Holiday Libations 2019 – Beer and Brandy
‘Tis the season (once again) and, in keeping with the spirit of giving, I give to you a barrel full of recommendations to help get you through the coming weeks – hopefully with your spirits high. Of course, I say spirit recommendations and lead off with beers … but I think these suds fill a particular niche during (and possibly after) the festive season. Many of these tipples would make excellent gifts should you be in the mood to spread the joy. Cheers!
Big Drop Brewing Company Pale Blanche / Dark Noir
Being a designated driver can be, well, a bit of a pain. And if you just want to ease up the alcohol component of other drinks, the picking can be slim. Big Drop Brewing offers what I can say are easily the best non-alcoholic beers I’ve tasted. Clocking in at a mere 0.4 per cent ABV, the Pale Ale and Stout (that can’t be called Pale Ale or Stout due to some antiquated government regulations) are both full-flavoured and authentic. The Pale Ale (Pale) being hoppy, zesty and citrus-tinged; the Stout (Dark), full-flavoured, and redolent of coffee, cocoa, vanilla bean and a hint of smoke.
Adega Cooperativa de Lourinhã Aguardente Vínica Lourinhã X.O.
There are only three regions in the world that have been granted DOC (geographical designation) recognition for the production of stellar brandy. Two of these are in France: Cognac and Armagnac. The third is the Lourinhã region just northwest of Lisbon. The Aguardente Vínica Lourinhã X.O. is best served neat, in glass that is large enough to allow the fragrant, intense aromas of toasted nuts, caramel, baking spice, and antique wood to develop. In the mouth, it’s smooth and balanced, with flavours of dried fruits and spice cake, and a long, warm finish.
Hennessy’s Master Blender’s Selection No. 3 Cognac
This caught my attention for a few reasons. First, it shows that the “big boys” can do artisanal if they put their minds to it. This is a limited edition XO-grade cognac blends 20 rare individual cognacs together to shape its distinct flavour profile. Secondly, it’s complex enough to be enjoyed neat, but distinctive enough to stand out when mixed. Toasted hazelnut aromas with suggestions of caramel, marmalade, and vanilla segue into complex flavours hinting at fruitcake, clove, and nutmeg, with a luxurious mouthfeel and memorable length.
Hennessy VS Cognac “Limited Edition” bottle #175658
The packaging for this “limited edition” bottling was designed by Felipe Pantone (how’s that for a “colourful” last name?) an artist known for using illusion and movement in his ultra-modern aesthetic. The design is about as far from “traditional” as you can go. And though this classy VS sports traditional cognac aromas and flavours (think caramel, toffee, vanilla/oak, toasted nuts and red currants wrapped up in an ultra-smooth package), don’t limit yourself to just enjoying in a snifter (though feel free to do so). Try it as a base for a classy cocktail.
More Holiday Libations recommendations from Tod Stewart coming soon!