I’ve been wanting to taste the first American Trappist Brewery’s Christmas beer. The Elves contacted my friends at Belgian-Style Ales who fixed me up with a few bottles of Spencer Trappist Holiday Ale. It was worth the wait.
Holiday Ale pours mahogany red with a health white head of foam. The aroma is ginger, cinnamon, coriander, all spice, cloves, Belgian yeast, and raisins. The aroma immediately reminded me of the Ohio Christmas beer style, which predominantly ginger, cinnamon, and honey, except Holiday Ale has more spices.
Diving into the glass, the beer hits with spices first: ginger, white pepper, and cloves, then move to a sweet, burnt sugar, medium body. As it warmed, I tasted fruit, raisins and bitterness from the hops. At 9% ABV the alcohol is well integrated.
Spencer is a Trappist monastery in Spencer, Massachusetts, USA. Trappist communities observe the Rule of St. Benedict, a 6th century guide for monastic life, that stresses the importance of ora et labora or “pray and work.” Monks are encouraged to be self-supportive and offer charitable assistance to others by producing and selling goods to the public. The monks at Spencer decided to become the first American Trappist brewery.
Read more about Trappist beer in the excellent book, Trappist Beer Travels: Inside The Breweries of the Monasteries.
Berkshire Brewing Company of South Deerfield, Massachusetts brews up a different Christmas treat each year under the label: Holidale Ale. I’m reviewing the 2016 version delivered by the elves a year after its release.
The 2016 Holidale Ale pours copper with a fine cream head on top. It’s loaded with sediment drifting through the glass. It smells slightly tart, like cooked cherries with a bit of yeast. The initial taste is brings a grapey flavor and a wee bit of pucker from the gooseberries added in the secondary fermentation. There a sweetness from the alcohol, some dried fruit characteristics, and wild yeast. Not much in terms of hops flavor notes, but the hops were definitely present.
It’s listed on Untapped as a Double IPA, but it’s more like a barleywine with berry and spice notes to it. I can’t find a ABV for this beer, but it’s 8%+, but doesn’t drink very boozy. Look for this year’s Holidale Ale and see what Santa has for you.
There is massive interest in beer Advent calendars – celebrate the season with beer a day for December 1st through 24th. Costco carries the most widely available beer Advent calendars, but it’s not available at every store.
Costco’s 2017 Brewer’s Advent Calendar is a boxed set of 24 German different beers in
My usual beer cap opener is a Pulltex Pulltap’s Corkscrew. Only occasionally do I use the corkscrew on a bottle of beer, like when I open a cork and cap sealed De Dolle Stille Nacht 2010 Reserva.
The corkscrew is a simple tool constantly redesigned and marketed. Each new type is supposedly an improvement on the last, but they are not. The clear winner is also one of the least expensive
Saint Arnold Brewing from Texas makes a malty Christmas Ale, so when I saw their hoppy, spiced version Sailing Santa I had to try it.
Sailing Santa pours orange-auburn with a white head of foam. Spices hit your nose on sniffing this brew. I smell ginger, cloves, cinnamon, and dried orange peels. The taste is all those spices, on a zingy hop base. Hops and a lot of ginger give a
Here’s a rarity in Northwest US Winter Ales, a proper spiced Ale. It comes from Silver City Brewery in Bremerton, Washington. Nutcracker Spiced Ale has been a small-batch, draft-only brew every Christmas since 2005. This year, we’re they’ve bottled some celebrating the brewery’s 20th Anniversary.
Nutcracker pours burn caramel, amber color with a thin head of tan foam that skirts to the edges of the glass. On the nose, there’s sweet Belgian yeast and malts, no spice. Tasting, I get rich caramel and chocolate malts, sharp Belgian yeast that adds spice, and fruits like prune, dark cherry, and stewed orange peel. It’s sweet, but far from too sweet. And the 10% ABV is well hidden behind all the flavor. The best part is the long finish that lingers.
Silver City makes another favorite Christmas beer, their Old Scrooge and Bourbon Barrel Aged Old Scrooge.
The elves and I popped by for a visit at De Dolle Brouwers to check on this year’s Stille Nacht beer. We found full pallets of Stille Nacht waiting for shipment.
Look for it in the next few weeks. That is, if you are fortunate enough to live where it is distributed.