Hoppin' Frog Frosted Frog Christmas Ale reigns supreme at Christmas time. For the second consecutive year, Frosted Frog from Akron's Hoppin' Frog Brewery won the blind Christmas beer tasting at Vintage Estate Wine & Beer in Boardman. It also won the first-ever tasting last year. "They are the king of blind Christmas tastings so far," said Phill Reda, the Vintage Estate owner.
The event, held last weekend, featured about 70 people tasting 13 Christmas beers without knowing which brands they were sampling. Participants were given 4-ounce samples of each. They rated the beers on a scale of 1 to 5 for aroma, flavor, appearance, palate and overall impression. The highest score won. It's not scientific, of course. People just picked their favorite.
Troegs Mad Elf Ale finished second and Great Lakes Christmas Ale was third. They bested some serious competition. The other beers sampled were: Thirsty Dog 12 Dogs of Christmas, Stegmaier Winter Warmer, Ohio Jingle Bells, Bell's Christmas Ale, Rogue Santa's Private Reserve Ale, Breckenridge Christmas Ale, Abita Christmas Ale, Samuel Smith Winter Welcome Ale, Indigo Imp Winter Soul and Sierra Nevada Celebration.
Vintage Estate puts on an entertaining tasting, which also features some finger foods and an ugly sweater contest. I attended and would highly recommend it as a fun, off-beat event. (Some photos are below.) The tasting is informal and people sample at their own pace. It's a hoot to taste beer after beer and have no clue -- or little clue -- what you're sampling. There are no labels to influence your brain. You simply know which one is your favorite. My top three turned out to be: Ohio Jingle Bells, Breckenridge Christmas and (tied) Great Lakes Christmas Ale, Rogue Santa's Private Reserve Ale, Troegs Mad Elf Ale and Abita Christmas. I tried during the event to take notes and figure out which brands I was tasting. Not an easy task when there are so many holiday beers on the market and you have no idea which brands were included. I was proud that I successfully picked out Great Lakes and Indigo Imp. However, I was waaaay off with a couple of my other educated guesses.
Vintage Estate -- one of the best beer stores in Ohio -- also holds a blind pumpkin beer tasting. Stegmaier Pumpkin Ale won that event this year and Stegmaier brewmaster Jay Peters made the trek to Boardman for the Christmas tasting to accept a special certificate commemorating the win. Stegmaier is made by the Lion Brewery in Wilkes-Barre, Pa.