By CADY KUZMICH
CLIFTON PARK — “Candles won’t be the only thing getting lit this holiday season,” warns Clifton Park’s Shmaltz Brewery in a news release announcing its new holiday lineup.
The holidays are once again offering local brewers the opportunity to experiment with unconventional flavors and wordplay.
With brews like “Funky Jewbelation” from Shmaltz Brewing Company to Brown’s “Dunder and Blixem,” there’s a fun beer for everyone to warm everyone up when the snow begins to cap the hills of upstate New York.
Here’s a sampling of what some local breweries have concocted this holiday season:
Mad Jack Brewing Company, Van Dyck, Schenectady
Sam Pagano, brew master at Mad Jack Brewing Company of Schenectady, has made something very special for the holidays this year: “Chocolate Peppermint Oatmeal Stout.”
Pagano used organic peppermint oil and 500 individual candy canes in the mashing part of the brewing process. “There’s lots of peppermint flavor and sugar in the candy canes. We’re always looking for ways to include sugar,” he said.
“I used some extract, just because I didn’t feel like unwrapping any more candy canes,” he added with a chuckle.
Mad Jack Brewing sales rise slightly in the fall and winter, he said. “People are getting their winter-bodies on,” he laughed. Pagano speculates that people drink more in the winter than they do in the summer, when they might be more calorie-conscious.
Wolf Hollow Brewing Company, Glenville
Brewers at Wolf Hollow Brewing Company have added a taste of barrel-aged whiskey to their Christmas Scotch ale by adding “bourbon soaked oak spirals” to the fermenter.
This “Scottish Wee Heavy” brew is 10 percent alcohol by volume and is available throughout the month of December. Other noteworthy special-release beers on tap at Wolf Hollow include its double IPA District 12 (9 percent ABV), which is brewed with local honey from Rotterdam’s Tibetan Moose Farm and its Mourning Monk (4.5 percent ABV), a Belgian Pale Ale.
Shmaltz Brewing Company, Clifton Park
Shmaltz describes its “Hanukkah, Chanukah: Pass the Beer” as the “second coming of the world’s only ‘official Chanukah beer.’ ”
“Hannukah, Chanukah” is a dark ale brewed with eight hops, eight malts and is 8 percent ABV.
You can also enjoy “Chanukah in Kentucky,” featuring eight hops and eight malts, that has been aged in Heaven Hill and Jim Beam Barrels, at Shmaltz.
Shmaltz’s message to anyone holding a bottle of its Chanukah in Kentucky is “NO MATTER WHAT STATE YOU FIND YOURSELF IN, you now hold a rare and precious offering — a barrel aged interpretation of our official Chosen Beer of this holiday season.”
Brown’s Brewing Company, Troy
It’s prime time for experimental beers at Troy’s long-established hometown brewing company, Brown’s.
The local team of brewers has dreamed up an English ale for the holiday season called “Dunder and Blixem,” Dutch for thunder and lightning. Owner Garry Brown says the beer is “a winter warmer” seasoned with cinnamon, vanilla, oak and port wine.
Brown’s released two new beers this month: An American barley wine made with golden raisins topped with three kinds of hops, and a farmhouse ale with grapefruit zest and ginger.
“Essentially the Troy guys are the ones who are developing most of these recipes and it’s allowing us to work on our relevance in our 24th year,” Brown said.
Over the past few years, Brown’s Brewery has started producing all its “core styles in a larger volume” in Hoosick Falls. This, according to Brown, has “enabled the Troy facility, the original brewery, to be more experimental.” Noting the rising demand for local craft beers in recent years, Brown says the brewery is now able to do four or five winter releases, “something we just didn’t have the luxury or the brewing capacity for [before].”
Brown attributes the growing popularity of craft beer to everyday folks’ growing knowledge of what constitutes good beer. “The people who are our target audience know more about beer than they ever have before. There’s so much more awareness of local products. It’s really picking up strong and I hope that continues.” Brown says the demand for good beer doesn’t fluctuate much with the seasons. “We’re fortunate in that we don’t have much seasonality. We’re busy year ’round,” he added.
Argyle Brewing Company, Greenwich
The brewers at Argyle Brewing Company have created a “Winter Warmer” they describe as “Christmas in a glass.” It’s made with brown sugar, cinnamon sticks, cardamom seeds, cloves, figs and raisins, according to Matt Stewart, one of the owners. This holiday brew has an ABV of 6.5 to 8.0 percent.
Despite its name, the Argyle Brewing Company is not in Argyle but in neighboring Greenwich.
That’s primarily because the town of Argyle, the brewers’ hometown, is one of the few towns in the state where alcohol sales aren’t allowed.
“Hence our slogan, ‘Dry Town — Wet Basements’ ” Stewart said.
The brewer opens its doors to the public Wednesday through Sunday each week, though the real magic happens on Thursdays when the brewery’s regulars come in toting crock pots and specialty craft beers from near and far to share with one another.
By CADY KUZMICH