This is the first Christmas my mother and her siblings will spend without their mother. My Grandma Betty was the kindest, most warming person I've ever met in my entire life. She was the angel atop of all our Christmas trees. On the morning after Santa has left his tracks on our roofs and sampled our pastry gifts for him, my grandma is remembered and missed by her entire family. Late this summer, on the day of her wake, I wrote my last letter to her (passage below), and later that evening, my uncles, my cousins and I shared this bottle of Woodford Reserve Toasted Oak Rye. I'd been saving this bottle for a special occasion for more than a year. There was no better time to raise a glass of fine Kentucky rye as we filled our hearts reminiscing about the moments that she shaped us into the men we are today. Merry Christmas, Grandma.


In the old time saloon, bitterness towards bosses, distrust in the government, flawed relationships and righteous heroism were all weeping emotions wailed to the roofs by all male choruses. The debauchery of the barroom kept their collective desolation alive through the subjects of their songs, but there was only one harmonious subject that brought order to the chaotic realm: Mother. Mother helped "men" through their woes... like after using the filthy barroom floor as a cot once the devil enticed him with his defenseless sip. In the tune "Mother" the way of past sang, "A boy's best friend is his mother." In the minds of the drunkard, his mother would always stand by him and his unscrupulous flaws. Through history, mother–women–have been the ignored heroes. Women are the true monolithic figures in defending rights and freedoms of the voiceless, coordinating aid for millions during world wars and, yes, being THE loving shoulder that we all need. Earlier this week my mother sad I love you for the last time to her mother. My grandmother was the most selfless person I've ever known. She dedicated her life to family and faith. Through her faith, she constantly devoted her time to community service. Her mission in life was make anyone around her happy... and full (she was an excellent cook and started making flapjacks at 5am). An excellent person, wife and mother, deserves to be honored with a fine whiskey. Cheers to you, Betty. 

The Barrel-Aged Christmas Ale is available at Begyle’s Taproom.

The Barrel-Aged Christmas Ale is available at Begyle’s Taproom.

Begyle’s Barrel-Aged Christmas Ale was aged just one month shy of a year, but just in time for the holidays. In the whiskey industry there’s a saying, “There’s no substitute for time,” when referring to barrel aging. The 11 months that the Malt Row brewery decided upon was a perfect choice when bringing these 53 gallon barrels back to life for a third time. 

The casks were originally housed with Heaven Hill Bourbon, and after holding a the Native Spirit, the barrels were shipped to Rhine Hall Distillery. The Chicago-based brandy distillery then aged their apple brandy in the second iteration of the casks’ life. Begyle brought the barrels up town, and dropped in their red ale steeped with bay leaves and cinnamon into the casks. The result is a barrel-aged ale the feels like sipping the filling of an apple pie as cinnamon notes filter through a perfectly charred crust. 

Begyle Owner Kevin Cary hunting for barrels at KOVAL Distiller last Spring.

Begyle Owner Kevin Cary hunting for barrels at KOVAL Distiller last Spring.

Its flavors are full of robust Christmas tradition that’ll provoke you to keep your Christmas tree up until spring saisons and summer ales starting hitting the shelves. The ale is warming on a cold winter day, yet, refreshing enough to drink all year long. Brewers Liz French and Nick Argoudelis aimed at creating a boozy apple pie, and they certainly achieved their goal. Their 9.96% ABV ale exudes dessert after a large holiday feast. Its rich, spicy body and sweet, crispy edges will keep the holiday spirit alive once the Christmas has come down and all the lights are reduced to hiding in cardboard boxes.


Indie Spirits and Cigars on the Roof Deck

A cloud of cigar smoke swirled over the rooftop. Patrons sampled through the row of distilleries. Three Bourbons produced by a father and son from Wisconsin, gins from Finland, and multiple Bourbons and ryes from the brothers Blaum were among the featured spirits.

An hour into the event, the wind picked up, and the smoke moved faster into the night.

Like the Chicago police department during Prohibition, the majority of the event attendees were in the liquor industry. As the infamous Chicago wind shifted, urgency loomed over the bar like the sunshine fading on January 16, 1920. The victims of the 18th amendment didn’t waste a minute of freedom as midnight threatened to empty their mugs and tumblers forever. And, the thirsty patrons of the rooftop didn’t squander the fleeting warmth of summer. They persistently refilled their Glencairn glasses, and puffed their cigars into the foretokening autumn chill. 


When the clock rolled into a future with 13 years of entangled rights on the production, sale, and transport of "intoxicating liquors,” the nation became divided between Dry and Wet. The debauchery of the crowded saloon, along with the distilleries and breweries stood on one divide; and the fervent religious sector determined to wash away the evil grime from society stared vehemently at their opponents. Evangelist Billy Sunday proclaimed, “The reign of tears is over.” For some, though, the irritated woes had only begun, and during decade ahead, the nation remained divided on alcohol and its use. 

Fortunately, Repeal lifted the “solemn” crowds from the speakeasies, and pouring libations in public was no longer an intrusion on the country’s rights. The Indie Spirits and Cigars on the Roof Deck was a celebration of an ideal summer night combining libations, cigars and a rooftop: subtle freedoms taken for granted until winter’s chilling grip forces us indoors, under a wool blanket and next to a fireplace with a whiskey in hand.