Christmas is over, but that doesn't mean you can't still indulge in some of the treats that the holidays provide. One worth quaffing well into the winter is Noel de Calabaza ($15) from Jolly Pumpkin Brewing. It's a Belgian style Christmas ale that is aged in oak barrels with a deep mahogany appearance and a light, slightly tart zing. Add in some sugar plums and fig and along with a 9% ABV sticker you can make the holidays last long into the new year.
With the influx of new bourbon labels and brands on the market in the past few years, it's easy to look past the tried and true Jim Beam logo. Jim Beam Single Barrel ($35) however, is worthy of consideration. It's the first ever single barrel offering from Beam, representing the seven generations of history that the brand is built on. And since less than 1% of Beam barrels qualified for this new bourbon, you know you're getting a hand selected gem, not a mass produced mystery. So keep your eyes peeled this spring for this individually bottled, hand-numbered expression.
We love it when great design teams up with great whiskey, so that's why Lock Stock and Barrel Rye Whiskey ($120) is easy to recommend. It's aged for 13 years in American oak barrels, and is modeled after something even older, the Prohibition era. Before Prohibition, rye was king, and thanks to a new group of great ryes like Lock Stock and Barrel, it's experiencing a renaissance. At barrel strength, 101.3 proof, it sounds quite aggressive, but for something this robust, it's actually quite mellow and easy to sip. A limited, rare, high quality whiskey that could help push rye to the forefront again.
It's hardly a secret that Jay Z is more than just a multi-platinum hip-hop icon — he's a business, man — and he's just added one more venture to his already-impressive portfolio. Comador Cigars ($350-$1,000), made in a partnership between Hove and Cohiba Red Dot, feature a signature blend of Carribean and Central American tobacco leaves that are aged for six months in a cedar room and wrapped in a Connecticut broadleaf binder. Currently available in three editions, you can have yours in either a mahogany humidor that houses 21 cigars, a smaller humidor meant for taking on the road, or a Robusto box (both come with seven).
We are all for some variety when it comes barrel aged beers, and so are the folks at Widmer Brewing. They've expanded on their already successful annual release of Barrel Aged Brrrbon Ale to include a Ginger Barrel Aged Brrrbon ($10) in 2013. This limited edition treat came about when fresh chopped ginger was added to a few select Kentucky bourbon barrels of Barrel Aged Brrrbon. The outcome is a very interesting and unique winter warmer, with notes of oak, vanilla, caramel, but most importantly, tons of ginger.
Fed up with liquid hot sauces that too-often mask food rather than enhancing it, the guys bringing us Benny T's Vesta Dry Hot Sauce ($7-$10) have re-envisioned what a hot sauce should be. Made from fresh chiles grown on location in their pepper farm (boasting as many as 300 individual chile plants), this hot sauce isn't a sauce at all, but a rub. It's serious hot sauce for people who like their food seriously hot, available in three variations: hot, made from thai chiles and ahi amarillo; very hot, made from chocolate habaneros and scotch bonnets; and ghost, made from ghost chiles and a chocolate ghost hybrid.
If you're looking to dip your toes into the world of Japanese Whiskey, we suggest starting with Yamazaki, the first distillery in the country, which began production in 1924. And if you are looking to dive in headfirst with a premium offering, Yamazaki 25 Single Malt Whiskey ($1,600) should fit the bill. This complex whisky was aged for over 25 years in sherry casks, giving it an unusually dark color and huge amount of flavor. It's available in limited quantities of only around 12,000 bottles every year.
Just because it's the holidays doesn't mean hop lovers need to take a break from palate challenging beers. While most Christmas brews are sweet and festive, Three Floyds Brewing offers up Alpha Klaus ($12), a hopped up holiday Porter. The cousin of their hoppy pale ale Alpha King is brewed with English chocolate malt, Mexican sugar and a nice variety of festive American hops. So if you like your holiday beers hop forward with a nice dry chocolatey finish, Alpha Klaus has been gift wrapped just for you.
One thing Ron Burgundy takes as seriously as news is scotch, so it should come as no surprise that San Diego's top newsman has a scotch of his own, and it's kind of a big deal. Ron Burgundy Scotchy Scotch Scotch ($TBA) is a blend of whiskies from Speyside, Highlands and Islay worthy of the Burgundy catchphrase "Great Odin's Raven." It sounds like a must have bottle, especially if you have many leather-bound books and your apartment smells of rich mahogany. Don't act like you're not impressed.
As hard as it is to admit it, there are more options out there than standard American Bacon when you're looking for your pork fix — with Bacons of the World ($300), you get all the bacon this great nation has to offer, plus a few bonuses. With your purchase, you'll receive quarterly shipments of five pounds each, made up of half American Bacon, and half a second type. You'll get Guanciale, unsmoked Italian pig cheek; English Bacon, smoked loin with belly attached; Pancetta, the Italian cousin of American Bacon; and Holiday Bacon, a specially seasoned version of American Bacon.
Way back in the Middle Ages, during the holidays, spices, instead of hops, were added to beer to add flavor. That tradition reemerged in the 1900's, and is the inspiration behind many holiday beers on the market today. Great Lakes Christmas Ale ($12) is one of many in a crowded market, but manages to separate itself with its unique recipe and flavor profile. Christmas Ale is brewed with honey and spiced with fresh ginger and cinnamon, providing a tasty gift that belongs under the tree of every craft beer enthusiast.
Three words: Healthy Slim Jim. When you're looking for a tasty, beefy snack, without all the nasty stuff you'd typically find in those on the corner grocery's shelves, you need Chomps Beef Sticks ($45). These beef sticks are entirely made from grass-fed beef, so there's no need to worry about any unsavory stuff finding its way into your belly. They're also gluten free and paleo friendly, so you won't have to sacrifice your new-age diet just to get your meat fix. Add in the fact that they're also devoid of antibiotics, hormones, nitrates, nitrites, and other strange ingredients, and what you get is great-tasting high-protein snack that's low in guilt.