I had a brief taste of Hump’s Holiday Ale for 2007. It isn’t bad, but there is too much cinnamon. It has the flavor of a decent American brown ale (hoppier than I intended) with a distinct note of hot cinnamon. I plan on adding some lactose (“milk” sugar that provides residual sweetness to beer since it is unfermentable by brewer’s yeast). Hopefully the residual sweetness and the cinnamon will combine in a way reminiscent of cinnamon toast. Now I know: less hops and less cinnamon.

This has happened virtually every time I’ve made a spice beer – too much spice. I always revise my recipes after each attempt, but I’m still struggling to get it perfect. The one time the beer turned out right was for my wedding. And for that I intentionally brewed two half-sized (2.5 gallon) test batches to make sure the recipe was great.

I managed this year to finally perfect fruit beers. The Berry Weizen and the Peachy Ale turned out excellent. Now I just need to master the use of spices.

The cinnamon beer is ready to package – I’ll probably keg it tomorrow night. I do think it is a step in the right direction compared to last year’s holiday brew – the wicked clove beer. I’ve only made one spice beer that was a complete failure – my first Holiday Ale recipe in 2000. I had to pour it out. The next year’s beer was close to a failure – funky ginger overload. I didn’t mind it, and my brother-in-law liked it, too. But the general consensus was that it left considerable room for improvement. The year after that, 2002, saw a very interesting beer. It was spicy and still had a hefty amount of ginger, but was substantially better than the year before. I then took a hiatus from holiday brews for a couple of years. In 2005 I made the best Holiday Ale to date: a strong, sweet ale flavored with vanilla bean. In 2006 came the clove monster, and this year comes the cinnamon monster. Hopefully, however, the cinnamon will prove to be less monstrous than the cloves.

I’ve re-formulated Hump’s Holiday Ale for 2008 to have less hops, a lot less cinnamon, some nutmeg, and more orange peel. I’m excited for a return to normal, no-spice beers: this weekend I will be making a Belgian Pale Ale using the same yeast that New Belgium Brewing uses in their Fat Tire Ale. This is the kind of beer that I know will turn out great.