GarrettB (1023) - San Diego, California, USA - AUG 1, 2008
3.2 AROMA 9/10 APPEARANCE 4/5 TASTE 5/10 PALATE 2/5 OVERALL 12/20
UPDATED: SEP 7, 2012 12/8/2009 - American brewers put out a wonderful selection of Christmas seasonals, but they always seem to pale in comparison to the classy heralds of the seasons festivities that march their way across the Atlantic to our beer stashes. At the front of the pack is our dear and beloved St. Bernardus monk, pointing diligently (to where? nobody knows) and fancying a Santa cap for the occasion. The beer, too, sports a thick and heavy hat with heavy lacing, and the St. Bernardus Christmas Ale is that particular shade of deep, oiled and aged wood that borders on black, but flickers back to brown with a blink and a wipe of an eye. A medley of dessert smells and Christmas kitchen delights march out of the glass - sweet red grapes, sugary licorice, grape juice and sweet raisins that yield their hyper-concentrated sugars between eagerly chomping teeth. This is far, far sweeter than anything else I’ve had from St. Bernardus. It is probably a celebratory push into the season’s traditional gluttony, and I’m ready to celebrate. Sadly, we all know that feeling of withdrawal after Christmas is done, and we have to shelve our ever present plates of cookies and brownies. These confections, usually relegated to the occasional dessert, have been accessories to our lives, jumping down our gullets every time we pass the plate on the trip between rooms. The St. Bernardus speeds up the crushing blow of the end of Christmas in the flavor, where all the promises of the aroma have been turned up to 11. Carbonation plagues the palate, and jarring tastes of bad hard candy and cough syrup and a clumsy flavor of grape juice coat the tongue in a cloying carol to flavors commonly found in Christmas brews. It is too much - sweet and sugary, like too many gingerbread cookies in the wee hours of the morning, and a lingering, sticky aftertaste that clings to you like so much late night snacking guilt. There is a limit, I think, to how far these lovely Belgian Christmas ales can go, and the St. Bernardus pushes it past that limit and well beyond. I much prefer the monk without his Christmas cap.
8/1/2008 - FOOMF! The pour on this festive brew from St. Bernardus immediately explodes into a mushroom cloud of tasty foam. After a considerable wait, this hemisphere of bubbles slowly erodes into a huge, volcanic crater, allowing a more passable attempt at drinking the feer without getting foam on my eyebrows. The aroma is slightly spicy, exhibiting a sturdy whiff of black pepper, cinnamon and the more rounded white pepper, with a squeeze of both lemon and lime lending a Caribbean air. The whole of the aroma is extremely creamy, and though the scents are prickly, they’re delicious all the same, though I hardly see how this makes for much of a Christmas beer. The flavor has that same certain Belgian woodiness to it, which can only be wrought delicious by skilled artists, and indeed the workers at St. Bernardus are very skilled. Most of the wood and dry flavors encountered in the beginning flake off towards the end though, replaced by a boisterous alcohol flavor. Piercing notes of sharp wood flavors remain through the taste, though, and makes for an appropriately passive and pensive beer for drinking next to a holiday fire.
mcbackus (758) - Merritt Island, Florida, USA - JUL 28, 2008
4 AROMA 7/10 APPEARANCE 3/5 TASTE 8/10 PALATE 4/5 OVERALL 18/20
bottle courtesy of homer321: pours a clean dark brown with a small tan head. aroma is awesome with fantastic cherry adn sark fruits, bright caramel, jsut fantastic araoma. flavour is a tingly bright malt wth some to the cherry comes through nice adn the dark fuits are good but not overpowering.
radiomgb (2236) - Peterborough, Ontario, CANADA - JUL 13, 2008
4 AROMA 8/10 APPEARANCE 4/5 TASTE 8/10 PALATE 4/5 OVERALL 16/20
Beautiful amber-brown in colour with a lingering beige head and excellent lacing. The aroma was of sweet toffee, some alcohol, yeast, plums and spice. The flavour was plummy, toffee covered fruits, light sweetness, some alcohol and smooth throughout. Creamy mouthfeel, medium body, medium/high carbonation. Finishes long, sweet with a light and lingering alcohol warmth.
An excellent winter beer, the alcohol never overpowered this, good balance.
750ml bottle obtained in a trade with Beerlando, thanks Bryan.
Opened on February 18, 2008
Best before August 7, 2012.
uhre (384) - DENMARK - JUL 11, 2008
3.7 AROMA 8/10 APPEARANCE 4/5 TASTE 7/10 PALATE 4/5 OVERALL 14/20
A dark brown beer with aroma of roasted malt, caramel and candis. The flavor is also of caramel, but also alcohol and a bitternes from the hops and a spicy aftertaste.
ehhdayton (1188) - USA - JUL 8, 2008
3.8 AROMA 8/10 APPEARANCE 4/5 TASTE 7/10 PALATE 4/5 OVERALL 15/20
Has a dark brown color with a beige colored head. Aromas of fruit, spice, baked bread, and caramel are present. Flavor is full bodied with spices and fruit along with a strong malty background of chocolate, caramel, and bread.
rudolf (2340) - Buffalo, New York, USA - JUL 6, 2008
3.9 AROMA 7/10 APPEARANCE 4/5 TASTE 8/10 PALATE 4/5 OVERALL 16/20
Rich amber/brown, huge fluffy tan head. Nose is a slightly spicy raisin malt, rich oakey cherries, fruitcake. Lingering roasted/burnt fruit finish. Flavor is toffee, raisin, fruitcake spice. The alcohol isn’t overpowering but helps to dry it out. Toffee, light cork, oxidization, fruit in the finish.
kiefdog (1826) - Tampa, Florida, USA - JUN 23, 2008
4 AROMA 8/10 APPEARANCE 4/5 TASTE 8/10 PALATE 4/5 OVERALL 16/20
75cl bottle from World of Beer (Westchase). Rated on 3/25/08. Pours a dark brownish-red with a thick, frothy tan head. Aroma is cinnamon, nutmeg, malt and sweet molasses. Flavor is sweet with notes of caramel, roasted malt, candy sugar, and bread. Lively carbonation and medium to full-body. Well-balanced generally but the alcohol comes through more as it warms.
markwise (4467) - North of Tampa, Florida, USA - JUN 22, 2008
4.2 AROMA 8/10 APPEARANCE 4/5 TASTE 8/10 PALATE 4/5 OVERALL 18/20
750mL bottle from World of Beer in Tampa. This was one of the best finds I have made at WOB. This beer pours an amber-brown color with a small amount of frothy head. It had an aroma much like the ABT 12, but it had a sugary caramel and dark fruit flavor to it. Heavy in the mouth and in the stomach, but very sippable. Good beer.
presario (4611) - Stampede City, Alberta, CANADA - JUN 16, 2008
4.1 AROMA 8/10 APPEARANCE 4/5 TASTE 9/10 PALATE 3/5 OVERALL 17/20
Big bottle. Giant fluffy head. Spicy bread pudding nose. Dry spicy Belgian toffee and coffee cake taste. Amazing licorice, molasses and allspice taste.
Nel (180) - Virginia, USA - MAY 13, 2008
3.6 AROMA 7/10 APPEARANCE 4/5 TASTE 6/10 PALATE 4/5 OVERALL 15/20
Bready, yeasty, spicy holiday goodness. Pours out a dark orangish red. Really smooth caramel notes. Not quite up to the other bernardus beers that I have had, but it’s still a good beer. Cheers!