Sunday, December 25, 2011

St. Bernardus Christmas Ale

Merry Christmas, everybody! If you're a follower of the BeerTube scene no doubt you've seen just about EVERY BeerTuber and his brother review St. Bernardus Christmas Ale by now. I wish I could have found a more unique beer to review for the holiday, but oh well. Shaun and I actually shot this review well before Christmas in case you can't tell. Also, this will be the last review of 2011. I have a pretty special beer planned for New Year's Day :)

P.S. "Best of" and "Worst of" compilations will be uploaded on starting tomorrow!

   AROMA 8/10   APPEARANCE 4/5   TASTE 8/10   PALATE 3/5   OVERALL 15/20
Chad9976 (597) - Albany, USA - DEC 17, 2011
I split a 750ml corked and caged bottle with a friend. We poured it into tulip glasses.

Appearance: Very dark brown/maroon/mahogany hue. Opaque but plenty of visible carbonation sticks to the side of the glass. Forms a large, white, foamy head which laces and retains quite well.

Smell: Strong banana and clove aroma. More so than anything else, actually. Some general spice to the nose as well as hints of alcohol.

Taste: Belgian quads and "strong dark ales," especially Trappist and abbey brews, tend to have a natural spicy/peppery taste and sensation to them. I think the idea behind St. Bernardus Christmas Ale was to capitalize on that foundation and make it even stronger. The result is a beer that is both effervescent and spicy as can be without actually adding any additional spices to it.

As soon as the beer hits the tongue, the entire mouth is engulfed in classic Belgian spice. Perhaps "spice" isn’t the appropriate description since I can’t pick out any flavors akin to ginger, cinnamon, etc. Rather, it’s closer to table black pepper, but in liquid form. The beer seems to swell up and occupy the mouth with a foamy texture and intense peppery sensation. Once you get used to it you begin to taste the classic Belgian flavors of dark fruit, and confectionary (especially caramel) sweetness Alcohol imparts a subtle warmth on the aftertaste, but otherwise it’s remarkably clean although slightly dry. Tasty and satisfy to be sure, but nothing in the ballpark of genuinely amazing. Perhaps a vintage would be, though.

Mouthfeel: Extremely intense with massive effervescence and a sensation of living foam.

Drinkability: While St. Bernardus Christmas Ale may be a commendable brew for its palate and relative complexity, it must be penalized for its very low drinkability. It’s beers like this I point to as an example of just how zesty and spastic a Belgian yeast strain can be. The carbonation gets stuck in the throat after ever swig, regardless of whether it’s a big gulp or a gentle sip. The 10% ABV is well utilized as there’s only a minor warming sensation and taste, but after one serving you definitely feel it all. You also feel quite full.
Grade: 8/10

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