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Beer Review #177 Schlafly Christmas Ale

This will be my last “post-Christmas beer” until November or December. Schlafly Christmas Ale is brewed by the Saint Louis Brewery of St. Louis, Missouri. I find it interesting that Schlafly is the brand name of the beers made by the brewery. I don’t know if they have plans in the future to produce other lines of beer, but they are currently only producing the Schlafly brand of beers. Their Christmas Ale means business and comes in at 8.0% ABV. According to the bottle it is “brewed with orange peel and cloves.”

With the wording on the bottle, I was expecting a Belgian-like ale as those two ingredients are often used in Belgian-style beers. Upon further investigation, I found that this beer has a few other ingredients in it that would knock it out of Belgian contention. In addition to the ingredients listed above it also has juniper berries, ginger root, and cardamom as adjuncts into the beer. Needless to say, I was looking forward to tasting this one as it sounds like there is a lot going on.

The nose is very herbal, with cloves dominating most of the smells. There is some slight caramel and toffee peeking though along with some slight bitter orange odors. After my first taste I was surprised by how light the malt flavor was in this ale. The orange peel is in there towards the end of the malt flavors but the clove is really the strongest component to this beer. There is a lot happening before the cloves come in, but I honestly couldn’t place my finger on what all was happening.

I thought this beer had a nice mix of flavors, even if I couldn’t identify them all. The cloves are strong, but they really do a nice job of substituting for any hop flavor that would normally be in the beer. I liked, but not loved this one. If you dig cloves in your beer, this one is for you. (more…)

Beer Review #175 Breckenridge Christmas Ale

I know that it is after Christmas, but it is never too late to review a Christmas Ale (hey it’s still winter). I actually picked up this beers, along with the next two beers to review, after Christmas. The nicest part about getting a beer specifically labeled for a period of time is that after that time period has passed, they usually get discounted. Christmas Ale, as it is labeled, is brewed by the Breckenridge Brewery of Denver, Colorado. They are a pretty big player in the crowded Colorado beer market and I have generally found that I enjoy their beers.

Christmas Ale pours a nice burnt amber color and a nice thin white head compliments the color of the beer well. The nose isn’t intense in any way, but has some slight toffee and caramel. There are some dried fruity esters from the yeast present along with a slight biscuit flavor. The mix of odors was really nice and expected.

On my first taste a lot of what was in the nose came through on the flavor end. The toffee flavor outshines any caramel but they both provide a good solid sweetness and base for the beer. Some slight plum and biscuity goodness come in to add a bit of complexity. The hops, which were not present in the nose, come through nicely and help to dry out the beer. One thing that I liked was that the carbonation of this beer helped clear out most of the flavors at the end, leaving a crisp feel to the ale.

I liked this one a good deal. As a winter beer it was exactly what I was looking for. It had a wonderful balance and a good malt profile that clinches the win for this beer. The fruity esters also add a nice touch without becoming overpowering. I’ll make sure to get this one before Christmas next year. (more…)

Beer Review #173 Goose Island Christmas Ale 2011

Last winter I enjoyed Goose Island Beer Company’s Mild Winter and/or Snow Goose. The beer I had last year is not the only winter seasonal they make, Goose Island, for Chicago, Illinois, has also been making a Christmas Ale for a number of years. Just like Anchor Steam, they change the recipe each year “so that you have something to look forward to each year.” The bottle mentions that this beer is an American Brown Ale and “develops in the bottle up to five years.” I only bought two, and they were both drank within days of each other so that five year plan isn’t going to have a chance in my house.

This years Christmas offering pours a nice caramel color and a light tan head rests on top of the liquid. The nose isn’t very complex with some caramel and slight biscuit odors. I didn’t find any hops, which I was expecting for an American Brown Ale.

On the first taste the caramel that has been prevalent throughout the other criteria is present as well. There is some slight toffee mixed in the malt flavor as well. There is a flavor that kicks in about half way through the beer, but I’m coming up with  a loss of words for how to describe it properly. I assume it was the hops coming in, but they were mixed with a richer flavor, almost chocolate. The hops really didn’t kick in anything major to the flavor of the beer, but the light touch kept it from becoming overly sweet.

I didn’t find this one overly aggressive in any respect. The malt is there and the hops come in to lightly brush back the sweetness. Goose Island Christmas Ale 2011 comes in at 6.2% ABV. I might go back and grab a few bottles to age and see how it ages, but as it stands, it doesn’t do much for me. Maybe next year’s will be more suited to my palette. (more…)

Beer Review #172 Anchor Christmas Ale 2011

Happy Christmas Eve everyone. Last year I reviewed Anchor Brewing Company’s 2010 Christmas Ale and since they change the recipe every year, I just had to get it again this year. The brewery, located in San Francisco, California releases a new version of their Christmas Ale every year with the intention of spreading some holiday cheer. A new beer always brings cheer to my life.

Christmas Ale 2011 pours a deep copper to ruby color with a thin off-white head. The nose is strongly herbal with some notes of malt sweetness. There is a slight “twinge” at the end of the nose, but I honestly couldn’t decide what it tasted like.

On the first taste I got some sourness, but as I continued drinking I found that the original sour flavor that I tasted was actually a bit of smoke. The herbal notes are in the beer as well. There wasn’t much in the way of forward malt flavor by I did find some bready notes in there. The slight smoke and herbal notes really dominate the flavor in this beer. The best word that I could use to describe the flavor is earthy as it has a very primal taste to it.

I enjoyed this year’s offering of Anchor Christmas Ale. There are a ton of flavors going on and I really do enjoy trying to pinpoint them all. While this beer has earthy qualities, it is “refined earthy.” Anchor’s beer comes in at 5.5% so you could enjoy a few of these, although I found one at a sitting to be enjoyable. (more…)

Beer Review #170 Corsendonk Christmas Ale

I have only reviewed one winter beer so far this year which isn’t surprising since I have a giant backlog of beers in my fridge. I finally got around to drinking a bunch of them recently and I had the chance to restock my collection last weekend. I was on the hunt for winter seasonal beers as some seasonal beers just seem to fly off the shelves. Today’s winter beer comes all the way from Turnhout, Belgium and is brewed by Brouwerij Corsendonk.

This beer is classified as a Belgian strong dark ale, but the bottle says only dark ale. The bottle also says 8.1% ABV so I guess that is where the strong part of this beer comes in. Corsendonk Christmas Ale pours a nice brown color with a fluffy off-white head. I actually had to stop pouring this beer to leave some in the bottle because the head was so thick from the high carbonation.

The nose was pretty spicy and herbal. There were some slight malt notes, but the spices did a good job of covering up the malt. I also got some slight pine notes in there, something I am not accustomed to smelling in any style of Belgian beer that I have tried. On my first taste I was surprised by the sweetness in the front end of this beer. The spices quickly come in and follow through the rest of the beer. I didn’t get any heat on this one, which I was partly expecting to have. I also noticed a bit of fig flavor buried inside of the malt.

Due to the high carbonation, this beer comes off as being very light in the mouthfeel. This one is pretty easy drinking but I found myself a bit underwhelmed. This felt like a muted Belgian beer for me. I don’t know if they brew this in the colder months or at colder temperatures than their other beers since the spices and esters are not super strong in the flavor. Generally colder temperatures will produce a “cleaner” beer with less ester production. In any case, I don’t think this one will be on my list next year. It was an enjoyable beer, but I wanted something a bit more punchy. (more…)