A Word with the Beer Experts

The man, the myth, the expert. James.

WITB is fortunate enough to have partnered with the experts from Shep’s Beer Empourium here in St. Pete, your local stop for all things craft beer! Lucky for you readers, this means the beer experts from Shep’s will give you first taste of their hop-knowledge by reviewing some of their favorite beers they currently have in store. Today, we’ll hear from James, reporting on four of his favorite Christmas beers. Stop in store to pick up your copy, snuggle up (or not) and cheers your way into some holiday spirits.

12 Dogs of Christmas 

Thirsty Dog Brewing Co. (Akron, OH)

Style: Winter Warmer

ABV: 8.3

Rating: 7/10


The beer pours a very clear, dark amber color, and a decently hard pour yielded a thin head with little retention.  A thin layer of suds slowly runs down the side of the glass with each sip, while a small amount of carbonation rides up the amber liquid.  The bright amber color and slowly cascading suds keep inviting me back for another sip.


First thing that hits the nose, as advertised, is honey, honey, honey.  The honey is accompanied by some subtler flavors that are classic to a winter warmer, such as nutmeg, cinnamon and caramel malts. Some less common scents I’m getting are ginger, chestnuts and mama’s holiday fruitcake. The scent isn’t too overbearing–it’s just right. There’s definitely a lot going on here!  


Initially, the flavor profile is dominated by the honey and nutmeg, but as the beer warms up the caramel malts really start to come through at the front, with cinnamon ginger and honey following behind.  No chestnut on the taste.  No hop flavors at all.  Like most winter warmers, this was a sweet and malty spice bomb.  This collection of flavors masks the ABV of 8.3%. The taste wasn’t as complex as the nose, which was disappointing. It just tasted like standard winter warmer with a honey focus.


Very warm due to all the spices and very chewy due to the sweet malts and high ABV.  It has moderate body a little on the thicker side, almost like a thin syrup. It’s not very refreshing–I probably couldn’t drink more than two (owing to the thickness, not flavor).


This beer is an Ohio staple around the Christmas months. People rave about it! An old brewer from the renown Great Lakes Brewing is the current Thirsty Dog Brewmaster, which is part of the reason I was hoping for a little more complexity on the flavor. So, overall I would give this beer a 3.5/5.


Southern Tier Brewing (Lakewood, NY)

Style: Double Spiced Ale

ABV 8.0

Rating: 6.5/10


A hard pour into the glass yielded a bold, amber color with very little head, which quickly dissipated to a flat surface. Little activity in this beer: after letting it sit for just a minute it looks almost entirely flat.


The aroma on the beer is very fruity and mildly spiced. Strong, sweet fig flavors, some zesty citrus, and mild cinnamon and nutmeg notes. As the beer warms up, the citrus falls off and makes way for the cinnamon and nutmeg spice.


Toasty and sweet malts dominate the flavor profile. There’s a bold, figgy taste throughout this beer, and not as much citrus as expected—barely any, actually.  Cinnamon and nutmeg hit the back of the tongue on the tail end. Its boozy taste fails to hide its high ABV as well as other Christmas Ales.


Very little carbonation on this one. It’s typical not to have much effervescence on a Christmas Ale, but this was almost flat, which took away from the beer.  It’s definitely a warming drink, medium bodied and mildly viscose, like a thin syrup.


I think Southern Tier missed the mark with this one, which saddens me, as they’re from my home state of New York and I’ve been a fan of their beer for quite some time. That being said, this beer definitely has its redeeming qualities: the fig was well captured and complimented the sweet malts nicely. Fig, citrus peels and spices were utilized in the brew as a tribute to the traditional Swedish winter ale, the Glögg—a style that is rarely seen.


Barlew Mow Brewing (Largo, FL)

Style: Herbed/Spiced Beer

ABV 7.3

Rating: 7.5/10


Tinsel pours a turbid, dark amber with reddish hue. Nice head development as the beer is poured but retention is minimal. A very thin layer atop the beer persists through every sip.  Suds mask the side of the glass and retain their hold there. Carbonation is hard to view due to the dark and turbid cloak, but judging from the activity on the surface, I’d say there’s a good amount of unseen action.


Cinnamon and nutmeg are the first two flavors to hit the nose—common stand out flavors in most winter beers.  The sweet malts give off a delicious caramel-y, toffee aroma that this pesky fruit fly in my apartment is really digging, and frankly I don’t blame him.


Initially, the honey, toffee and sweeter malts are prevalent, but as the beer starts to warm up, the sweeter flavors peter off and the winter spices start to dominate the flavor. Nutmeg takes over at the forefront, with cinnamon and mild toffee notes in the midriff, followed by a roasted aftertaste of malts and mild cinnamon.


This dark, amber ale was smooth and thin, though when left to linger it had a mild astringency in the cheeks and on the tongue and left a dry feeling on the back of the tongue.


Overall I’d say this one was well done. When some aspects of the beer started to stray, other ones swiftly followed to their place.  Sweet followed by spice followed by roastiness made it really complex without going too far. This beer was done by Barley Mow Brewing from Largo, and frankly I’m impressed this is a product of Florida. As much as I love Florida breweries, you can probably see why it’s hard to expect a decent Christmas Ale out of them (ahem, no seasons). Great beer and, as always, great to drink local.

Anchor Special Ale 2016 

Anchor Brewing (San Francisco, CA)

Style: Winter Warmer

ABV 6.5

Rating: 9/10


This one pours an almost abyssal black with a thick, creamy head—looks similar to a stout or porter.  The head retains itself nicely with a subtle but apparent flow of carbonation ascending the side of the glass. Suds lace the glass after each sip, and they stick around.


Strong scents of molasses, banana and pine give off a very earthy yet sweet aroma.  Some more subtle notes of stone fruits surface as well. It smells like a post-Christmas-dinner fruitcake baked in banana bread, if you can imagine.


Sweet molasses and very nutty banana bread occupy the forefront, with an added bittering factor from the pine notes. Caramel malts are evident but dialed back compared to most other Christmas beers. The malt flavors are predominantly grainy.  Banana linger on the tongue after each sip. Complex and delicious.


So smooth it’s silky. Full bodied yet thin flowing.  Not syrupy at all, which was a nice change of pace from other Christmas beers.  A little dryness was left on the tongue after the finish.


Big fan. Anchor has been putting out their “Special Ale” every winter for 42 years. Each year is a different recipe dedicated to a different tree (aw). This one was dedicated to a lone pine 1000 miles from Omaha on the Transcontinental Railroad Line.

Follow James on Untappd at James_likes_beer 

Shep’s Beer Empourium is located at 2001 4th St N, St. Petersburg, FL 33704



A Word with TalesFromLimbo Creator Ian Lindsay

14590476_10210784460310265_3511486459291211738_nToday, I’m honored to get a Word with Ian Lindsay who, with photographers Lia Nydes and Connor Kenworthy, are the creators of TalesFromLimbo–an artistic collaboration of poetry, flash fiction, visual art, and photography–all done entirely for Instagram. If you haven’t already, check out their IG profile @talesfromlimbo and get your contemplation on.

Introduce yourself!

My name is Ian Lindsay, and I am a writer. I graduated from Eckerd College with a major in Creative Writing, minoring in Literature and Journalism. I currently work as an SEO content writer, and substitute for Pinellas County schools. I dream of one day being a professor. And writing a novel of Faulknerian proportions. I write the content for TalesFromLimbo and transpose the content over the photographs.

What inspired you to start TalesFromLimbo?

I love reading, writing, and storytelling, and I wanted to embrace new technology and ways to broadcast language and photography for people to enjoy without sitting down to read a whole book or visit an exhibit.

My hope is that someone scrolls through their phone and some kind of evocation happens within that person. Maybe it makes their day better, or maybe gloomier, or maybe it just makes them appreciate the prettiness of the words and image.

But I think my true inspiration was the bathroom stalls in Fubar before they remodeled, back when there was graffiti adorning the walls, a gloryhole, and PBRs were still three-for-two on Tuesdays.

How did you come up with the name? 

We brainstormed various names that we would come up with, then agreed upon TalesFromLimbo. I like it. I hope others do too.

I wanted to name the project, “Gore. Lust. Succharose. Alchemy,” because I was reading Anthony Kiedis’s Scar Tissue when we first started, but we didn’t want people who use Splenda in their coffee to find some kind of perverse solidarity with our title. So we went with TalesFromLimbo.

Where would you like to see it go in the future?

I would love for TalesFromLimbo to grow into a platform local artists can use to get their craft seen. If you are an artist, poet, or alcoholic who can scribble pretty words and would like to collaborate, please let me know. I will buy you Black Crow coffee or a pickleback, depending on your poison.

I once paid a homeless man in tallboys to let Lia take a picture of him. His name is Gary “Ants in the Pants,” and he lives in the alley behind the Oyster Bar. If you see him, please be nice to him. He’s a good guy. 


Gary “Ants in the Pants”

Describe the creative process for a Tale. 

I can’t speak for Lia, but many of the early ones just kind of hit me when I would people-watch in the subway back when I lived in New York. I was pretty heartbroken and miserable so little prosaic nuances just kind of came to me. Now, I just kind free write, and if something dope hits me I always jot it down.

The mosaic ones are a little more thought out. Since Instagram posts with photos aligning in threes, a mosaic must have three, six, or nine stanzas. I use the photo as subject matter and then just stare at a blank page until the words are summoned and travel from my fingertips to the keyboard.

If nothing happens then I watch Snapchat stories and sign Joe Whalen [local DJ] up for spam emails.

You encourage collaboration from outside writers and artists on TFL. How can someone submit their own “tale”? And what type of work is welcome?

Anything and everything. I fucking urge people to shoot me an email [find Ian’s email below] if they would like to write content, draw, photograph, or model. We’ve had some people do all of the above, but personally I think my poetry is lacking, and would love to get some more accomplished bards on there.

What would you say to someone who wants to “be an artist”?

Fucking do it.

No, please fucking do it.

I have seen a lot of my friends make really dope shit and whether it is ostentatious or not to call it art–or to call them artists–is not really important. What is important is that if you have it in you to create something that makes you happy, and might make others happy, then Please. Do. It.

If you play guitar go busk outside liquor stores. If you draw, beg one of the local microbreweries to let you hang a few paintings up. If you write, call me and I’ll workshop you and post your work on TalesFromLimbo, or setup a WordPress for you. If you do photography than snap some pictures and email them to me. I’m lookin’ at you, Kirsten Ruginski [local artist]. verse48-2

What mark do you want to leave on the world?

A very hard question to answer without sounding like a pretentious 1st world liberal arts graduate, but I just hope I can convince people that reading is fun.

Imagine you’re 80 years old. What would you say to your children?

Get me a beer.

What did I miss?

I would just like thank my mom for pushing me, loving me, and believing in the nonsense I speak. I would also like to thank the Eckerd College writing department, particularly, and in no order, Tracy Crow, Jon Chopan, K.C.Wolfe, Scott Ward, and Sterling Watson. I would also like to thank some dead writers: William Faulkner, David Foster Wallace, Jack Kerouac; and one living writer, Don DeLillo. I would like to thank Lia Nydes, Connor Kenworthy, and Addie Pendergrast for their contributions to Talesfromlimbo. Lastly, I would like to thank anyone who is following Talesfromlimbo. Whether or not it’s your thing, I really do appreciate the support.

Intrigued? Check out TalesFromLimbo on Instagram @talesfromlimbo or online.

All Tales and artistic submissions can be directed to imlindsa@eckerd.edu

Lia Nydes, local conservation and environmental photographer, and photographer for TalesFromLimbo. Follow her on IG @lianydes or check out her website or blog.

Joe Whalen, local DJ. Check out his music here.

Kirsten Ruginski, local artist/photographer. Check her out on IG @kirstenruginskiphotography, Like her Facebook page, Kirsten Ruginski Photography, or visit her website.