Patience isn't normally my strong point, but when it comes to waiting on fermented items...I'm in for the long haul. Mead is my favorite of all libations, and it takes a ton of time! So when I realized that I was too late to make a Christmas Ale for 2008, I figured I'd go for 2009!
This beer has had a bit of a story to tell before it ever made it to Christmas.
I entered it into the competition at the Colorado State Fair where both judges said it was very good but "Should be entered into the wood aged category". There is no oak...I swear!
It is as dark as night with a rocky head that fades to a nice thin layer of foam that lasts till the end. Initially, it strikes you as a strong coffee stout with a medium heavy mouthfeel. Then you start realizing that there is a spiciness behind the roasty malts and all of that coffee. There is something I just couldn't put my finger on...till I remembered the coffee I used. It was a Christmas Blend coffee. Those spices are nutmeg and a touch of cinnamon. They are just so far in the background that I didn't realize what they were.
The pound of lactose tames the tannins that managed their way in from the coffee! I cold brewed the coffee before addition to the beer, but it still managed to bring an acidic character that I actually think works very nicely against the subtle chocolaty character of the malts and adds to the lack of hop bitterness.
I'm not a good critic of beer. I figure I can almost always find something to enjoy about a beer. When judging other beer, I try to look for the good as much as the bad.
Judging your own beer is a tough thing to do! I normally pick my own beer apart to a point where you'd think it was undrinkable, but this one...I just really love. There are not really any faults, and I personally have had a great time watching it age and change. It hasn't really mellowed, but the coffee character and spices have changed a bit over the last year, and I'll wax a few bottles and see how they are for a few years to come.
So basically what I'm getting at here, is weather you are a home brewer or not, you can find a big 'ol beer to stash away for tasting this time next year. Think of it like you are building your own Christmas Present!