With a mere six days before Christmas, parties are being planned, menus are being created, and the last of the ugliest Christmas sweaters are flying off the racks. But, should you find yourself thinking about adding a little something extra to this year’s festivities, I’ve got you covered. A delicious Christmas beer is always welcome and tonight I’m serving up the second of these tasty, Santa approved brews. Today’s choice is yet another winter beer from Southern Tier – 2XMAS, a seasonal ale brewed with figs, orange peels, two types of hops, four varieties of malts, and a partridge in a pear tree. Let’s go drink!
Prying off the cap reveals a group of carolers for your nose. Huge notes of ginger, clove, cinnamon and a pinch of mint burst out of the bottle like in a yuletide cloud. A mellow malty backbone forms underneath, bringing some bready warmth to the bouquet. Sweet hints from the figs show up on top of the malts, as well as some citrusy zest from the orange peel. There are also flashes of plums, raisins and cherries that mingle with the spices to create a massively layered aroma. At the back of each breath, a floral lightness lingers for just a moment as the culmination of spices and fruits creates a holiday aroma that could be used as an air freshener for Santa’s sleigh.
The flavors are just as intense as the aroma. Bread malts start things off, forming a mouth-filling base upon which giant layers of spices and fruits build. The spices show up after the malts, comprised of cinnamon, mace, cloves, ginger, and some black pepper. The cinnamon and mace are potent, and the black pepper adds an almost biting spice burst that rolls over the tongue. Imagine the most heavily spiced pumpkin beer you’ve had, and add even more spices. That’s how intense this beer is. But, the best part is how controlled everything is. No spice over powers or steals the show, which is awesome. After the spices, notes of orange zest mingle with dark fruits such as plums, raisins and figs to create a rich, slightly sweet addition that wraps a bow around the massive spice flavor. At the back of each taste, a touch of hoppy bitterness clings to the sides of tongue, while some floral hop notes seem to boost up the black pepper taste, while adding a light freshness. There’s no pine notes at all, just a bloom of zesty flowers that settles on the tip of the tongue. The aftertaste is a mouth-hugging bread laced with potent spices.
The post-pour aromas break free from the confines of the bottle and just about leap out of the glass. Huge spice notes of cinnamon, allspice, black pepper and clove swirl against the nose. Heavier layers of bread malts, plums, figs and raisins arrive next, adding a super-pleasant sweet and savory aroma that mixes with the spices and creates pure holiday memories for your smelling pleasure. The same hoppy floralness shows up last, adding a touch of freshness similar to a scented candle without the overpowering strength. Visually, it pours a crystal-clear ruby brown with an off white head that fades quickly.
The post-pour flavors are much like they are in the bottle, except now they’re much more potent. Rich bread malts create the backbone once more, while strong notes of clove, cinnamon and black pepper show up alongside a touch of ginger and a bit of mace to create a spice rack explosion within your mouth. Some orange zest mingles with the floral and spicy hops to add both mild bitterness and some bright freshness that slides in on top of the other flavors. The malts are noticeable from start to finish, but the spices are what you’ll remember from this beer. They’re intense but controlled, and sets this beer apart from other spiced winter ales. Finally, with its 8% ABV, it brings a nice warmth that gradually builds over the course of drinking, leaving you nice and toasty.
Like most other Southern Tier beers, this one takes the normal requirements of a particular style and just goes bonkers. Scoffing at the normal mildness of holiday spicing, 2XMAS empties the entire spice cupboard into this beer with enough mastery and control to ensure a delicious experience from start to finish. Notes of dark fruits, spicy hops, and warm bread malts mingle with the spices to create one of the most potently aromatic and flavorful beers this side of Belgium. The winter vibes are off the charts here, with the spices potent enough to summon Santa himself, and the comfortable alcohol strength ensuring you stay nice and toasty. It’s priced the same as other seasonal crafts, and with the strength of these flavors, you’ll be sure to get your money’s worth.
I recommend this either while waiting for you Christmas meal, or after while you’re exchanging gifts. Really, any time when you’re not eating. The spices are intense enough that I foresee pairing issues with most food. Don’t worry, you can use this as your nightcap. Showing up huge in the winter category yet again, Southern Tier brings comfort and joy with their 2XMAS, earning an A from Santa himself.
Lasting Strength: 10/10
Overall: 9.5/10 A
Winter Warming Bonus: 10/10