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Belt’s Beer Garden: Spicing Things Up (for beer #400)!


This week we hit another milestone at Belt’s Beer Garden...the 400th beer review since BBG’s inception back in October of 2014. And I wanted to spice things up around here so, instead of the normally hoppy brews I normally feature, I have a couple spiced brews that are perfect for winter time.

Up first, a New York brewery and their seasonal favorite.

Southern Tier opened up in Lakewood, New York back in 2002. In the 16 years since they have seen epic growth and are now available in over 30 states so, odds are, their available near you. In 2017 they opened another brewpub in Pittsburgh and back in 2016 they announced an alliance with Pennsylvania’s Victory Brewing, creating ABV (Artisanal Brewing Ventures) which, just nine days ago, added Six Point Brewing to that group.

Today I have their winter seasonal beer, 2XMAS, which is a take on the Swedish dink, Glögg – a spiced alcoholic beverage normally served warm.

This spiced double ale was brewed with orange peel, ginger, cardamom, cinnamon, fig paste, and cloves…and if that’s not enough, it clocks in at a whopping 8% ABV. But it’s limited to just the holiday season so you’ll only have a couple months to find it. A six pack of bottles costs $11.

2XMAS was rather translucent and poured a dark hazelnut brown color with just under two fingers of tan head topping the brew. The foam didn’t linger long and soon had dissipated to a light dusting across the top.

All those added ingredients gave this brew a nice, sweet and spicy aroma. The ginger and cinnamon were quite noticeable with the cardamom and clove peeking out as well. There was a little bit of a boozy hint to it but, all in all, I couldn’t wait to dive into this.

My first sip began with a dash of carbonation and had surprisingly thicker mouthfeel that made it seem almost…chewy.

From there, the flavors really bloomed across my tongue. The ginger and cinnamon once again popping more than the others, giving off a nice spice up front. The clove and cardamom add some herbal and earthy characteristics that play well with the spice.

The malts add some sweetness to this brew and, when the orange and fig show up a little later, it adds notes of dried fruit that reminded me of a fruit cake (but, like, you know…an actual tasty, liquid version of a fruit cake).

As that citrus rind expands across my taste buds, so too does a hoppy bitterness and an alcohol sting that really dug in at the base of my tongue.

Most of the flavors end after a few moments with no real lingering aftertaste, however, a few characteristics stick around for a few moments. The biggest offenders being the alcohol burn, a hint of spicy ginger, and a bitter hint of orange peel.

This is a pretty solid winter brew; perfect for lounging inside and avoiding shoveling snow or sitting by a fire as you try to warm both, your insides and your extremities. The spices and flavors are nice initially but it ends on the stronger side, with some stiff alcohol heat and that citrus rind bitterness.

Here it 400th beer review and I wanted to make it a good one. So, next up is a holiday favorite that, after four years, I decided I should finally try – Stone’s Xocoveza.

Stone is one of the world’s largest craft breweries, so I’m sure you’ve heard of them. The Escondido, California brewery is available worldwide (or damn close to it) and they even have brewing facilities in Richmond, Virginia and Berlin, Germany to go with their six other outposts in California and one in Shanghai, China!

Their winter seasonal, Xocoveza, is an imperial stout inspired be Mexican hot chocolate that’s garnered a ton of acclaim over the past four winters. It’s brewed with coffee, pasilla peppers, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg and copious amounts of homemade chocolate. It is a little bit pricier, at $16 for six bottles, but each bottle has a generous 8.1% ABV and 50 IBU.

It poured almost jet black with about a finger of airy brown head that quickly fizzled down into a small accumulation around the edge of the glass and not much else remained after a minute.

Holy cow, was there a lot happening with the aroma of this one. There was a cinnamon/vanilla/chocolatey sweetness that blended with some coffee bitterness and a spicy chili pepper scent. Every whiff had a different lead characteristic but, one thing was for sure, it certainly had that Mexican hot chocolate smell to it…and I wanted to jump right into it, which is very rare for me to say about a stout.

It started with just the tiniest bit of carbonation before everything really began to happen. Up front it began with some notes of vanilla and nutmeg before the chocolate swooped in, adding an awesome sweetness.

From there, the cinnamon and peppers provided a light spice that danced across my tongue. The cinnamon outlasted the pasilla peppers and continued on, joining up with that chocolate and vanilla to really bring out a hot chocolate aspect of this brew.

Finally, right before it all began to end, the coffee poked its head out and added a hit of bitterness to it all.

Xocoveza ended on the dryer side of things but didn’t have too much of a remaining aftertaste. Yes, for a few moments the peppers and cinnamon could be found lingering but, otherwise, there wasn’t much left behind outside of that dryness.

Overall, I was really surprised at how much I enjoyed this imperial stout. It’s no surprise I normally veer towards hops and IPAs but I can really see why this beer is as popular as it is. I would gladly drink another…and another. It’s really good. Even if stouts aren’t your thing.