday party, make the perfect stocking stuffer or Santa’s favorite accompaniment with cookies after sliding down the chimney.”
Recommended flight pattern: Hop into your sleigh, head to one of the best craft beer destinations in the world and sip on some of the finest holiday ales around.