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Christmas beers for breakfast

Joey Spehar
Joey Spehar

Jake Bier makes beer in Pittsburgh as War Streets Brewery, and like any reputable brewer in December, Jake recently cooked up a batch of his special winter seasonal beer: Mary Barry Bier X-Mas Ale.

Named for his grandmother, Mary Barry Bier (yes, that’s her real name) inspired a delightful ale brewed with cranberries, honey, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and vanilla – all ingredients that Mary used in her kitchen this time of year.

Listen as Jake and Joey sample some of the flavors of the season, discuss some of the histories of winter beers, and gain some insight into what makes a Christmas beer a Christmas beer.

Beers sampled include:

One Way Session IPA – 4.9% ABV (War Streets Brewery)

A light, refreshing “session” IPA meant for having several. A very floral, West Coast-style IPA with tropical and citrus notes from the Mosaic, Citra, and Ekuanot hops.

Mary Barry Bier X-Mas Ale – 7.5% ABV 40IBUs (War Streets Brewery)

Our annual holiday ale is named after my grandmother and it uses some of her favorite ingredients: cranberries, honey, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and vanilla. This ale is amber/brown in color with a rich mouthfeel and crisp finish. Hints of spice from the ginger and cinnamon used at the end of the boil, sweetness from the honey, and a little tartness from the cranberries. This is a perfect holiday ale to sip by the fire.

Mad Elf Ale – 11% ABV (Tröegs, aged 10 years by Joey)

Mad Elf has a nuanced blend of sweet and tart cherries, Pennsylvania honey, chocolate malt, and a hint of mischief. The essence of this legendary holiday ale, along with its ruby red glow, is born from five varieties of tree-ripened cherries. Local wildflower honey sweetens the celebration, and a spicy Belgian yeast adds subtle notes of cinnamon, clove and allspice.

Joey Spehar is a Pittsburgh native who started as a volunteer D.J. at WYEP, fresh out of college in 2006. He took on any job they’d let him do like editing audio, engineering remote broadcasts, and shoveling snow.