Best Belgian Christmas Beers 2017

The Kerstbierfestival held in Essen, Belgium in December drew a sold out crowd of Christmas beer fans from 34 nationalities and visitors from 14 different US States, 3 Canadian, and 2 Chinese Provinces.

Participants are surveyed to determine the top 10 Christmas Beers of the festival. For the 9th time, Stille Nacht by De Dolle Brouwers won top ranking. Fans of this blog will know that Stille Nacht is Santa’s favorite as well.

The 2017 Kerstbierfestival Top 10 Christmas Beers

1. Stille Nacht –  De Dolle Brouwers
2. Schuppenboer Grand Cru Whisky Barrel Aged – Het Nest
3. Gouden Carolus Christmas – Het Anker
4. Sint Bernardus Christmas Ale –  St. Bernardus
5. L’Ensemble BA Montalcino –  Dochter v/d Korenaar
6. Murder –  Crow Mountain (Anders)
7. Jule Maelk Rhum Ed. –  To Øl (Proefbrouwerij)
8. Winterkoninkske Haspeng. Gr. Cru Am. Oak Fin. –  Kerkom (Proefbrouwerij)
9. Jule Maelk Cognac Ed. –  To Øl (Proefbrouwerij)
10. Chimay Grande Réserve Vieillie 2016 (Cogn.) – Brouwerij Abb. N.D. de Scourmont

The good news for global Christmas beer fans is two of the top beers, Gouden Carolus Christmas and St. Bernardus Christmas Ale, are widely available.

Fremont 2014 Coffee Cinnamon Bourbon Barrel Aged Abominable Review

Fremont Brewing Co. of Seattle makes my favorite bourbon barrel-aged beer. It’s now called B-Bomb, but previously named Bourbon Abominable. This 2014 Barrel Aged Abominable is the Coffee Cinnamon version.

It pours a rich, dark brown with a dark tan thin head of foam. The aroma is coffee, bourbon, spice, and coconut. The flavor is intense. Complexity with cinnamon, bourbon, vanilla, leather, dark roasted coffee, all formed together in a way that does a dance in your mouth. The finish is warm and long with good carbonation and smooth mouthfeel. There’s no booziness from the 11% ABV.

Coffee Cinnamon Bourbon Barrel Aged Abominable was aged in 12 & 15-year-old American Oak bourbon barrels and is a blend of 12, and 24-month old barrel strength Abominable Ale. For barrel-aged beer fans, this is one to search for. Here’s a link to the current version.

Pyramid Bourbon Barrel-Aged Snow Cap Review

Snow Cap is Pyramid Breweries’ English-Style Winter Warmer. For the brewery’s 30th anniversary last year, they released a barrel-aged version. This year they’ve done it again with Bourbon Barrel-Aged Snow Cap in a 22oz bottle.

BBA Snow Cap pours dark mahogany with a stiff tan head of foam. The aroma originates with the 10 months of barrel-aging: bourbon, vanilla, and sweet malts. The East Kent Golding hops give it an English Barleywine flavor. Distinct wood and vanilla, with a touch of chocolate from the barrels. A creamy mouthfeel with good carbonation hides the 10 ABV booziness.

Based in Seattle, Pyramid Breweries began as Hart Brewing in 1984 with the flagship brand of Pyramid Ales. In 1996, the company was reborn as Pyramid Breweries and currently offers craft beers produced under the Pyramid family of ales and lagers.

Hoppin’ Frog Frosted Frog and Barrel Aged Frosted Frog Review

Barrel or no barrel? For me this is a no-brainer. I love barrel-aged beers. Today, we’re tasting Hoppin’ Frog Brewing Co. of Akron, Ohio. The Frosted Frog Christmas Ale and Barrel Aged Frosted Frog Christmas Ale.

First up, the regular Frosted Frog Christmas Ale. It pours fox-tail brown with a thin head of foam. There’s gingerbread on the nose. Spices dominate this beer. It’s ginger snap cookies in a bottle, with sharp cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg spices on a sweet, malty base.

Now for the barrel aged version. This one pours a bit darker and murkier with no foam. The sharp ginger aroma from the regular version is dialed back with a hint of vanilla from the barrels. Barrel aging adds a lot of depth to the overall flavor profile. It’s become gingerbread cake with more malty roundness. Both beers are 8.6% ABV and 12 IBU.

You’ve got to like this style of cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg spice-dominated beer to drink local Christmas beer in Ohio. I’ve termed this flavor profile “Ohio style” because many of the breweries in the region shoot for it, and breweries in other regions don’t.

Spencer Trappist Holiday Ale Review

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 2016 Holidale Ale Review

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.

2017 Costco Advent Beer Calendar

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