Thursday, December 31, 2015

War of the Christmas Novelty Ales 2015

Here we are again, mixing merriment and beer! (apologies to Merle Haggard). This year I managed to find a whole bunch of Christmas novelty ales, though three of them are from the same brewery. America, England, and Belgium are represented.

Reindeer Droppings by Ridgeway Brewing

  • From the bottle (high marks for the cute label, by the way): "Falling from the sky like little bombs of flavour come the Reindeer Droppings! Each one is sweet like California raisins, but bitter and pungent like a freshly peeled grapefruit, lip-smackingly tasty--then 'pow!' it's gone. How did that happen?" 
  • From me--It's an English Amber Ale and does do a good job of mixing the sweet and the bitter, much like the holiday season, or getting dropped on by a tiny flying herd. They even get the bitter hit that drops off. The effect is amazing but it is more of a one-time experience for me. I think it's okay but I don't need to drink it again.

Merry Christmas/Happy New Year 2015 by Anchor Brewing

  • From the bottle: "This is the forty-first annual 'Our Special Ale' from the brewers at Anchor. It is sold only from early November to mid-January. The Ale's recipe is different every year, as is the tree on the label, but the intent with which we offer it remains the same: joy and celebration of the newness of life. Since ancient times, trees have symbolized the winter solstice when the earth, with its seasons, appears born anew."
  • From me--This year's tree is Cedrus deodara. This year's brew has a rich, dark chocolaty flavor that finishes a little bitter but not too bitter. The flavor lingers in the mouth, not an unpleasant result. A good, dark beer.

Very Bad Elf by Ridgeway Brewing

  • From the bottle: "'Is it just my imagination,' queried old Santa, surveying the scene, 'or is my Elf only getting worse and worse every year? What's next? Seriously Bad Elf, I'll wager. Mark my words.' This Very Bad Elf is one fine ale--rich, hardy, and flavourful, brewed to an original 1795 Thames Valley recipe, with a very special pale amber malt that is rarely used nowadays, and balanced by a modest addition of English Fuggle aroma hops. 'Ere's to your elf! Peter Scholey, Brewer." 
  • From me: This brew is a nice amber ale, crisp and tangy. The flavor doesn't shout itself at the drinker which I like a lot.

Winter Welcome Ale by Samuel Smith Old Brewery

  • From the bottle: "This seasonal beer is a limited edition brewed for the short days and long nights of winter. The full body resulting from fermentation in 'stone Yorkshire squares' and the luxurious malt character, which will appeal to a broad range of drinkers, is balanced against whole-dried Fuggle and Golding hops with nuances and complexities that should be contemplated before an open fire." 
  • From me: How could I resist buying an ale from Yorkshire? I didn't drink it before an open fire but did appreciate the sweet malty smell and flavor. It's rich and flavorful.

Delirium Noel by The Huyghe Brewery

  • From the bottle: "Belgian Ale - Family Brewery - Huyghe - since 1654 - 1 Pint 9.4 Fl. Oz." 
  • From me: Yeah, the label doesn't sell this as a special seasonal ale. It has a strong, dark, nutty taste that I like, along with that classic Belgian flavor that I love. Being over a pint and a half and 10 per cent alcohol content, this is definitely a "one per evening" beer for me, but it is well worth it.

Lump of Coal Dark Holiday Stout by Ridgeway Brewing

  • From the bottle: "Yet another bummed-out holiday? Lump of Coal Dark Holiday Stout is liquid consolation. It's a deep, rich, sweetly rewarding stout to take the edge off of that grim family gathering, that cheerless annual festival of alienation. This brew is as dark as it gets, as black as the lump of coal you'll be getting for Christmas. Because, let's face it, you've been pretty bad this year." 
  • From me: No holiday cheer here, is there? This stout is sharp but not bitter. The darkness is a refreshing companion to the short days this time of year. It is slightly chocolaty and smoky. A good stout from a company that is blitzkrieging the holiday beer market.

St. Bernardus Christmas Ale by Brewery St. Bernardus

  • From the bottle: "St. Bernardus Christmas Ale is the youngest descendant in the illustrious family of delicious Abbey Ales brewed by Brewery St. Bernardus since 1946. This specialty ale of 10% alc./vol. is characterized by its deep dark color with a creamy, thick head, and a full, almost velvety mouthful with a fruity nose. It's a seasonal ale, brewed annually for the Holiday Season. The long winter nights are perfect moments to savor this ale with family and friends, and to enjoy its unique, complex taste."
  • This ale does have a sweetness that hints at fruit without tasting like fruit, so I like that very much. Though maybe the sweetness is from the chocolaty/caramel flavor too? The brewery is in Belgium and it has an overall flavor that is definitely Belgian. I like it a lot.
The winner this year (i.e. my favorite) is St. Bernardus Christmas Ale! Merry Christmas to all and I look forward to next year.

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