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Belt’s Beer Garden - BrewFC #15: You Sleigh Me

A blind taste-testing of Christmas Ales from two big-time Ohio breweries - Thirsty Dog’s 12 Dogs of Christmas and Fat Head’s Holly Jolly

After more than 18 months, BrewFC is FINALLY BACK!!! The last beer battle was all the way back in April of 2021 but that changes today.

BrewFC #15 is here just in time for the holidays, so it makes perfect sense to have two holiday beers duke it out. But I didn’t go for just any two breweries…no, instead I have two Ohio staples that are separated by less than 35 miles - Fat Head’s and Thirsty Dog - and their respective Christmas Ales.

Today I pit Thirsty Dog’s 12 Dogs of Christmas up against Fat Head’s’ Holly Jolly in one of the most evenly matched BrewFC fights ever.


The Breweries:

Fat Head’s history began 30 years ago in 1992. They have become one of Ohio’s most well-known and biggest breweries and have four locations open today - three in Ohio and one in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (which is where they actually started).

Thirsty Dog, like Fat Head’s, has a long history. Thirsty Dog has called Akron home for 25 years now (or 175 years in dog-years!!). Located on Grant street, just a few blocks from the University of Akron, they can be found in six states and recently opened up “Sour Haus”, a tasting room specifically for their barrel-aged and specialty sours.

The Beer:

As I said, these are two of the most evenly matched beers to appear on BrewFC.

Fat Head’s Holly Jolly: This Christmas Ale was brewed with honey and spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger). It features a 7.5% ABV and was made with seven types of sweet malt.

Thirsty Dog 12 Dogs of Christmas: This Christmas Ale was brewed with honey and spices (“cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and Santa’s secret recipe”). It does have a tad more alcohol, at 8% ABV.

The Rules:

Like the previous BrewFC fights, I will have a friend pour the beers so I won’t know which is which until after I have scored each one. The beers will be judged on three categories - Appearance (5 points), Aroma (15 points), and Taste (30 points) - with a possible 50 points up for grabs. The beer with the most points wins.

Again, I will not know which beer is which until AFTER I have made my decision.

NOW…LET’S GET READY TO RUMBLEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!


BEER “A”

Appearance:

Dark copper color while still staying light and translucent. Almost no head to it. 3/5

Aroma:

The aroma was sticky sweet with a lot of caramel and bready malt flavoring leading the way. Underneath that malt were some lighter notes of honey (adding to the sweetness), cinnamon, and nutmeg. It was a decent scent but the Christmas spices didn’t really stand out all that much. 9/15

Taste:

As with the smell, the taste was very similar. The malt led the sip entirely with some bready notes and sweet caramel hitting the heaviest. The honey add more sweetness to the beer while the nutmeg and cinnamon sat underneath and added just a touch of spice. It was a smooth beer but, towards the back end, there was a tiny bite of alcohol. The beer finished with a lingering malt and booze aftertaste that faded after a few moments. 20/30

Total: 32/50


BEER “B”

Appearance:

Very, very similar to “Beer A”. A dark copper color but light and translucent. However, this one had a bit more head to it, adding half a finger of tan bubbles to the mix. 3.5/5

Aroma:

Interestingly, this beer had a much more subtle aroma. There were still some notes of holiday spice - like ginger, nutmeg, and cinnamon - but it wasn’t nearly as malt forward or sweet. A light citrus note, mostly of lemon, also appeared underneath. 10/15

Taste:

While the aroma was subtle the flavors were not! The beer exploded with a plethora of spices and sweetness. The ginger and cinnamon stood out much more here while the honey and malt added some nice sweetness without being too sticky or overpowering. On the backend there was a light bitterness but none of the boozy bite the other brew had. It finished cleanly with just a touch of caramel stickiness to it. It was very crushable and showcased those holiday spices really well. 24/30

Total: 37.5/50


There was a clear winner in this battle - Beer “B”.

But which beer was Beer “B”?....The winner is......

FAT HEAD’S HOLLY JOLLY!!!!

The battle of Ohio Christmas beers ends with a convincing win from Fat Head’s Holly Jolly. If you’re looking for a great spiced beer for the upcoming holiday, look no further!

And stay tuned for more BrewFC fights here on Belt’s Beer Garden!

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