Saturday, I picked up a six-pack of 21st Amendment Brewery’s Fireside Chat.
The beer’s packaging explains Fireside Chat’s name thusly: “Like FDR’s radio addresses, which were a kick in the butt and a hug at the same time, our winter spiced ale is a subtle twist on tradition.”
Kicking someone in the butt while hugging them doesn’t seem like a subtle twist on either butt-kicking or hugging. That’s like being at your daughter’s wedding, pulling a .38 on her instead of walking her down the aisle, and saying, “Just adding my own little flair, honey!”
But the packaging’s cool artwork distracts me from my pedantry:
It depicts FDR hanging out fireside, except FDR isn’t giving an inspiring radio address. He’s getting drunk, smoking, and talking to an elf, who’s jammed all the way to the right of the frame as he tries to shrink away from drunken smokestack FDR.
Writing on the can advertises this beer as a Winter Spiced Ale; a subtitle adds that it is an Ale with Spices Added, which brings up the question of what about the words Spiced Ale needed clarification.
BeerAdvocate meanwhile classifies Fireside Chat as a Winter Warmer, which are “malty sweet offerings [that] tend to be a favorite winter seasonal.” Spiced Winter Warmers, like Fireside Chat, blend “robust ales with mixed spices.” This is called the wassail tradition.
Interestingly, the word wassail derives from an early English toast. You’d hand someone a hearty drink and wassail them, wishing them good health. I’ve never been to England, but if handing someone a liver-corroding calorie bomb and wishing them good health is common practice, then someone who goes two-thirds of a beer review without talking about the specific beer he’s reviewing would fit right in.
The Specific Beer He’s Reviewing:
Fireside Chat’s full, spicy body would make it a great companion to a fire or to a holiday dinner where you want to get drunk and annoy your relatives. It’s malty, but the spices brighten it well. The beer’s 7.9% ABV is well hidden—it doesn’t disintegrate into gin-tasting foulness at the end of a swig. Fireside Chat leaves your tongue tasting spice, your body feeling warm, and your head a little buzzed, which in my opinion covers all the duties of a winter beer.
I was too lazy to build a fire and had no one to chat to, so instead I watched my college football team lose while drinking Fireside Chat. That last part was very enjoyable. Wassail!