Sunday, December 9, 2012

Sly Fox Christmas Ale (2012)

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.

   AROMA 8/10   APPEARANCE 4/5   TASTE 8/10   PALATE 4/5   OVERALL 15/20
Chad9976 (766) - Albany, New York, USA - DEC 9, 2012
I poured a 12oz can into a snifter.

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.
 Grade: 8/10


  1. Interesting to have the hoppy bitterness to go with those spices. Sounds like it works pretty well, though I can't say I've ever noticed this beer in stores. Will have to look harder next time.

    I also prefer a higher ABV to go with those typical holiday spices, to get that warming with them, but maybe that's just me.

    1. I prefer the lower intensity so it doesn't overwhelm my palate.