I tend to group Christmas beers and winter beers together. For the most past, they really seem to rely on some fairly similar flavors. I think most breweries make Christmas specific beers because they are rather popular. People love picking up Mad Elf or St. Bernardus Christmas ale. They are some really good beers, but I can’t help but think a lot of people who don’t know anything about good beer see a crazy looking elf and buy it just for that reason. Ridgeway seems to rely nearly 100% on the hope that they can get some people to buy their crazy sounding Christmas beers. With names like Bad Elf, Criminally Bad Elf, Insanely Bad Elf, Pickled Santa, Reindeer Droppings, Reindeer’s Revolt, and Santa’s Butt, you can’t help but realize they like to brew quirky sounding beers focused on the Christmas season. These beers jump around from English IPA’s, to English Barleywines, to Winter Warmers. While I enjoy all of these different styles of beer, I’ve never really thought about buying one of them. The labels scream crazy Christmas beer, but the bottles just seem somewhat off-putting.
This bottle, Lump of Coal, is the least outlandish bottle of all of them. I didn’t actually buy this one either, but I received it from my friend Gavin for our house warming party. He dropped off quite a few other interesting beers as well, two of which I’ve already reviewed on here; however, this beer had me interested for my first Christmas beer review of the season. They bill Lump of Coal as a dark holiday stout; however, elsewhere I saw it called a foreign or export stout. Like a lot of other styles of beer used in export, an export is supposed to be a special style of stout that is brewed bigger than normal for a long journey, the more traditional Foreign / Export Stouts will be found in the tropical regions of the world. They tend to be higher in alcohol with a very pronounced roasted character.
I wasn’t really sure it would be anything impressive, but I was happy to use it for my first holiday review of the season. I didn’t see a lot of reviews for these Ridgeway beers out there, so I was interested to see if there was some thing more to their beers than just a holiday gimmick.
This one pours a very dark black coffee color. Unlike a lot of stouts, it doesn’t have that thick oily quality. There is a moderate amount of head that develops on top of the beer; however, it is a surprisingly white head. The white head does disappear rather quickly with no lacing and an ample amount of sticky residue. It’s clearly too dark to view any semblance of clarity or carbonation, but there is tons of activity in the glass when you agitate its contents.
I would have to say the chocolate aroma is the strongest component on the nose. Interestingly, for a lump of coal, there is really only a very light roasted aroma that combines with some slight coffee smells as well. The beer is clearly mostly all malts; however, it would seem there is some slight hop and pine there as well. There may be a little bit of spice for a Christmas influence as well.
The beer kicks off with some super big malt flavors. The malts are clearly mostly chocolate which dominates the majority of the onset of the tasting. The really well balanced roasted notes come in near the middle of the flavor profile. For a beer called the lump of coal, the charcoal roasted flavor is really minor. The chocolate flavor sticks with it in the second half of the brew. The chocolate is less prominent because it mixes with the mild roasted flavor and minor coffee notes. There’s a little light toffee flavor and some nice espresso flavor on the finish; however, it manages to finish rather clean and easy.
The mouthfeel is basically a medium to thick body. It starts with a rather thick and rich feel, the carbonation kicks up nicely in the middle to help even it out, and then the beer moves back to a little more of a syrupy nature. Despite it having a somewhat thick feel throughout, it still manages to be a fairly easy drinking beer.
In the end I wouldn’t say this beer stands out as a must have; however, I also wouldn’t say you need to avoid it. If you’re heading to a holiday party or want to get something fun that isn’t too bad but fun for the holiday season, you can definitely pick this one up for a good price. You won’t be looking to buy one and age it, but it certainly isn’t a bad beer.
Teacher Grade: C+
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