Jeff's view from behind the

by Jeff Levine
Before you guys get angry that I didn't write a
review for this month's column let me tell you that I've
recruited one heck of a substitute for me, Mr. Dan Hodge

Dan is a nationally  known beer reviewer.  His many
insightful and entertaining evaluations are regularly
featured at  He is also one of the  
foremost authorities on the beer history of the Northeast.  
So take it away, Dan, and cheers!

Thanks Jeff and hello to the readers of Jeff's View From
Behind the Taps.  
  I recently joined  two certified  beer
tasters to sample and evaluate various Chistmas brews.  
With me were Brian Lynch , the well known "beer poet",  
and my brother Brian, an aspproved DB15 beer judge.

We tasted 16 Christmas beers and one oddball variety
Scrimshaw Ale from North Coast Brewing, Mendicino, Ca.  
We used a slightly modified version of Charlie Papazian's
20 point system in which 0-3 points are given for
appearance, 0-4 points for aroma or bouquet, 0-10 points
for balance, mouthfeel and aftertaste and 1-3 for "overall"

We individually rated each beer then averaged its scores.
We then totaled the points up to complete our numerical
score.  Finally, before placing the beers in final rank order
we discussed the ratings in context of our general likes
and dislikes.

We found one beer undrinkable, one perfect, two that
engendered some disagreement and one that was
probably judged with a degree of bias.  That one was my
own 1998 Christmas Ale which held up surprisingly well.
My  recipe was loosely based on one  published by
Papazian but had a unique twist.

My special take on Papazian's formula began when my
wife came home with a packet of something called
"Witch's Brew" , a mix that was supposed to be used for
mulling cider at Halloween. I grabbed that and threw it
into the brew pot and added some ginger and cloves.  Not
only were the results outstanding but the beer is actually
tasting a little better now than it did five years ago!  It may
have been biased judging but it's 9th place finish out of
the seventeen we tried was a tribute to it's flavor.

The perfect beer was Sierra Nevada's Celebation Ale which
is not surprising. The undrinkable was Stoudt's Winter Ale.
This lousy stuff was made for them by Frederick. We had
no idea of how old it was because like many
micro-brewers they forgot to put a date on the little place
on the label where it says"Best served by...". And then
there's a blank. Very frustrating! At any rate it tasted like

The two that there was some disagreement on were
Anchor Special Ale,2002, and Affligem Abbey Noel
Chistmas Ale. I thought the Anchor was better than the
2003, the other guys said the reverse. I thought the
Abbey Noel was very over rated and tasted slightly like
dishwater, but the other two said it wasn't too bad. (And
these guys are the experts??)   

We agreed that the Scrimshaw would probably fare much
better in a tasting of similar style beers and that it really
didn't belong in this bunch.  Anyway, check out our final
rankings and let me know if you have any comments.  
Just contact the and he'll get
them to me.   

Thanks for the use of your space Jeff.... and Happy New
Year to all!  
Dan Hodge
Which Beer
Does "DAN"

1. Sierra Nevada
Celebation Ale - 20 pts.

2. River Horse Belgian
Frostbite - 18.7 pts.

3. Geary's Special Ale  
-17.5 pts.

4. Weyerbacher Winter
Ale  - 17pts.

5. Belzebuth(15%) -  16.5

6.  Flying Fish Grand Cru
Winter Reserve - 15.37

7.Weyerbacher Merry
Monks - 14.9 pts.

8. Anchor Special Ale
2003 14.8 pts.

9. Hodge's Hoppy
Holidays Christmas
Homebrew - 14.7 pts.

10. Samuel Adams
Winter Lager - 14.5 pts

11. Geary's Winter Brew
and Otter Creek Alpine
Ale   - 14pts. (tied)

13. Anchor Special Ale
 - 13.2 pts

14. Scrimshaw - 11.97 pts

15. Abbey Noel-11.8pts.

16 Red Hook Winterhook
8.3 pts (Very Average)

17. Stoudt's Winter Brew
4.7 pts.
Dan Hodge