South Coast

A HopDog Christmas


I’m a big, big, big fan of Christmas.

For ages I figured greed was the driving factor behind that – I loved Christmas because it was a time I got loads of presents. But as I got older and the present tally took a massive nosedive, I found the joy of Christmas didn’t.

I like seeing houses decked out in Christmas lights, Santas in the mall, the cheesy decorations shops put up, those odd reindeer antler things people stick to their cars, Christmas carols, the whole shebang.

And of course, Christmas beer. More and more breweries crank out limited runs of Christmas beer and most of them are too damn far away for me to get my hands on. Except for those from HopDog Beer Works in Nowra.

Tim Thomas has been brewing down there for two years and has cranked out a Christmas brew for both of those years.

Last year it was called Secret Santa (which won bronze at the Australian International Beer Awards) and this year’s White Christmas. Showing an immense level of restraint I managed to hold off drinking a bottle of Secret Santa for a whole year. Actually, that’s gilding the lilly a bit – the fact that my beer fridge was full and I couldn’t see the Secret Santa in there for a while helped too.

Whatever, it did mean that I could do a vertical tasting of the two beers this Christmas. Sure, that’s a bit of a dopey thing to do because they’re not the same style at all, which means I’m doing a vertical tasting of two different beers.
But who cares? It’s Christmas.

The Secret Santa is a big alcohol Belgian style beer with numbers of 8.6 per cent. Tim threw in what seems to be half the kitchen larder – gingerbread cookies, coconut, dried orange peel, palm sugar, and coriander. There are also five different malts in here as well which, to be honest, was lost on me because I’m not sure I could pick the difference between the five malts.

The gingerbread cookies are definitely noticeable, as is all that alcohol, which I could feel warming up my face.
I’d reckon this is a beer for winter, so better suited for a northern Christmas.

It’s a different story with White Christmas, which works well for a warmer weather Christmas despite what the name would imply. It’s an imperial Belgian-styled witbier that comes in at 7.3 per cent but it seems much, much lower than that. It’s hard to see where Tim managed to hide the extra alcohol. It’s a balanced beer, with flavours of apricot, spice and wheat with a hint of bubblegum. The only sign of that 7.3 per cent is a slight warming alcohol kick late in the palate.

I rate this as the best beer Tim has made yet, so it’s a bit of a pity it’ll only be around for Christmas. I’ve got a bottle or two in the beer cellar at home but I very much doubt it’ll still be there this time next year. I’m sure to have drunk it by then.

Would I drink it again?: While they’re both good, the White Christmas is beyond doubt a beer I’d be happy to drink again. And again. And again.

3 replies »

  1. Brewing with gingerbread cookies seems like a fun idea to me. There’s a brewery near me who made their fall pumpkin ale by baking pumpkin pies and then throwing the whole pies in the mash. I didn’t get to try it – limited release in number and places available – but sounded brilliant.

    • HopDog is a very small brewery (they call themselves a “nano-brewery”) so they’re able to experiment with small batches. So they baked the gingerbread cookies themselves and chucked them in the mash. And you can definitely taste it in the beer.

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