Christmas Ale - Brouwerij St. Bernardus NV
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Ratings: 1,416 | Reviews: 576 | Display Reviews Only:
4.51/5 rDev +6.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5
Poured in a mini snifter at a blind quad tasting out of a 750ml bottle, courtesy of jdhowe. 2012 vintage. Later that evening, I opened up a fresh 2013 vintage (out of a 11.2oz bottle) that was dated with a "best by" date of "24/7/18." Am I the only one that thinks it's bizarre that the larger bottles say that this variant of St. Bernardus will age up to 13 years in the bottle, but the smaller ones have expiration dates, for whatever reason?
While the newer bottle poured a near exact rendition of the regular Abt. 12 (brown, plum tinged, big frothy head), the '12 vintage was astonishingly clearer and showcased less frothiness at the top, in spite of a playful blast of carbonation at the bottom. Some cloudiness and sediment - looked exactly like the regular Abt. 12 (also '12 vintage) that was next to it during the tasting.
When I took a whiff out of the glass, however, I knew instantly that this had to be the spiced ale - it's such a distinct, unique aroma. At first, you get a cascade of delicate, dried dark fruits, ranging from raisins, dates and blackberries, but then it is overtaken by the caramel and replaced with ginger peel, allspice, cinnamon, and most notably of all, crushed red pepper. Yes, indeed, the pepper a fabulous addition to the base beer, and sets a savory standard that masks and washes away the booze and potentially additional sweetness at the finish. Very bright and unique, especially for a mass-produced Belgian spiced ale.
The flavor continues to showcase the excellent balance between the flavorful, crisp malt profile, as well as the spices at hand. Firm, yet not over the top, notes of raisins, berries, and prunes, with an impressive prickly spiciness from the pepper, as well as some cinnamon, allspice, and some faded finger peel. Contains a slight wet yeasty character and some extra sweetness from the alcohol that is canceled out nicely by the spices. With the biscuit, caramel forward profile, this feels like a much lighter beer than it really is. Carbonation is just right, and something truly unique is happening to this vintage. I'd imagine, over time, that it would develop fascinating notes of oxidation akin to Sherry, and the complexity inhibited by the spices would increase ten fold. Really incredible stuff, with all things considered.
I knew this would be the clear winner of the tasting as soon as I took a sip of it - it may not have the yeasty prowess of other quads we tasted, nor as much of a robust malt profile, but it certainly wins in its ever unique profile and versatility for the pure and simple purpose of consumption. I'd love to buy a case of this and see how it evolves over the course of 12 years, but every vintage is different, it seems. The 2012, from what I can gather, is going to be quite generous in its development. The '13 is drinking supremely well as well, and whether fresh or aged, this beer really knocks most spiced beers out of the park, and perhaps most of its other Belgian peers overall.
Serving type: bottle
02-11-2014 20:08:15 | More by magictacosinus
4.41/5 rDev +4.3%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5
Brother got me a 750ml for christmas, paired with some top notch BBQ from Blue ribbon in arlington. A great contrast to the salty/savoryness of a heavy meal.
A: Pours a dark ruby red, semi transparent, with a super huge frothy white head that lasts througout. Leaves some dark lacing. Really beautiful, a massive head that locked super sticky, like melted marshmallows.
S & Taste: Lots of dark fruits, brown sugar, prunes, chocolate covered cherrys, rasins, maybe even some cognac like notes. Some sugar candies, and that classic super funky belgian yeast. A little bready, with some clove/all spice. Very tasty, a good dessert beer, that contrasts well with smoked meats. Would also go well with salty cheeses, or cured meats. Very rich but not cloying, which was impressive. Pretty well balanced, and hidden ABV.
M: Rich syrupy, very carbonated for richness. Rather drinkable for ABV/OG.
O: I dont usually like belgian Quads or Tripels as their often cloying. This was quite excellent though. Would pair great with christmas dinner. Could go well as a dessert on its on, with dessert, or in contrast to a savory dish. Too much flavor for white meat or blander food. One of my favorite belgians.
Serving type: bottle
02-09-2014 02:07:14 | More by BigCheese
3.7/5 rDev -12.5%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75
A murky mahogany color with an island of wispy off-white fizz on top and decent traces of lace. The aroma offers delicate malt and hints of apple and maybe even a touch of clove. Weaker than I expected but it comes through if you give it a chance. The flavor commands an unusual fruit melange that includes cotton candy mango and grapefruit. Quite odd. At once interestingly nice but then a bit off-putting. Caramel malt is definitely there but the odd fermenting fruit flavors take over and it's attention getting. There's some cinnamon and grassy grain apple to top off this interesting brew. Alcohol is not overly notable but it's a little warming. The body is easily medium with a good fizzy carbonation that gives it a slightly lighter feel for the style. Worth a try but not a real wow for me.
Serving type: on-tap
01-29-2014 04:15:11 | More by Durge
4.06/5 rDev -4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4
Many thanks to Minks Beverages on Delk Rd. in ATL for saving me a few bottles of this.
Poured into my old reliable La Trappe goblet, "Le Belgianator."
Appearance 4.0: Poured out a murky, chocolatey brown. Completely opaque, but as the glass lowered, it became translucent. Go figure. Nice 1/2" head slowly faded away to nice foam on top. Decent lacing.
Smell 3.75: Bouquet is very subdued on this brew. The nose became more pronounced as the beer warmed, but still quite subdued. What I do smell is nice: smoked grains, big malt... . Shame there isn't more of it.
Taste 4.25: Front is sweet and spicy, with hints of anise and a slight sourness. Middle is lovely: top of the palate and a perfect blend of sweet and slightly sour with a hint of smokiness and some nice dried dark fruits. Finish is actually somewhat dry...to begin with. Then you are hit with a subdued and wonderfully balanced taste of cloves, cardamon and a very tasty Belgian yeast. Finish is short except in the very top of the palate where you can still detect a certain lovely maltiness for minutes after each lovely gulp.
Mouthfeel 4.0: Mouthfeel definitely enhances the taste of this delicious seasonal.
Overall 4.0: Just an outstanding seasonal brew. Balanced, smooth and dangerously sessionable at its entirely undetectable 9.0%+ ABV, this is a present I want under my tree every year. I know that some purists out there may complain about "Specialty Market" this and that, but if every specialty beer could turn out like this one...wow. All I have to say is, "Vive le marché spécial!!!" Also...why is this not classified as a "Belgian Strong Dark"? Seriously, get it right, folks.
Serving type: bottle
01-21-2014 06:16:36 | More by BeerDocT
Christmas Ale from Brouwerij St. Bernardus NV
94 out of 100 based on 1,416 ratings.