First let me say God Bless Scoats, right off the bat, for keeping a beloved holiday tradition alive. Mike "Scoats" Scotese, owner of the Grey Lodge Pub and Hop Angel Brauhaus, orchestrated the return of any beer lover's holiday fantasy: a variety case of winter seasonal, Christmas and otherwise big beers for 24 lucky beer geeks, including yours truly. Last night we descended upon the Grey Lodge to pick up our most special of Christmas presents.
It was a wintry December night in 1998, bitterly cold and sleeting, and Scoats, my (now dearly departed) friend Gary Bredbenner and I, were hurtling through slush and ice on the Pennsylvania Turnpike toward Downingtown in an old and battered Chevy Suburban that I had borrowed from a housemate. We had been invited to participate in one of beer writer Lew Bryson's early experiments in beer cameraderie, the Bryson Christmas Mix. Bryson had selected 24 winter/Christmas/holiday/big beers and scheduled the assembly of these 24 variety cases for 24 lucky folks at the Victory Brewery and brewpub in Downingtown, on the same night that the brewery would be holding its annual Christmas party, a nifty beer segue of sorts.
I had known Scoats about a year or so by that time, and had become a Wednesday night regular at the Grey Lodge. We had decided to carpool to Downingtown, and Gary, who rarely drove anywhere, asked for a lift as well. It was a scary 90 minute drive in miserable weather.
But we got there, met the group of Christmas Mix participants, and Lew directed traffic as we assembled our variety cases on the loading docks of the brewery. It was a little bit Keystone Cops, but a lot of fun, and the selection of beers for the Mix were, for the most part, new to me, and that made it an extra special adventure.
The Christmas Mix plugged along over the next few years, but began to sputter a few years ago, as schedules got busier, lives more complicated, a lot of different reasons. So that why I heap praise upon Scoats for bringing our little beery tradition back. He, like many of us, can get sentimental that way.
He also worked hard to make this year's Mix really interesting, with classic winter beers that have always been a part of the Mix, and new beers that many of us haven't tried or even seen before.
Here are the beer treasures he assembled for the 2010 Christmas Mix:
21st Amendment Fireside Chat (the first can in the Mix!)
Abbey of Christ in the Dessert Monk's Ale
Anchor Our Special Ale
Breckenridge Christmas Ale
Brooklyn Winter Ale
Cape Anne Navigator Double Bock
Great Divide Hibernation
Great Lakes Christmas Ale
Gritty McDuff Christmas Ale
Lancaster Winter Warmer
Samuel Smith Winter Welcome
Saranac Season's Best
Sierra Nevada Celebration
Summit Imperial Pumpkin Porter
Troegs Mad Elf
Victory Storm King
Wachusett Winter Ale
Weyerbacher Winter Ale
Yards Poor Richard's Tavern Spruce
Geants Bier de Noelier
Stegmaier Winter Warmer
I can't wait to start sampling.