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It’s Not Your Grandma’s Eggnog

Nov 30, 2015 06:12PM ● Published by Jill Cueni Cohen

There are lots of ways to enjoy the holiday spirit, and one of them is to drink holiday spirits! We looked at some of the more interesting offerings this month and came up with a few recommendations for those looking to try out specialty beers, wines or something harder to celebrate the season.

Pittsburgh has a unique history when it comes to alcoholic drinks, and Wigle Whiskey leads the pack in putting our fair city back on the map. Located in the Strip District, the company is a family owned and operated distillery that has the distinction of being the first distillery to open in Pittsburgh since Prohibition. According to Jill Steiner, events and public relations director, the distillery has big plans this month, including the release of four new products, holiday-themed demo workshops and even a holiday tree sale.

Family-friendly hot cider will star at the Christmas tree sale, which runs from December 4-6 at Wigle’s Northside barrel house, with a portion of the weekend’s proceeds benefitting the Homeless Children’s Education Fund. “Saturday, Dec. 5, we’ll have a live Santa, local craft vendors, live music, food trucks and a gift wrapping station,” said Steiner, noting that guests are encouraged to RSVP online at www.wiglewhiskey.com/event-tickets to reserve their tree.

For $5,000, adults who want a visit from Santa can order a 15-gallon barrel of whiskey and prepare for much merry-making when the big man himself shows up to lead guests through a whiskey tasting…complete with cookies. “Santa’s Whiskey Express is available on a rolling basis, for delivery before noon on the 23rd,” said Steiner.

New offerings from the distillery include Wigle’s first grappa, distilled from Niagara grape pomace sourced from 6 Mile Cellars Winery in Erie; their first batch of absinthe, which has been in development for more than two years; a barleywine wheat whiskey with a designer label; and Wigle’s first aged bottles of Landlocked Spiced Honey Spirit, which will be released during their Chrismukkah holiday party. Wigle’s Holiday Workshop Series starts in December with bitters, DIY eggnog and absinthe cocktails every Wednesday.

If beer is more your speed, Zelienople brewery Shubrew will be releasing four innovative holiday seasonals, starting with an English IPA made with yams and cranberries. According to owner Zachary Shumaker, craft brewing is an art in and of itself, and he likes to get creative during December. For instance, Cindy Lou Shu is a Belgian dark ale. “It has figs and panella; a Salvadoran sugar cane,” said Shumaker.

Shubrew will also feature a beer called Fra-gee-lay. “This idea was taken from A Christmas Story where the father opens a box with a ceramic leg for a lamp, and it says ‘fragile,’” noted Shumaker. This beer is made with rye, caraway seeds, white sage, juniper berries and roasted chestnut.

Completing the holiday list is a Belgian tripel version of a German gluh wine. “It includes mulling spices and shiraz musk, the unfermented shiraz juice,” said Shumaker, who’s been experimenting with different ingredients for months. “Christmas time gives me an excuse to be more adventurous in my brewing. I like to come up with a unique beer that conveys holiday taste.”

It’s a tradition at Shubrew to feature a special release sold only in bottles on New Year’s Eve, but this year’s beer has family ties. “It’s called A Boy Named Shu,” revealed Shumaker, “in honor of the (impending) birth of our son this month. It will be an imperial stout with mole.”

At Grist House Brewing in Millvale, Brewmaster Kyle Mientkiewicz is featuring holiday versions of a lighter stout, a holiday stout and a winter Berliner weiss beer. “We never name beers until the day before they come out,” said Mientkiewicz. Grist house is also releasing bottles of their barrel-aged Russian imperial stout, called Putin’s Reserve.

Deer Creek Winery began with just raspberry wine and is now bottling 24-plus varieties of red, white, fruit and limited edition wines. Rustic Red is their Wine of the Month for December, according to Marketing Administrator Cynthia Conner. The dry red is perfect for holidays and goes well with the winery’s own bottled extra virgin olive oils and vinegars. “Our gourmet olive oils and aged balsamic vinegars are great gifts and we have over 40 different flavors to choose from,” said Conner, noting that gift baskets of wine, vinegars, and oils are all the rage this season. “We also sell a lot of pre-wrapped wines for the holidays from any of our main wineries or one of our five outlet locations in The Mall at Robinson, Beaver Valley Mall, Butler’s Clearview Mall, Hermitage’s Shenango Valley Mall, and in Seneca, PA.

Located north of Cranberry in Shippenville, “Deer Creek’s main winery is a destination for live music all weekend and wine, vinegar and oil tastings every day,” said Conner, adding that they also offer wine case discounts for businesses that  want to supply holiday gifts to their employees or business associates. “Take a drive to the country and come visit us.”

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