Spiced holiday beers generally get a lot of play in November and December, but the end-of-the-year holidays are also time for breweries to break out the special stuff: big, boozy brews, often aged in barrels and representing a brewery’s most premium offerings.
Palm Harbor’s Stilt House Brewery has garnered some acclaim in recent years for its Pagan Night Baltic Porter, a strong black ale aged for six months in Spanish syrah barrels. Most notably, it took home silver in the imperial porter category — “imperial” and “Baltic” are mostly interchangeable here — at last year’s U.S. Open Beer Championship, a major competition involving over 6,000 beers in over 100 categories.
Pagan Night is a rich and roasty brew, made unique by the subtle red wine and oak notes lingering in the background. It’s remarkably smooth, considering its 9.5 percent alcohol by volume content, and it finishes with a dry, lightly tannic oak character.
The name Pagan Night evokes images of cool evening weather in the fall, as well as the changing of seasons. After all, the winter solstice is only a few weeks away. Being in Florida, you might need to use your imagination a bit to get the full effect, but the beer is worth seeking out in any weather.
There are no special spices or flavorings added: just a strong porter, used wine barrels and time. The quality of the beer is an indicator of Stilt House’s evolution as a brewery over the past four years, starting with the brewery’s still-popular core beers and leading up to ambitious brews ranging from a Belgian-style quad to a Flanders red ale, also aged in syrah barrels.
Pagan Night is available in 750ml bottles in extremely limited quantity at Stilt House’s tasting room, 625 U.S. 19 Alt in Palm Harbor. If you want to try it, stop in by the end of the week, or you risk losing out to folks stocking up for gifts later in the month. Best of all, Pagan Night bottles are a mere $15 — one of the rare values in the barrel-aged special release game.
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