Thursday, December 11, 2014

Christmas Beer - Carrying on a long honored tradition

While the holidays alone can easily sell themselves, Christmas beers are rooted in tradition rather than the commercialization of the holidays. Back in the middle ages, monasteries marked the birth of Christ by brewing their strongest, most robust beer. Norwegian farmers were required by law to brew Yule ale for their workers. In the 19th century, the British offered free Christmas ale in their workhouses. Christmas beer often means bigger, bolder, and more of everything, however the only true guideline is that it’s something special, used in the spirit of giving.

We got together to taste through a selection of the Christmas beers we have at the shop. Our panel consisted of Joey, Renzo, and myself, as well as fellow beer aficionado, Sean. We tasted through ten Belgian Christmas beers because Christmas beers have strong Belgian roots and we also have a good selection of Belgian beers at the store. Most of these beers are dark, with strong flavors and rich spices. La Rulles Cuvee Meilleurs Voeux was the unanimous pick of the night for its light, refreshing mouthfeel and carbonation. Here's our take on Harry's ten Belgian beers of Christmas.

Cheers, and Happy Holidays to you and yours.


Wittekerke Winter White Ale, $10.69
ABV: 7.5%
Style: Belgian Witbier

 Light and pale. Both the nose and the taste were lacking the bold, spicy flavors typical of belgian ale yeast. Almost more similar to a lager yeast. It tasted a little bland and watered down. For a 7.5% abv, the alcohol didn't show through at all.

Dupont Avec Les Bons Voeux, $9.99
ABV: 9.5%
Style: Belgian Blonde

Brasserie Dupont is known for their world class saisons. Dry, spicy, and fruity. Strong honey flavor and a sharp yeasty presence. A smooth carbonation and secondary bottle fermentation give it depth and complexity. Another world class saison from Brasserie Dupont.

Gouden Carolus Noel 2013, $7.99
ABV: 10%
Style: Belgian Strong Dark Ale

Currants, licorice and sharp anise on the nose followed by a similar taste. Overwhelmingly full of black licorice, dark fruits, and herbal medicinal notes. Someone called it a bottle of Jagermeister at first sip. Pungent, bitter and syrupy, this one is definitely a slow sipper.

La Rulles Cuvee Meilleurs Voeux, $9.99
ABV: 7.3%
Style: Belgian Dark Ale

From one of the only Belgian breweries that uses American hops. The nose on this was spicy and a lot lighter than expected. Peppery and mild with a balanced darker fruit flavor. Very easy drinking. The carbonation was light and refreshing with a solid clean finish. The La Rulles was the unanimous pick of the night.

St. Bernardus Christmas Ale, $12.29
ABV: 10%
Style: Belgian Strong Dark Ale

 Sweet banana nose and taste. Sticky and pruney, packed with dark fruity esters and clove, and a layered complexity that St Bernardus beers are known for. A spicier, dressed up version of the St. Bernardus Abt 12. The perfect carbonation for a smooth and creamy beer gives it a super light mouth feel. It drinks incredibly easily for such a big beer.

Scaldis Noel, $ 16.99
ABV: 12%
Style: Belgian Strong Dark Ale

Pours a beautiful deep reddish-brown. The nose is full of sweet, malty, dark fruits. Tastes of ripe fruit, sweet malts, and figs. This one definitely has a warm, alcohol presence. Sweet, Belgian candi sugar makes it more of a dessert beer.

Corsendonk Christmas Ale, $8.69
Style: Belgian Strong Dark Ale

 Dry and spicy with dark fruits and roasted malts. This one drinks more like a brown ale with some citrusy notes.

Delirium Red, $ 11.29
ABV: 8%
Style: Fruit beer

Described as a Belgian jolly rancher and a fruit lambic gone wrong. It pours a deep red color and smells like cherry cough syrup. The taste is just as artificial as the nose. A cloyingly sweet and concentrated syrup flavor.

Delirium Noel, $ 12.49
ABV: 10%
Style: Belgian Strong Dark Ale

The perfect beer for a cold night spent by the fireplace. Fruity and spicy nose. It has notes of caramel, breadiness, and dark fruits. A boozy, bitter finish leaves a little bit of burn.

Petrus Winter Ale, $9.49
ABV: 9%
Style: Belgian Strong Dark ale

Another clovey, dark fruit beer. Sweet and a little syrupy, tastes of figs, plums, and caramel.

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