Holiday Brews and BBQ

By Jason Jugenheimer & The Flight Crew

AUSTINTOWN, Ohio – Christmas is just around the corner. Lights are going up in neighborhoods. Wrapping paper is adorning shelves. Santa is popping up everywhere. And there is beer – lots of holiday beer.

The Flight Crew hopes we’ve been good this year. Signs point that way. Santa came early in the guise of Superior Beverage’s business development manager, Nick Setting, and executive vice president, Joe McHenry, with an incredible selection of liquid libations.

Superior Beverage Group is an industry leader and one of the largest distributors in Ohio, employing over 600 and distributing a growing wine, seltzer and craft cocktails list – and, of course, craft beer.

Joe told us that its senior vice president for commercial development, Jason Edwards, “is always looking to expand our portfolio.”

That expansion has grown to comprise Brewdog, Columbus Brewing, Dogfish Head, Market Garden, Oscar Blues, Seventh Son, Southern Tier, and many more.

It also includes a healthy share of crafted cocktails and spiked seltzers industry favorites and what Nick sees as the next big market, tequila spiked cocktails.

“Lone River Beverage Company’s Ranch Water Hard Seltzer with agave nectar and lime is quickly becoming a favorite,” Nick says.

Back to what we love about Superior: the beer. Superior has won numerous industry awards, including Southern Tier Distributor of the Year. It’s come a long way in a century.

Founded in Youngstown in 1922 as Superior Wholesale, the company has expanded over the years until it consolidated all operations in 2011 into a 500,000-square-foot operation in the Cuyahoga County village of Glenwillow. Now its employees serve most of northeastern Ohio, as well as central and southern Ohio, and Colorado and Texas.

Beers on tap at Barry Dyngles in Austintown. The Flight Crew calls the restaurant its favorite local “big Texas style barbecue joint.”

According to Nick, one thing you might notice this year when hitting the beer shelves that Superior stocks is the rebranding of some holiday favorites to include more names that focus on beers that are more winter drinking-friendly. “This is in order to extend the drinkability of the brand beyond the Christmas season,” he says.

While the Flight Crew was fortunate enough to visit its massive warehouse a few years back, we met Nick and Joe at the Crew’s favorite local big Texas style barbecue joint, Shawn Hannon’s Barry Dyngles in Austintown.

You’ll be able to grab some great grub and a pint of the beers we sampled at Barry Dyngles, as well as many other holiday favorites.

Here are a few of the beers we hope to find filling our stockings this year. We hope you will too.

Southern Tier 2XMAS. 8% ABV

Roger Gillespie: Brewed as a tribute to the Nordic tradition of “Glogg,” 2X uses two varieties of hops, four varieties of malt, and figs of orange peels, cloves and ginger to create this delightful concoction.

These spices are very noticeable to the nose but subtle on the palate. It pours a dark ruby red with a light beige head that dissipates rather quickly. 

While “Glogg” traditionally is served warm, this brew is best served chilled in a wide-rimmed glass to release all the holiday aromas. At 8% ABV, 2XMAS Spiced Ale is still capable of warming you from your palate to the tips of your toes.

Downeast Cider Winter Blend (6.5% ABV)

Joe Sanfilippo: What better way to start off the holiday season than with a nice cider?

The Downeast Cider Winter Blend is perfect for these occasions. It’s ideal to grab while sitting around the fireplace or decorating the tree.  Fermented with ale yeast and aged on toasted oak chips, cinnamon bark, and nutmeg, this cider brings a warm aroma to the nose. It’s subtle on the tongue, though, and not over the top on the spices. Hence this is why it is so delicious. 

It pours a hazy golden color. The body tastes like apple crisp in liquid form. So go out and grab yourself a four-pack or two for the holidays. I am sure you will enjoy this as much as this Ciderboy did.

Hoppy Christmas IPA 4.0 (6% ABV)

Jason Jugenheimer: Hop off the Yule log. Pull up your boots and strap on your jingle bells for this festive fun ride. The folks at Brewdog have always prided themselves on being a little “defiant.”

This Christmas IPA defies what one comes to expect in a holiday seasonal offering. If you are looking for an abundance of winter spices, pinecone or sugarplums dancing in your head, you won’t find it here. Instead, this beautiful golden ale hop slaps you like your first voyage into subzero wind chills.

Packed with hops that bring out more tropical flavors like grapefruit and papaya, it is somehow oddly appropriate for this time of year and fits your palate like a favorite pair of slippers. It’s crisp and refreshing until the last sip and is as welcome as a fresh blanket of snow. This is definitely a drinkable beer that will carry you into spring.

Market Garden Festivus Holiday Ale (7.5% ABV)

Brian Long: Although Festivus is a fabricated holiday, there is nothing fabricated about this beer. Boasting a beautiful mix of seasonal holiday flavors and spices, it just screams winter.

A respectable velvety malt flavor appears throughout consumption, after light notes of ginger, brown sugar and nutmeg hit the palate. I found this beer goes down rather easily and the thing people might regret is buying only a six-pack.

Cheers and happy holidays!

Columbus Brewing Citra Noel (7.3% ABV)

Dave Shively: For more than a decade, I have had the good fortune of ringing in the holidays by hosting our festive Flight Crew Christmas Party, affectionately known as “Suds with Santa.” 

Our main ritual is a blind tasting of 12 holiday ales in an attempt for the Crew to uncover the quintessential seasonal ale. The 2016 and 2017 gold medal winner, as voted on by the Flight Crew, was Citra Noel. For good reason. 

This reddish-copper colored ale has a solid malt backbone, and is accented by generous amounts of Citra hops, which elicits thoughts of an IPA. 

So if you‘re looking for a departure from winter warmers or seasonal ales overdone with sugar, spice and everything nice, I encourage you to give this one a try.

 It’s Flight Crew tested and Flight Crew approved!

Southern Tier Old Man Winter (7.5% ABV)

Rob Tittel: It’s that time of year. The falling leaves and cooler temps usher in the season of darker, heavier and spicier beers.

Coming off a month filled with lots of spice-laden pumpkin beers, I was ready to give my palate a break. As the temperatures dip even further and the first snowflakes fall, this beer from the southern tier of New York State is the perfect anecdote.

It pours a brownish orange with slight ruby hues. This brew has a small off-white head that dissipates quickly.

The initial aroma is one of caramel and toffee with some sweet dried fruit. There’s a little bit of spice present, presumably from the noble hops employed here.

At 7.5% ABV, it drinks smoothly and has a slightly sweet, slightly nutty finish that warms your core. If you like more cloves, cinnamon, ginger and all the other requisite spices in your winter beer, there are ample options. But if you need a break from that spice, this fits the bill.

Recommended Flight Pattern: Load up the sleigh with your favorite beer-drinking elves. But leave the reindeer. They just might get smoked!

Pictured at top: Hosting the Flight Crew at Barry Dyngles are Joe McHenry, executive vice president of Superior Beverage Group; Shawn Hannon, owner of Barry Dyngles; and Nick Setting, Superior Beverage business development manager.