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Do You Know the Gingerbread Man?


Photo courtesy of Hardywood Park Craft Brewery
Photo courtesy of Hardywood Park Craft Brewery

When Richmond’s Hardywood Park Craft Brewery released its first Gingerbread Stout in 2011, about a dozen beer lovers showed up to try the new brew. One year later, with a World Beer Cup medal and a perfect score from Beer Advocate’s reviewers under its belt, the reserve series beer’s release drew a line around the block. Expect no less tomorrow, when the brewery celebrates its fourth year of gingery goodness.

The beer is the brainchild of Hardywood founders Eric McKay and Patrick Murtaugh, who wanted to create a special brew for the holiday season. After years of homebrewing, they’d developed a beloved vanilla porter recipe, but they wanted to kick it up a notch. When they met a local ginger farmer and a beekeeper within just a few days of each other, it seemed like fate. McKay and Murtaugh quickly concocted what’s been called “friggin’ Christmas in a bottle.”

The 9.2 percent APV imperial milk stout is brewed with baby ginger from Powhatan’s Casselmonte Farm and wildflower honey from Louisa County’s Bearer Farms, giving it a true taste of Central Virginia’s terroir. Madagascar bourbon vanilla beans and Vietnamese cinnamon give it a spicy-sweet kick, while the addition of milk sugar (lactose) manages to capture a subtle hint of icing.

Through the years, other breweries have attempted to replicate the seasonal stout, but McKay says they’ve fallen short. “Where we continue to stand out is with this exceptional level of balance with the whole all-natural ginger that we use, and a pretty aggressive amount of honey. It’s expensive, but it gives the beer a delicate backbone that helps it stand out from the other gingerbread stouts that have come to the market.”

As you might expect from a beer that tastes like a cookie, the Gingerbread Stout is excellent served on its own, but it also pairs well with desserts like tiramisu and crème brûlée. Flavors like cinnamon, nutmeg, chocolate, and vanilla all bring out the complexities of the beer.

At this point, the Gingerbread Stout is only available through the end of December in Virginia, D.C., and parts of Eastern Pennsylvania, but it’s known to sell out of stores within hours — so act fast if you’re a fan. In addition to the regular brew, McKay and Murtaugh have experimented with a few new spins this season that will only be available at Hardywood. They’ll offer a variation of the beer aged in rum barrels, and they’re also introducing a new version blended with local coffee.

Find out more about this year’s Gingerbread Stout release party here.

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