Today I have what is sure to be an interesting Christmas inspired ale from the brewery Anker out of Mechelen, Belgium which crafts Gouden Carolus brand ales. I have enjoyed a number of their ales, particularly their Belgian IPA style Ale Hopsinjoor and can’t wait to see what this 10% holiday ale has in store for me. Coming highly recommended by Alvey of The Four Firkins I can’t wait to dive in, so lets get to the good part. This attractive holiday inspired 11.2 oz bottle is labeled L 0743 03/08/10. Pours with one finger of rather tight tan head that completely dissipates with in two or three minutes. Color is a dark brown hue that reminds me a bit of a slightly watered down dark coffee allowing no light to pass through. Strong aromas of alcohol, rich caramel and toffee are most notable with Belgian Candi sugar most assuredly used in this recipe. Gentle dark pitted fruit esters help round out the nose. Flavor is quite nice with the caramel and toffee sweetness expected from the aroma as well as a delicious gentle roasted malt character and decent dose of alcohol that nicely contrasts with the serious sweetness present in this ale. Gentle herbal esters and a variety of dark pitted fruit notes add additional character to this ale creating one tasty brew. Body is medium for a Belgian Strong Ale and mouthfeel is quite smooth and almost a bit creamy. While not an ale for those afraid of ABV clocking in at 10% I feel the somewhat strong alcohol esters add a wonderful component that helps make the lack of bitterness less relevant. Definitely not your typical holiday ale with more Beligian Yeast, dark pitted fruit and Candi Sugar notes than the typical herbal onslaught of many in the style. If you enjoy complex Belgian Ales with a myriad of toffee and caramel flavors than this is the holiday beer for you, or just a solid ale to drink anytime you want something hearty. Unquestionably one of the best holiday inspired ales I have had an opportunity to consume. Give it a shot and ride your bike.