Nov 25, 2012 Jason Emerson Uncategorized
Dickens Christmas in Skaneateles is famous throughout Central New York for its holiday revels and interesting shopping, and starting this year it will be known for another unique offering – beer.
The Sherwood Inn has teamed with the Syracuse-based Empire Brewing Company to create the new Dickens’ Christmas Ale: a strong, dark Scottish-style ale, with flavors of cardamom and allspice, reminiscent of the beers drunk in the time of Dickens himself.
“It is historical in a sense. It’s a dark beer, heavy in character with some spices they may have used back then,” said Tim Butler, Empire Brewing Company brew master, who created the Dickens’ Christmas Ale. “There’s not a lot of beer-making records that survive from that time, but the beer was darker, stronger, with a smoky malt character, aged in oak.”
The new Dickens’ Christmas Ale is not aged in oak, but does have a smoky character, Butler said. It is also fortified to make it 7.5 percent alcohol by volume, versus the typical 4.5 percent of most beers today.
“I fortify it with alcohol because a winter ale tends to warm you up in cold weather,” Butler said.
The Dickens’ Christmas Ale is made in the Empire Brewing Company’s Armory Square Brew-Pub from Skaneateles Lake water, and will be sold until the end of the year exclusively at the Sherwood Inn in Skaneateles.
The kickoff tasting event for the new beer was held the night of Sunday, Nov. 18, at the Sherwood Inn, hosted by Charles Dickens.
“It’s been quite popular so far, we’ve already poured quite a bit,” said Chuck Mason, assistant general manager of the Sherwood Inn. “It’s been a lot of fun, and cool to see the excitement out there so far for this.”
The owner and management came up with the idea for an exclusive holiday beer at the Sherwood Inn last year after the annual Dickens’ Christmas events were ended, Mason said. They talked with Butler, who visits Skaneateles every holiday for the Dickens’ events, “and he knew exactly what we were looking for,” Mason said.
Butler developed the ale recipe at the beginning of this year, and began fermenting the beer a few weeks ago, he said. “It’s an eight-hour brew day with 14 hours in fermentation,” Butler said.
Butler made two 220-gallon batches of Dickens’ Christmas Ale, which is expected to last through Dec. 31, Mason said.
It will be available not only by the glass but by the growler (half gallon) as well, Mason said. He said the Sherwood has had so many requests for growlers either for patrons to take beer home or give it as a Christmas gift, they decided to make it available in that size. People can bring in their own growler to fill, but the Sherwood is also getting some in from Empire Brewing Company as well.
Also coming soon to the Sherwood Inn to accompany the new beer will be pint glasses with the Dickens’ Christmas Ale logo, Mason said.
Originally, the logo glass – as seen in the advertisements for the beer – was not a real glass but a marketing image. So many people have asked to purchase the glass, however, that the Sherwood is currently in the process of making the glass, which they hope to have available for purchase by mid-December, Mason said.
Whether or not Dickens’ Christmas Ale is available in future years will depend on how well it does this year, but it’s looking god so far, Mason said.
“It’s a great local product and that is one thing if there’s a trend among our patrons – they’re looking for local products. And with the theme of Dickens and the water from the lake – which is right across the streets – it’s about as local as it gets,” Mason said.
Jason Emerson is editor of the Skaneateles Press. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Jason Emerson is editor of the Cazenovia Republican and Eagle Bulletin newspapers.