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2020 Holiday Beers, Pictured: Mezzo Forte American IPA

The 2020 Holiday Beers

What a year, huh? The good news is that home brewing is a perfect activity for lock down. So this year in addition to the usual stout and IPA, I have a new style: a blonde ale.

Find details about each beer below including tasting notes and aging suggestions.

Check back for updates. As the beers age, I’ll post updates.

Yeast on the Bottom These home brews have a layer of yeast on the bottom. That’s normal and fine. Before serving, try to keep the beer still and chill, like in a fridge. This helps keep that layer of yeast on the bottom.

Send Us Your Comments and Tasting Notes

If you got your hands on one of these beers, please send us your tasting notes and comments.

Tips for Storing and Serving

  • Store beer in a dark place, especially the IPA. UV light interacts with hops to cause skunkiness.
  • Big beers like stouts improve with age. Others you should age for at least a few weeks, and then drink within a few months. See information under each beer below.
  • For best results, age the beer appropriately for the style. Then chill for a few weeks. It’s not a rule. If you’re in a hurry, chill for a day or two before serving.
  • Let them warm a little before pouring. The best temperature ranges from 40F to 55F. See the details for each beer below. And it’s not a rule.
  • Leave a little behind when you pour to avoid yeast in the glass.
  • As these beers age, I’ll post notes and taster comments below.

Pouring – Updated December 31

Ball Park Stout is nicely foamy. Pour accordingly.

Mezzo Forte IPA and Tears of a Clown Blonde Ale still seem less foamy. Pour a little aggressively or stir the beer a bit with a chop stick. The release of some carbonation and the foam supposedly improve the drinking.

Batch 54: Ball Park Coffee American Stout

Ball Park Coffee American Stout, bottles and glass

A stouty stout, indeed, and black as night. Roasty, coffee flavors, and maybe some hints of dark chocolate. Bottled October 26-27, 2020. In the past I’ve aged this beer for six months, and it’s pretty smooth for a heavy-flavored stout. It should be good with as little as one month’s aging. But if you have the patience, wait at least three months before chilling it. Serve around 45F and let it warm as you go.

Batch 54A

  • ABV: 6.1%
  • Calories: 233/12oz

Batch 54B (+Oats)

  • ABV: 6.4%
  • Calories: 238/12oz

Current Suggestion (as of July 3)

  • Good sipping stout, especially with food.
  • Chill for at least 7 days if possible.

Tasting Notes

November 6

Immature, for sure, so it’s a little meh, but tasting like a stout.

November 13

Smoother. The one week since the first tasting improved it a lot.

December 1

54A – Hmmmm. It’s okay only. Once I take a few sips, it’s better. (BTW: They say stouts and such should start with a three big sips. That seems about right.)

December 5

A group of 4 tasters all agree: it’s better as it warms a little from refrigerator temperatures. One taster thought when colder, it has a little molasses and sulfur off-flavors. I find the coffee flavors come out better when warmer. A good temperature is 45F+.

December 30

Batch 54A is nicely foamy. Big coffee and roast flavors. Good sipping beer, especially with something light like a salad or vegetables.

January 14

Batch 54B: nicely foamy, big coffee and roasty flavors, mellowing a little. Nice with a little food.

February 24

Batch 54A: Perfect. A bit of sharp coffee flavor, and a well aged stout.

July 2

Nicely aged, indeed. Good sipping stout with food.

Batch 55: Mezzo Forte American IPA

Mezzo Forte American IPA and Christmas Tree

Meant to be a mild IPA, I had to guess how much hops to use and guessed a little strong. (Software glitch lost the recipe.) Still only moderately hoppy for an IPA. All Citra® hops, so it has notes of citrus. Bottled November 9, 2020. IPAs lose their hops over time. Age for a month or two. Serve around 45F.

Batch 55A

  • ABV: 5.8%
  • Calories: 177/12oz

Batch 55B (+Brown Sugar)

  • ABV: 6.9%
  • Calories: 210/12oz

Current Suggestion (as of January 14)

  • Chill for at least 7 days if possible. See the Dec 23 tasting note below.
  • If you like hop aromas, drink this in January. But it should still be drinkable for many months but with lessening hoppiness.

Tasting Notes

November 20

A little immature, as expected. Maybe a little thin, and not much head. We’ll see how it improves with age.

December 2

55A – Yeah, it’s okay, especially after warming it a little to around 45F. It’s better when it’s higher than refrigerator cold.

December 5

A group of 4 tasters all agree: it’s better as it warms a little from refrigerator temperatures. A good temperature is 45F+.

December 17

Yeah, it’s okay, decent hoppiness. Not amazing. Drinkable and okay.

December 23

Utterly perfect, even right out of the fridge (estimate 35-40F). This bottle of 55B was chilled for at least a week, and that might settle more yeast and other stuff out. Nicely mildly hoppy for an IPA.

January 1

55B – Pretty good. Mildy hoppy for an IPA.

January 12

55A – Mildy hoppy and nice.

January 17

55B – Mildly hoppy and nice, just like 55A.

Batch 56: Tears of a Clown Blonde Ale

Tears of a Clown Blond Ale, Ornament Coloring

A new style for me. Blonde ale is a small step heavier than a Bud or Coors; they’re meant to have little notable flavors, just a balance between light malt and light hops flavor. Bottled November 23, 2020. Light beers like this should be consumed relatively quickly, they say. This is the first time for a blonde ale, so we’ll find out together. Age at least a few weeks. Serve at fridge temperatures, and it should be good around 45F, too. This might be a good cold-serve beer.

Batch 56A

  • ABV: 5.5%
  • Calories: 182/12oz

Batch 56B (+extra carbonation)

  • ABV: 5.5%
  • Calories: 182/12oz

Current Suggestion (as of July 24)

  • Still a good, lighter beer. Chill for a few more days up to 7 days.

Tasting Notes

November 27

Very immature and not fully carbonated yet. Need to wait another week to try it.

December 6

Coming along nicely. It has light flavors.

December 11

Better and aging nicely. Should be ready for Christmas.

December 18

It’s okay. It might-could use more aging, but that might be me – I prefer hoppier beers, and this beer is more malty than hoppy, In any case, it’s a drinkable beer.

December 25

Fruity, like berries. Possibly better while nibbling on something with it. Drinkable. I look forward to trying this after chilling for a week or more.

December 31

A report from somebody who prefers lighter beers: “This is lovely. Nicely done.”

January 1

56B – Chilled for well over a week. Not fruity like last week’s tasting, but a good beer for the style.

January 13

56A – Chilled for a day. Fruity and nicer than Dec 25. Good beer, perhaps a little heavy for the style.

March 4

56B – Chilled for a few months. Seems perfect for the style: mild flavors, no noteworthy flavors in particular.

July 24

Still a good beer for the style — light flavors. By the book it might have aged too long for the style, but it’s a drinkable beer. Perhaps a certified beer judge would notice something, but for a typical beer drinker, this is good, lighter beer.

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