I’ve often said I’m not a big fan of Christmas beers because they tend
to be spice bombs. I’ve figured out the key to a good one, though: if I
can drink an entire serving without it wearing out my palate. Some have
me calling it quits after a few sips, but good ones like Sly Fox
Christmas Ale are well balanced enough to endure for me. Plus it’s got
the right combination of spices.
Appearance: Beautiful red hue, transparent with some carbonation
visible. Forms a large, off-white, frothy head which mostly evaporates
but does lace the glass rather well.
Smell: Gingerbread, shortbread cookies, and fruitcake.
Taste: It seems like all Christmas beers use essentially the same
spices: cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, allspice and ginger. I’m not sure
what’s the right amount of each that satisfies my palate, but in the
case of Sly Fox Christmas Ale they seem to be proportioned correctly. I
actually can distinguish all these individual flavors while at the same
time appreciating their homogeneity. The balance is perfect as none seem
to overshadow the other, while the intensity is kept low enough that it
doesn’t feel overwhelming.
Slightly mild up front with a shortbread cookie-like sweetness, followed
by a quick hoppy bitterness, which is then outshined by the collective
spices. Each swig I concentrate on a different spice and it’s amazing
how well each one works on its own and how well they work as a team. The
aftertaste is akin to that of a gingersnap, but I wouldn’t call it
cloying at all. It’s not a perfect beer, but it’s definitely one of the
better Christmas ales I’ve had.
Drinkability: While not exactly a guzzler, Sly Fox Christmas Ale has
impressive drinkability. Usually, spice bomb palates tend to be sippers,
but the body here is a bit lighter than you’d expect. Plenty of energy
while in the mouth, with the right amount of carbonation and a tolerable
aftertaste. It’s not exactly refreshing, but it’s surprising smooth to
get down. At only 5.5% ABV, this is a highly efficient brew and
something I’m likely to drink multiple servings of.