The Office Party
“Let me hear another sound from you,” said Scrooge, “and you’ll keep your Christmas by losing your situation.”
A Christmas Carol, Stave One
Every bright and cheery thing has a dark side, and it’s time we dealt with the inevitable. That office politics minefield known as the company party is just as much a part of the holiday season as the Christmas turkey. The classic stereotype of the office party faux pas is the employee who drinks too much, ends up saying or doing something regretful, and gets canned in the bargain.
As in so much of life, your best defense is a good offense. Moderation is the key, so stick to the beverage of moderation–beer. If at all possible, bring your own and hide it behind the fruitcake in the office fridge.
The Beer Choice: Samuel Adams Old Fezziwig Ale or BridgePort Ebenezer Ale
Dickens himself would have a hard time choosing favorites between these two beers, but you can’t go wrong with either! Old Fezziwig Ale, like its namesake, is bursting with character and admirably reflects the richness of the season. BridgePort’s offering is akin to the converted Scrooge–rich and warmly generous in its dispensation of holiday cheer!
England was merry England, when
Old Christmas brought his sports again.
’Twas Christmas broach’d the mightiest ale;
’Twas Christmas told the merriest tale;
A Christmas gambol oft could cheer
The poor man’s heart through half the year.
–Sir Walter Scott, Marmion (1808)
’Tis the Season for Giving
You throw parties, your friends throw parties; you give, you get. When you’re on the invitation end of a party, the season demands that you take your host(ess) something that acknowledges his/her hospitality. Surprise! Beer works beautifully in this role. Many specialty brews are debuted for the holidays, often showcased in 750-milliliter “champagne” bottles that make a presentation statement that’s sure to impress. Some even sport corks, wire hood and foil!
But what to give? This is too important to leave to amateurs, so here are a few suggestions from some of the biggest names when it comes to beer, food and entertaining.
The Experts Pick
Stephen Beaumont: “I’d choose Avec les Bons Voeux de la Brasserie Dupont, not only because it is an excellent beer in a format (750 milliliter) that lends itself well to gift-giving, but also because the translation of the name, ‘With the best wishes of the brewery Dupont,’ evokes a lovely holiday sentiment.”
Garrett Oliver: “I’d bring our own Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout, which is great with plum pudding and whipped cream. Aside from that, my favorite holiday beer is Avec les Bon Voeux de la Brasserie Dupont from Belgium. It has a full, deep orange color and an aroma of herbs, musty fruit compote, black pepper, hops and sweet spices. The power is obvious on a round, sweetish palate just bursting with fruit. The finish is long and resinous.”
Charles Finkel: “The beer I usually choose as a holiday party gift is Samuel Smith’s Winter Welcome brewed by The Old Brewery, Tadcaster, Yorkshire, England. A strong pale ale, Winter Welcome is round, rich and well balanced, making it a great accompaniment to holiday dishes like roast heirloom turkey, rare roast beef with Yorkshire pudding, or wild salmon with dill sauce. Because it is not too strong, it is a nice aperitif, when friends gather to talk over nuts and cheese or to warm up on a chilly day. It is always a big hit as a gift, since the package is festive and inviting, featuring an embossed Victorian-style bottle and a colorful label with a holiday-inspired illustration that changes annually.”
Roger Protz: “I would give a bottle of Thomas Hardy’s Ale. The beer has beauty, formidable strength, a fascinating history, and can be laid down for several years like fine wine. [First] brewed in Dorchester in southwest England for a literary festival to commemorate writer and poet Thomas Hardy, the beer was a sensation and has become a regular annual vintage. It is 12 percent alcohol by volume, is bottle fermented, and will improve with age. A young version has rich cherry-like fruit, coffee, tannins and firm spicy and peppery hop notes. Aged in the bottle, it will develop aromas and flavors reminiscent of fresh tobacco and old leather. It is wonderful to sip in front of a roaring log fire, or it will make a fine companion for tangy English blue cheese.”
Typically, these guys would have the last word, but a few other classics deserve a mention:
Rogue Santa’s Private Reserve
Magic Hat Feast of Fools (if you can get it!)
New Glarus Belgian Red
Build Your Own Holiday Beer Cellar
Since you just never know when you’ll be thrown into the role of host, plan ahead and have a strategic reserve in place. What better way to impress your guests than with a larder overflowing with brightly labeled, festive beers from which to choose?
Brewers usually make their seasonal specialties available in November, so begin assembling your cellar early. You’ll want a predominance of seasonal session beers that will work well on their own for casual drop-ins and as the perfect accompaniment for dinner. You’ll also want to have some bigger beers on hand, and while the following list highlights Belgium, many countries offer fine examples. Finally, keep in mind that many seasonals, while retaining their name, change recipes from year to year.
Suggestions from the United States
Snowcap, Pyramid Breweries
Winter Ale, Shipyard Brewing Co.
Sam Adams Winter Lager, Boston Beer
Smoked Porter, Alaskan Brewing Co.
Frambozen Raspberry Brown Ale, New Belgium Brewing Co.
Celebration Ale, Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
Jubelale, Deschutes Brewery
Saranac Season’s Best, Matt Brewing Co.
Belgian Grand Cru Golden Winter Ale, Flying Fish Brewing Co.
Stille Nacht, Brouwerij De Dolle Brouwers
Speciale de Noel, Brasserie Fantome
Noel, Brouwerij Het Anker
Speciale Noel, Brasserie de l’Abbaye des Rocs
Scaldis Noel, Brasserie Dubuisson Freres
Christmas Ale, Brouwerij Corsendonk
Delirium Noel, Brouwerij Huyghe
Christmas Ale, George Gale & Co.
Vintage Harvest Ale, J.W.Lees
Winter Welcome, Samuel Smith
“It is, indeed, the season of regenerated feeling–the season for kindling not merely the fire of hospitality in the hall, but the genial flame of charity in the heart.”
–Washington Irving, The Sketch Book (1819-1820)
This holiday season, make a resolution to slow down, refuse to get caught up in the rush, and instead enjoy the season for all the right reasons. The versatility of beer makes it the ideal accompaniment to all your seasonal entertaining. Your invitation list simply won’t be complete without your trusted fermented friend!