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.
Brewmaster Jack, of Holyoke, Massachusetts, is another story of home brewer turned big-time brewer. Started in 2011, and greatly expanded in 2014, Brewmaster Jack brews straight-forward beer with locally sourced malts. Prinsipia is a barrel-aged Quad using Tennessee Whiskey Barrels.
Prinsipia pours dark brown with a touch of tan foam. It smells fantastic! Lots of whiskey barrel, dried
The Boston Beer Company, better known as Samuel Adams, make a couple of Christmas ales, White Christmas is their spiced wheat beer.
White Christmas pours cloudy straw-orange with a fine white foam head. The nose is nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon and a touch of yeast. It tastes crisp with the aforenamed spices right up front. There’s also some citrus notes from the orange peel brewed in. Spalter Noble hops originating in Bavaria make up the 6 IBU. It’s medium bodied with good carbonation and 5.8% ABV.
White Christmas is widely available. If you like witbier give this one a try.
Samuel Adams’ other Christmas beer is Merry Maker Gingerbread Stout, which I reviewed last year.