My wife’s company Christmas Party was held at the Norwalk Aquarium this Thursday night. It was a great place for a party but, as expected, there was a limited selection of beers at the event. So to appease her craft beer loving husband, Doreen agreed to make a pre-party pit stop into The SoNo (South Norwalk) Brewhouse which is practically across the street. We walked into a large dining area with long communal tables filled with revelers from some other company’s holiday party. This area was separated from another smaller dining area by a low wall and a huge copper vat. As it turns out, The Brewhouse hasn’t brewed their own beer in over a decade, but they kept the shiny equipment to give the place a “brewery” feel. I must say it worked.
But all the atmosphere in the world can’t make up for a mediocre beer list. Here the Brewhouse shined as well. The selection from the taps was standard stuff but their list of bottled beer was first class with microbrews from Abita (Louisiana) Allagash (Maine), Magic Hat (Vermont) and Unibroue (Canada). It was the Holiday beers from around the world that caught my attention though. I started with a German double bock called Ayinger Celebrator which is brewed in the Bavarian town of Aying, just 10 miles from Munich. This dark, malty beer has a nice foamy head and a smooth, sweet taste. Doreen had an Innis and Gunn Original that is aged in oak Bourbon barrels in Dunbar, Scotland. The whiskey flavor takes a back seat to the strong vanilla notes and it carries a 6.6% ABV.
My next selection was from Belgium: Corsendonk Christmas Ale. Corsendonk makes one of my favorite brown ales and I was looking forward to trying another style from this historic brewery. Monks started making these Abbey-style ales in Oud-Turnhout back in the 1600’s. The Christmas ale held up their great tradition. It was dark but not as malty as the bock or their brown ale. This beer had a nice blend of malt and spice that put me in a holiday mood.
Our Holiday beer adventure ended in San Francisco. We split an Anchor Steam Christmas Ale before walking across the street to the Aquarium. This ale had more of a Christmas spice thing going on. The bartender explained that Anchor has been making a Christmas Ale for 36 years, which is ancient by US standards, with a different recipe each year. It did not have the dark complexity of the European beers, but it did get us in a festive mood to enjoy partying with the fishes.