What’s Wachusett Got Brewing for Christmas? The ‘Holiday 96er’

December 21, 2018 GMT

It all started with something of a lark. Or maybe it was life imitating art.

Either way, the result is stunning visually, especially for lovers of craft beer.

This refers to the Wachusett Brewing Company’s Holiday 96-er, an over-the-top assortment of -- you guessed it -- 96 beers put together in a hefty and festive package just in time for holiday gatherings.

“It was inspired by the John Candy movie ‘The Great Outdoors’ and the Old ’96er steak in the movie,” Wachusett Brewing President Christian McMahon said, referring to an eating challenge Candy’s character accepts in the 1988 film. “In the movie, there’s a T-shirt that people who eat the whole thing get that says ‘I ate a ’96er,’ and we’ve got a little nugget on the box that says ‘I drank the 96-er.’ It’s all about having some fun.”

The imposing package of canned beer consists of a case of eight Wachusett brews: the Bella Czech Pils, Blueberry Ale, Brewin’ Pale Ale, Green Monsta IPA, Mass Soul IPA, Wally IPA, Wally Jr. Session IPA and Belgian White Mamba. Thrilled by the concept, the folks at Wachusett simply had to figure out if it was possible to put together such a bulky offering of brews.

“We talked to the box company we go through and they said ‘we’ll figure it out.’ It’s 80 pounds of beer, so it had to be able to hold that volume,” McMahon said.

McMahon says he knows that the gigantic box isn’t for everyone, so the company limited the release of the Holiday 96er -- selling for around $150 -- to retail locations that expressed interest in it. Nearly every Massachusetts store that requested one was able to receive one of the massive quirky boxes.

“We try not to be too serious and have some fun with what we do,” McMahon said. “It’s beer; it shouldn’t be so serious.”

In addition to putting together packages of crazy amounts of beer, Wachusett has seen the demand for gift cards for both the brewery’s store and Brew Yard selling well this holiday season.

“The Brew Yard opened a year ago, so this is the first real Christmas season we’ve had with it,” McMahon said. “It’s great for beer lovers, since we’ve got 24 beers on tap and there’s all kinds of styles. You can find something you’d like if you’re an IPA fan or if you drink stouts and porters; there’s something for every type of beer drinker.”

Looking for more manageable gifts for the beer lover in your life? Here are a couple seasonal ideas that won’t cost an arm and a leg and can be found at most liquor stores.

Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Stout: Year in and year out, one of the most anticipated releases for those who crave dark, rich beer. This stout, aged in Heaven Hill Bourbon barrels, is pretty easy to find at retail stores and goes for less than $15 for a 22-ounce bottle at most locations.

Troegs Brewing Mad Elf: The Mad Elf doesn’t come on strong with its mildly sweet taste. But a six-pack of this Belgian dark strong ale -- which masks its boozy kick with cherries, honey and chocolate -- will warm you on a cold night.

Dogfish Head Pennsylvania Tuxedo: A pale ale brewed with spruce tips, this beer tastes like winter -- in a good way, of course. As weird as it may sound, it’s a bit like a Christmas tree in a beer.

And when in doubt, gift cards are wonderful. No beer snob worth his or her weight in hops has ever complained about having to go shopping for brews or drinking beer they didn’t have to pay for.

Follow Nick Mallard on Twitter @n_mallard.