Friday, January 25, 2013

Winter Beer Month: 2010 St.Bernardus Christmas Ale

In addition to being known for waffles, brussels sprouts, and old fashioned caps, Belgium also has a thing for beer.  In fact, statistics that I have read indicate that Belgian brewers make over 800 beers and the average Belgian resident consumes 150 litres of beer per year.

That's almost a pint per day if you're keeping track.

One of the breweries pumping out some delicious Belgian beer is St.Bernardus; the producer of a Christmas Ale that is perfect for Winter Beer Month.

About St.Bernardus

It seems that the brewery is self-aware of it's prominent role in the Belgian brewing scene in providing this description:
In the most remote corner of West Flanders, in the middle of "Le Plat Pays", in the heart of the hop area in West Flanders, a beer is made that fancies most of the beer lovers.
It certainly fancies me.

With a storied history reaching back to the early 1930's, St. Bernardus is rooted in the efforts of trappist monasteries near the Watou village. After World War 2, the St. Bernard Watou Cheese Factory, founded by the Catsberg Abbey Community, and the private brewery operated by the Trappist Monastery St. Sixtus came together to create Brewery St.Bernard.

The brewery begain commercial production, selling brews under the brand names Trappist Westvleteren, St.Sixtus, and Sixtus. In 1992 the name was changed to St.Bernardus, brewing original recipes for dark and blond abbey ales with their own yeast and hops from their own hopfield.

2010 Christmas Ale

When I found out that Urban Family Public House, my local purveyor of fine beer, had the 2010 vintage of the St. Bernardus Christmas Ale on tap, I had to check it out.

Brewery: St.Bernardus Brewery
Style: Belgian Quadrupel Abbey Ale Rating: 94, exceptional Rating: 99 Overall
Serving: Draft
ABV: 10%

When I ordered the beer, the bartender at Urban Family looked at me with a gleam in his eye and simply said, "nice." I knew it was the right choice.

Appearance: This beer poured a nice deep, dark brown. With a bit of cloudiness, there was no head to speak of.

Smell: I picked up some maltiness with sweet notes, and an immediate prominent pleasant aroma of Belgian yeast. This apparently is a signature of St.Bernardus house yeast strain.

Taste: Upon first taste, I found the Christmas Ale to be smooth and balanced with a nice velvety mouthfeel. The Belgian sugar was present, I also noted that the aging of the beer had likely balanced out the beer. As the beer warmed up, I got a tang of alcohol on the finish and some nice tastes of molasses and licorice emerged.

This beer was simply a treat to enjoy, especially on tap. I'm hit or miss with Belgian style beer, but this one definitely added the depth and complexity I like.

It looks like this beer will retail around $13 if you can find a 750 ml in your local bottle shop. Perfect to enjoy on a long winter night with your favorite human companion.


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