I was thinking about how to organize my list of Christmas/holiday beers to try while I was still fuming. Last Sunday, Tim Tebow's team, the Broncos, beat my Chicago Bears in an improbable last second victory that was a painful defeat crushing the Bears' playoff hopes. As an added indignity, it happened on my birthday.
With my mind on Tebow and how he helped ruin my birthday and darken my Christmas season with the dramatic comeback, I'm going to run through a ranking of ten of the Christmas/holiday ales I've tried this year, organized by the NFL quarterbacks they bring to mind. This list is not necessarily representative of who I think the top ten quarterbacks are (after all, I've included Tebow), or, for that matter, the top 10 such beers. This is more of a survey of notable beers. And since Tebow helped inspire this list, I'm getting him on the list:
10. The Tim Tebow Beer: Gulden Draak Vintage Winter Ale
This is a good place to start because this beer is very Tebow like. It does not appear much at first blush. You sip it and you immediately you think it won't work: spices, a dark color, and Belgian yeast. Yet it somehow comes through in the end. Sound familiar?
9. The Tony Romo Beer: Full Sail Wassail Winter Ale
Romo might not enjoy this one but even he can't deny the association. It has a great pedigree: Full Sail is a terrific brewery. Romo, of course is the Dallas Cowboys QB, the top NFL franchise. This one has a ton of promise too, given it's Oregonian origin with proximity to all the best ingredients, and a promising dark brown color. But, it comes up flat in the end, which is the usual result for a certain Dallas QB. Maybe Jessica Simpson likes it.
8. The Jay Cutler Beer: Nogne O Winter Ale - God Jul
This beer resembles my man, Jay, who's on the mend. Like him, this beer started out with great promise. It offered a spicy nose and tremendously rich malty flavor but the finish was a bit thin. Jay's season, like this beer, showed tremendous potential but was broken by his thumb injury. Jay's having only these to drink would be further insult to his injury. No playoffs this year for Nogne either.
7. The Matthew Stafford Beer: Harvey's Christmas Ale
Nothing about the appearance of this is particularly distinct or impressive. It has a light tan color and is translucent. Yet, it delivers mightily on flavor and depth with a rich malty structure and enough nutmeg bite. Weirdly enough, this resembles Detroit's quarterback who never seems to be doing anything memorable or spectacular but routinely delivers great numbers.
6. The Phil Rivers Beer: Delerium Noel
Rivers is a consistently great performer who's having a down year this year but seems to be bouncing back. Delerium Noel consistently delivers as a solid holiday beer year after year, with a viscousness and enough hops to keep it from being overly sweet. Like Rivers, there was nothing exciting to note about it until you realize how much better it is than the others around it.
5. The Ben Roethlisberger Beer: Three Floyds Alpha Klaus
Okay, so Alpha Klaus is super dark, whereas Big Ben is not exactly of the darkest hue. That aside, this beer and the Pittsburgh QB are in near perfect harmony. Both are big, both are bold, a status claimed by Alpha Klaus due to a strong hop foundation. You wouldn't want either one of them near your daughter.
4. The Eli Manning Beer: Sierra Nevada Celebration
I recently did part of a 10 year vertical of this beer and, looking back, it has a lot in common with Eli Manning. It's one of the most solid brands out there, it's relatively consistent, it's capable of being great, and extremely reliable. The crisp citrusy hops in this separate it from most other holiday ales, similar to how a crisp spiral from Eli to a receiver separates him from the pack. It also gets smoother and sweeter with age, and, not dissimilarly, Eli's tearing it up like never before this year. It also has a more famous brother (in the beer's case, it's Sierra Pale Ale).
3. The Drew Brees Beer: Great Lakes Christmas Ale
New Orleans' triggerman, Brees, is just about as good as it gets when it comes to QB'ing. Everyone loves him. When you think of a great QB, he comes to mind. Great Lakes Christmas Ale might not be my favorite, but if I were giving someone an quintessential example of a Christmas Ale, this would be it: sharp, dense, malty, spicy, with lots of nutmeg. No one will make fun of you for wearing a Brees No. 9 jersey, and even your biggest beer snob friends will respect your ordering one of these. Like Brees, no one hates it.
2. The Tom Brady Beer: Mikkeller Santa's Little Helper
I would have listed Port's Santa's Little Helper here but I haven't had any of this year's batch and, therefore, don't know if they varied it from past releases. I've gotten to try a bit of Mikkeller's SLH because a buddy of mine recently bought some for half of Northdown Cafe. I don't think I had ever seen anyone order three $22 bombers of beer before and just start handing out glasses to random people. That kind of thing only happens at Christmas.
Thankfully, this beer is worth the hefty price and the excitement. It's jet black, smooth, delivers a rich chocolatly, coffee-laden profile atop solid hops. It's just excellent to an unusually high level. It's also a bit mysterious because you never quite know where Mikkeller brews a beer or sources its ingredients. This is all on par with Brady's uncanny excellence. He kind of came out of nowhere as a great QB after not being drafted high, and just stayed at an elite, award winning level. He never says much in interviews so you don't quite know what's going through his mind. Yet, the otherworldly results speak for themselves. And his wife's a Victoria's Secret model. How that translates into beer is anyone's guess but trust me, it's a good thing.
1. The Aaron Rodgers Beer: Lagunitas Sucks Holiday Ale
This follows the Brady discussion in perfect order. For Mikeller's SLH represents a longer tradition of holiday ales in that it's dark and has some spices. You've come to expect its profile in a holiday beer. This is somewhat similar to how Brady's brilliance is what you expect: he's been excelling longer than Rodgers at great QB-ing. But, if I were to try to win one game right now, Rodgers is the man of the moment. The guy can do anything at QB, make any kind of throw, make throws you've never even thought of, and throws absolute lasers. He's always one step ahead of the defense and seems to see everything on the field. Rodgers is even lightning quick and quite mobile. He's the closest thing I've seen yet to someone having quarterbacking ESP. He's the consensus No. 1 right now.
Laguitas Sucks has been the same kind of consensus pick this year. Everyone I know from hop lovers, to hop haters, to Belgian drinkers to people who aren't big beer fans is all over this brew. It has unified beer drinkers all over. It has nothing to do with anyone's conception of Christmas, but is so good, so crisp, so perfectly hoppy, not too much or too little, and has a pleasantly sessionable juicy hop finish that still manages a light touch. It has a perfect record, a 120 plus QB rating, and is everyone's fantasy team pick this year. Like Rodgers, it's destined for an MVP trophy this year. The only distinction from Rodgers is that you can actually get a No. 12 jersey right now, while this beer is largely stocked out.
I guess Sucks is due for a hell of an endorsement deal.