Craft Beer Scene Around Rockford: Revolution Brewing’s Fistmas: One of the better Christmas beers

By Michael Sears
President, Forest City Brewers

Greetings to all on the eve of Christmas!

Maybe Christmas,” he thought, “doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas … perhaps … means a little bit more.” This quote is from one of my lovely wife’s favorite Christmas specials, How The Grinch Stole Christmas, by Dr. Seuss. I — and our dogs — feel fortunate she has not tried to put antlers on them yet! Ho ho ho!

This week, I would like to offer yet another slightly different interpretation on Christmas beer. When I first saw the name of this beer, it immediately reminded me of the Seinfeld episode that revolves around Cosmo Kramer becoming interested in resurrecting Festivus after Frank Costanza tells him how he created the holiday as an alternative to the commercialization of Christmas. The name of the beer is Fistmas, and the brewery is Revolution Brewery of Chicago.

I talked about Revolution Brewery back in early October. If you missed or have forgotten, here is a quick recap. Josh Deth opened Revolution Brewing in February 2010 with a second-floor Brewers’ Lounge added in July 2011. The production brewery and tap room opened in spring 2012. They have plans for further expansion. Revolution’s Kedzie Avenue brewery is one of the largest in Illinois, featuring a 60-barrel brewhouse. Their portfolio features six year-round beers, 14 specialty/seasonal (including Fistmas) and five barrel aged.

Fistmas is a holiday ale that is available during the months of November and December. According to Revolution’s website: “It is a Red ale brewed for the holiday season with specialty malts to achieve a beautiful deep red hue and the aromas of fresh baked bread, caramel, and stone fruits; Steeped with ginger root and orange peel.”

For this tasting, I will use a tulip glass. There is no recommended serving temperature for this, so we’ll just say between 45 and 55 degrees Fahrenheit.

The pour is a gorgeous ruby mahogany color, with an impressive two-finger depth of off-white head sitting on top of this clear-bodied beer. As the head recedes to a wispy thin cover, it leaves a very nice lacing pattern on the glass. The clarity reveals a nice string of carbonation bubbles feeding the foam.

The aroma starts with a quick slap of pine and tropical fruit hoppiness, which mingles with some faint hints of holiday spices of ginger, clove, orange peel and nuts. The maltiness is toasty, but restrained, much like an afterthought.

The first taste is straight-on spruce and grapefruit, with the holiday spices struggling to assert their presence. The toasty malt is barely perceptible, but provides a nice base for the hoppiness. The finish offers a spicy zip of ginger and alcohol that refreshes the palate.

The mouth feel is medium-bodied and effortless, which is smooth and crisp with a bit of hop pinch, much like an IPA. The finish is hop leaning that is fairly dry with spicy warmth that’s difficult to put your finger on.

Overall, this is an interesting take on a Christmas ale/winter warmer. A somewhat strange experience, as it has all hop flavor to appease the taste buds of hop-heads but is also seasonally appropriate and tasty. It does not beat you over the head with massive amounts of spices like a Christmas candle. As far as Christmas beers go, the appreciation for subdued is what I liked, and it is actually one of the better ones I’ve tried. At a modest 6 percent alcohol by volume, you can enjoy a couple of these without slipping into a cozy winter’s nap.

May you and your family have the spirit of Christmas, which is peace; the gladness of Christmas, which is hope; and the heart of Christmas, which is love.

Michael Sears is president of the Forest City Brewers. The Forest City Brewers is a homebrewing club dedicated to the art of finely crafted beer. The club meets the first Wednesday of each month at Rockford Brewing Company, 200 Prairie St., on the Rock River. For more about Forest City Brewers, go to http://forestcitybrewers.org. If you have comments or recommendations, contact Mike at rockfordcraftbeer@comcast.net.

From the Dec. 24-30, 2014, issue

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