Saturday, December 24, 2011

Quaff Review #18: Bah Humbug

'Tis the season, I suppose - at this point it seems like everyone's rushing to the airports or the train stations or the ferry terminals or the highways while I stay here in New Westminster, thousands of kilometers away from the traditional family things. So for me, 'tis mostly the season to drink. Rum and egg nog will only go so far in this regard; not only is rum expensive (although that's entirely due to taxes - what costs $36 at the BCL cost $19 at San Francisco International Airport's duty-free shop), it goes a lot faster than you'd think. Yet it likewise deserves better than a six-pack of Rainier or Lucky Lager or whatever other kind of beer you buy for the sole and solitary reason that it is the cheapest one in the store.

So: it's high time for a Christmas seasonal brew. For that I went over to the Central City Brewing Co. Liquor Store in north Surrey, only a short SkyTrain ride away, and returned with a bottle of Bah Humbug craft beer from the Wychwood Brewery in Oxfordshire, England. I waited until last night to try it out because, really, what's the point of having a specifically Christmastime seasonal brew in the early part of December? Bah Humbug is actually one of twelve seasonal craft brews Wychwood produces, one for every month of th eyear, and I think I'll keep an eye out for the other ones now.

For now, though, on to the one right in front of me. To be honest, even though the label specifies "Christmas cheer," it didn't feel especially Christmas-y to me.

Before I get to the beer, I have to say that I do appreciate the purely artistic qualities of the bottle, with its sculpted countours and the circle of broomstick-riding witches around the midpoint, and the quality of the label, which reminds me of the detail that Dieu du Ciel goes into on its own brews. It's something that the mainstream beer industry lacks entirely - the big brewers put out uniformly uniform bottles with lifeless labels that may well have been designed by a committee of computers. That's one reason I prefer the output of microbreweries - there's more character to them. The bottle itself is deceptively large, and I thought it was holding a lot more beer than I ended up getting out of it.

Now then - the drink. The back label states that Bah Humbug is a strong beer, and I found no reason to disagree; it seemed just a bit more viscous than lighter kinds when I poured it, and at 5.0% alc./vol. there was that subtle tang of alcohol in the background of the taste, but unlike abominations like Earthquake High Gravity Lager it did not overwhelm it. That's part of the problem, though - I couldn't detect much to overwhelm in this. According to the Wychwood website, the taste is "spicy fruit" and the smell is of bananas, cloves, and fruit, but I couldn't detect any of this. It seemed to be... well, rather neutral, really. Certainly no flavors that I would associate with December or the holidays.

It may well be that it's just a personal problem and something is messed up with my taste buds. By no means is this a bad beer; it actually had a refreshing absence of bitterness. It just didn't seem to have much "Christmas cheer" to me.


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