January 10th, 2010 beckel
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.
January 6th, 2010 beckel
Here I hold one of the most intriguing and illusive collaboration ales of 2009 with a mere 20 cases making their way to my state of Minnesota. This bottle was brewed and bottled in Norway at the inventive brewery of NÃ¸gne Ã˜ with the help of the wild brewers of Jolly Pumpkin and always intense Stone Brewing Company. While I was unable to sample this ale last year when the first batch was brewed at Stone I am very pleased to have the opportunity to sample this the 2nd time around. Most of the unique ingredients used in this brew are local to the regions of the three breweries including Michigan chestnuts, white sage from Southern California, and Norwegian juniper berries. Both Stone and Jolly Pumpkin also brewed this ale on their setups this year but I do not believe either will make it into my local market unfortunately. However if you live near California or Michigan you might be lucky enough to find some. On to the good part. This ale pours a very opaque dark brown hue that appears black until you bring it to light. A relatively tight light brown 3 finger head is slowly created but quickly opens up and fades with in about 3 minutes leaving only a small ring of carbonation around the surface of the ale. Aroma is quite interesting with a herbal spirit like quality that i believe is coming from the juniper berries and somewhat reminds me of a gin but with different esters. A modest amount of alcohol is noticeable as well as gentle roasted notes. Flavor is very unique with strong herbal notes of sage, caraway and juniper easily showing their way through the solid malt profile of this ale. Finishing with a delicate nuttiness and a bit of alcohol. The combination of malted barley, rye and oats delivers a wonderfully clean and smooth mouthfeel but frankly I wish I could taste them a bit more over all of the herbal notes present in this ale. Clocking in at 8.5% ABV this is certainly a winter warmer and an easy one to drink at that with a relatively light body for the style. Over all this is a rather sweet herbal ale with very little bitterness present but enough roasted esters to give it a bit of contrasting flavor. An interesting and creative ale with a multitude of ingredients that certainly shows the skill and creativity of the brewers. If I manage to stumble upon a bottle brewed by Jolly Pumpkin I would be very curious to see what some aging in their lovely funky oak barrels might do to this recipe. While I am still in search of a Holiday Ale I particularly love I will give this ale plenty of credit for potential. If you are a fan of herbal holiday ales and dig juniper berries this might just be the ale for you, if you can find it. Give it a shot and ride your bike.