From the Beer Writer: The holidays are a time for gathering, giving, gluttony, glee, and most of all, friends. They’re also a time for generosity, something that was recently shown to me and my charity campaign, Beer to the Rescue, by longtime supporter—and good friend—Kris Ketcham. Kris is the brewing manager at Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens – Liberty Station, and we’ve been brewing collaboration beers for this campaign (which benefits the Lupus Foundation of Southern California) for the past four years. When we started talking about what to brew this year, I introduced the concept of a holiday-geared IPA; mainly so I could use a beer name plucked from my favorite Christmas episode from the classic sitcom Friends: the Holiday Armadillo (Santa’s part-Jewish friend and representative for all the southern states…and Mexico!). Like most craft-beer fans, when I think of hoppy winter beers, I think of Sierra Nevada Brewing‘s Celebration Ale, so I imagined a deep red, malty, evergreen-scented brew, but the more we filled out the recipe, the further from a Crystal-malted, Cascadian creation we got. And I’m glad we did, because what we ended up with is a beer that is perfectly suited for the holidays but unlike any holiday ale I’ve had before. Simcoe and Citra were incorporated at my request, with Kris adding Amarillo, Crystal and Motueka to round things out. I was ready to stop there, but he wasn’t. With a gleam in his eye, Kris suggested adding cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and orange peel to really drive home the holiday aspect of the beer. I was skeptical but if there’s anyone I have faith in when it comes to exotic brewing, it’s this bullish innovator. By lightly spicing the beer during the brew, he was able to tweak it to the exact spice level we wanted post-fermentation. The resulting beer tastes like a traditional, citrusy IPA up front, with baking spice and a lingering orange zest sensation on the back-end. It’s a nice departure from traditional strong ales and imperial stouts that are de rigueur this time of year, and a holiday beer suited for San Diegans.
From the Brewer: “Originally our idea was to make a giant, 11% triple IPA, but after thinking about all the other high-ABV holiday beers out there, we decided to go with a different approach. There aren’t too many holiday-spiced IPAs out there, so we thought we would try our hands at brewing one. The addition of rye was the first thing Brandon and I gravitated towards when creating the malt bill. We decided on a 10% blend of Crystal and flaked rye with two-row rounding out the rest of the grains for this IPA. For the spices, we wanted something that could work with an IPA, but not completely dominate the hops. Orange peel, ginger and nutmeg with a touch of cinnamon were the perfect combination of spices to make this happen. For the hops, we wanted to use something that would play nicely with the rye and other spices so we went with a blend of Simcoe, Motueka and Crystal hops. While debating the dry hop it crossed our minds that we couldn’t have a Holiday Armadillo without some Amarillo….and also some Citra and Motueka. Holiday spices are present up front with ginger and nutmeg dominating, followed by citrusy notes from the orange peel and ginger. There’s orange-spiced rye bread on the palate with a touch of cinnamon on the finish. The bitterness is balanced and leans more toward classic West Coast bitterness. This wonderful beer weighs in at 7.1% and 65 IBU (international bittering units), and has plenty of IPA character to keep everyone happy, while adding the element of the holiday season into every sip.”—Kris Ketcham, Stone Brewing Brewing Manager, Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens – Liberty Station