We're almost in the last quarter of these Christmas beer reviews and it's been quite the experience. Even expanding the reviews from 12 beers to 24, there were still many beers that I wanted to get to but didn't. As they say, there's always next year.
"On the ninth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…"
Winter Ale, Telegraph Brewing Company, 7.5% ABV
I don't know too much about Telegraph Brewing Company other than they're brewing out of Santa Barbara, "home" to the show Psyche. I've only had a handful of their beers and this was, I think, the only one I've really reviewed.
Winter Ale is very dark in color, nearly black with ruby highlights and a beige head. There’s a noticeable spice character in the aroma (allspice), with a slight touch of roast malt notes. The flavor has a spice character (allspice, anise, light cinnamon) up front with deep toast/light roast malt flavors filling up the rest. The hop flavor is low, hop bitterness is medium-low. There’s a slight alcohol warming in the finish. Body is medium-high with medium-high carbonation with fine bubbles. The finish has a light astringency.
This beer is inspired by Mexican hot chocolate. I don’t get a strong chocolate flavor from the malts, nor do I pick up the ancho chili flavor the beer is brewed with. This could be because I’m not familiar with ancho chilies. I don’t pick up any hot spice flavors either.
Gouden Carolus Noël, Brouwerij Het Anker, 10.5% ABV
One of the more interesting things about breweries from "the old country" the amount of history they have. Some of these breweries have origins that span centuries. Brouwerij Het Anker received their start in 1471 when Charles the Bold granted the Beguine sisters of Mechelen permission to brew beer for their personal use. It wasn't until 1872 that the brewery would be named "Het Anker" (the Anchor), after historic Mechelen brewmaster, named Jan in de Anker. Fast forward to 2010 and Brouwerij Het Anker produces beer, whiskey, as well as having their own hotel.
The beer is very dark brown with amber and ruby hues with a beige head. The beer has a noticeable fruit character (prunes, figs and raisins) and a caramel-like malt character. The flavor has dark fruit character, raisins most notably, with a savory caramel-like malt flavor and some black licorice. Slight peppery spice note in the finish. Hop flavor is low, hop bitterness is low, slight Belgian candi-like alcohol flavor too. Body is full, carbonation is medium/medium-high, finish is balanced with some alcohol warming.
This beer has a rich malt flavor that is equal parts of dark fruit and caramel. It’s relatively sweet and definitely a sipper. When compared to the Noël beers I’ve reviewed this year, this has the most body and richest flavor. Very nice sipping beer.
There are other Noël beers that are more balanced but Gouden Carolus Noël is a fantastic beer even though I think the fruit character is a little heavy. The Winter Ale from Telegraph Brewing is a little spice forward but still a solid Christmas beer.
Hopefully everyone is picking up the beers they'll be sharing with their family and friends for Christmas. There are a lot of choices out there and it's hard to go wrong.