Christmas Ales/Winter Warmers are like Oktoberfests and Pumpkin Ales in that I’m always excited to see them come out but get sick of them quicker than I expect to every year. So we’ll see how many of these I manage to review before I decide that I’m done until 2011.
Name: Christmas Ale (Special Release)
Origin: Saint Louis Brewery/Schlafly Beer Room
Style: Spiced Beer/Winter Warmer
IBU: not listed
I drank this: poured from a bottle at home
Of all the holiday/spiced/Christmas/Winter beers out there, the Schlafly is one of the brews I’ve been most excited to try. The reason is simple: their pumpkin ale was flat-out FANTASTIC, so I had high hopes for this beer. I’ve not been disappointed.
The beer is a lovely auburn color with a slight orange tinge and zero, repeat zero head. It’s fairly heavily carbonated, with tiny little bubbles flying up through the liquid in the glass. It’s not all the way to champagne-level carbonation, or as carbonated as the New Belgium Abbey from the other night. But carbonated in tiny fizzy bubbles nonetheless.
Scent-wise, it’s malts with clove/orange/nutmeg/caramel and a hint of banana. The banana hint has me wondering if there’s a Belgian yeast strain involved in the brewing. If the banana thing sounds off-putting, think about covering bananas in clove/orange/nutmeg caramel for a moment. I mean, OMNOMNOM. It’s good.
The flavor is predominantly brown sugar/caramel-sweet with spices – the same sort of clove-y nutmeg-y spice in the scent, with a hint of cinnamon. I don’t notice the orange as much in the taste as I do in the scent unless I hold the beer in my mouth for a few seconds – that allows the orange/bitter hops to develop some flavor. If you hate hops, swallow quickly-ish.
The only off moment in this beer is in the first moment of the aftertaste. Most of the aftertaste is this long sort of sugared orange affair, a flavor which is all in all quite lovely and which ought to be made into candy somehow. But before that – the first few moments right after swallowing – there’s a really bitter flavor, like unpleasantly, otherwise-indescribable just “bitter” flavor. It’s replaced by the sugared oranges in about a minute.
Overall, this is really good. It’s not quite on par with their Pumpkin Ale, but it’s still a very good brew and a very good example of the style. Have some and enjoy it, people!