The 2020 holiday season is set to be a grueling affair. It comes at the end of a historically bad year, capping off the calendar with bouts of inter-family bickering, desperate loneliness, and unencumbered credit card debt.
Festivus was founded to exorcise the anguish of just such a year. The Seinfeld-born secular holiday takes place on December 23, leading into Christmas with feats of strength and the ever-so-important airing of grievances. Well, 2020 has put forth an unprecedented number of air-worthy grievances, so Michigan’s North Peak Brewing decided to bring back its Blitzen Festivus ale to help beer drinkers shake this nasty year.
What makes this a Festivus beer instead of a Christmas beer? That mainly comes down to the spice profile. Instead of leaning into a wreath-y spruce or a mugful of nutmeg, North Peak sharpens the nose of this beer with a blend of Michigan-grown Cascade and Chinook hops, a slight variation in profile from the last version, released in 2017. The upgrade not only gives the beer more local clout, but it also asserts a potent dankness off the rim.
Pouring a deep, earthy amber, Blitzen Festivus looks like a spice cake in a pint glass. That’s more or less what it tastes like, with the generous rye additions giving a raisin flavor that’s surrounded by brown bread malts. Mischievous, but I’ve never met a December reveler who was happy to get a tin of spice cake delivered to their door.
At 6.8% ABV, the beer is a feat of strength to finish. The malt is dense, the hops are piercing, and the booze is menacing. It defies the very holiday spirit, which is exactly what Festivus set out to do, but you can feel a sugar-fueled hangover coming to ruin your Christmas Eve.
A great metaphor for 2020, but not the beer you’ll want to go out on if you’re trying to forget the year that was.