There has been no better time to be a beer fan in Texas than right now. Thanks in large part to Jester King standing up to the TABC, we are seeing more and more craft beer from around the country begin to filter in to the lone star state. Arguably more importantly than that, we are experiencing tremendous growth within our own borders with new breweries popping up all the time, and established ones really stepping up their game and producing some beers that can really compete with the big hitters we are used to seeing.

Lakewood Holiday Bonus bottle

Lakewood Brewing, established in 2011, is one of the several Dallas-area breweries that has appeared on the scene in the last few years that is making some serious waves. The name can be a little misleading to the uninitiated; while originally founded in East Dallas, the brewery itself is located in Garland and is set to open their brand new taproom on April 4, 2015.1 Founder Wim Bens and company have wasted little time in ramping up their lineup since their first beer was released in August of 2012. There are currently four year-round staples, four seasonal releases, five releases in its “Legendary Series” to date2 and a number of special releases, many of which are based on their highly regarded Temptress milk stout.3

Speaking of seasonal releases, Lakewood introduced its first winter seasonal (and first porter) in November 2014 in the form of Holiday Bonus, a robust porter brewed with chocolate and orange peel. It is available from November through January in six-packs and on draft and is fairly easy to track down.

Based on the description, I am both intrigued and skeptical at how the flavor combination of chocolate and orange in a malty porter is going to come together. Nevertheless, I am excited to give it a try, so after taking a few pictures it’s time to decide for myself if Lakewood has struck gold or struck out.

Holiday Bonus pours an opaque obsidian into a tulip glass with about a half inch of bubbly caramel head. After a few minutes it settles down to leave an eight inch ring of bubbles around the rim, with a little bit of carbonation making its way to the surface around the edge of the glass.

Lakewood Holiday Bonus

The nose on this beer is heavily reminiscent of soy sauce initially, but with a little more persistence I pick up a rich molasses sweetness and a hint of orange zest. The first sip is rich with roasty malts and a bit of cocoa with a touch of bitterness on the finish, which fades very quickly. The mouthfeel is fairly substantial and the carbonation is not exactly high, but is considerably sharp on the tongue. A few moments after swallowing a bit of orange sweetness emerges, which is a welcome surprise but could just be my imagination.

The longer it sits in the glass, the more the flavors of Holiday Bonus assert themselves. The chocolate comes forward, and the orange peel is distinguishable mid-palate rather than after the finish. If you’re not impressed at first, I would suggest you give this beer some time and you might warm up to it.

Lakewood Holiday Bonus
BREWERY: Lakewood Brewing Co.
LOCATION: Garland, Texas
STYLE: Porter
ABV: 6.6 percent
IBU: 41
PRICE: $1.50
RELEASE DATE: November 2014
AVAILABLE IN: 12-ounce bottles
Lakewood has set the bar impossibly high for themselves with Bourbon Barrel Temptress, almost to the point where any other beer of theirs will be judged (at least by me) on how it compares. Fortunately, they are a creative bunch and have come up with a beer that, while closely associated with a stout, manages to be enough of a departure to really avoid comparison and stand on its own accord. Holiday Bonus is a unique take on a style that is inundated with chocolate-coffee-vanilla this and that. Yes, it has chocolate, but the orange peel in a malty beer is unique enough and executed well enough to allow this beer to really stand out. I'd definitely encourage you to pick up a six-pack next winter and try it for yourself.
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