Christmas Ale - Brouwerij St. Bernardus NV

Not Rated.
Christmas AleChristmas Ale

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BA SCORE
94
outstanding

1,736 Ratings
THE BROS
90
outstanding

(view ratings)
Ratings: 1,736
Reviews: 616
rAvg: 4.23
pDev: 9.46%
Wants: 137
Gots: 258 | FT: 7
Brewed by:
Brouwerij St. Bernardus NV visit their website
Belgium

Style | ABV
Quadrupel (Quad) |  10.00% ABV

Availability: Winter

Notes/Commercial Description:
No notes at this time.

(Beer added by: seaoflament on 10-23-2007)
Beer: Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 1,736 | Reviews: 616 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of kjkinsey
5/5  rDev +18.2%

Photo of brentk56
4.33/5  rDev +2.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Appearance: Expected a bit more carbonation when I popped the cork so I was not surprised that the head was not overly impressive; after a few minutes, all that remains is a film and a ringlet, though it is rather leggy, leaving quite a smattering of dots and dashes

Smell: Spice cake aromatics, with ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon and clove joining the dark fruit (fig and date) elements

Taste: Spice cake with caramel frosting; in the middle, the fig and date flavors develop, along with all the spices detected in the aroma; a little tartness, after the swallow, along with a balsa wood dimension, brings an interesting phenolic angle to the finish

Mouthfeel: Medium to full body with moderate carbonation

Overall: One of the better Christmas ales to come out of Belgium; my bottle was a bit undercarbonated but still quite good

Photo of BEERchitect
4.4/5  rDev +4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Belgian Strong Dark Ales are very well suited for the holiday season even without the spicy additions common to Christmas deserts. The sweeter, succulent, and savory yeasty spice and fruity esters make for a complex staple layered on the supple malt base... absolutely sublime.

St. Bernardus' Christmas Ale pours with a rusty copper appearance with dark orange highlights and hints of garnet here and there. Mild haze and yeast caused a diffused glow to permiate the glass. A froathy mix of tightly and loosely knit head character shows great staying power and intricate patterns of lace upon the glass. A very solid Belgian look, albeit a touch light in color compared to others of the style.

Yeasy, spicy, fruity, and sweetly settled on the nose. Fruitcake-like aromas give a glimpse into the cherries, apples, figs, grapes, dates, plumbs, and sweetbread notes that set the malty and estery start to the session. Rummy alchols tickle the nose and give a sweet and vinous note to the aroma.

Delicious sweet malts give the impressions of confectioner's sugar, supple malty sweetness, and savory desert breads and coffee cake. Fruity with grapes and raisons, plumbs, and prunes, stone fruits, dehydrated dark fruits, apples and cherries all play into the estery mix as provided by yeast. Yeasty spices also attribute notes of corriander, black peppercorn, cinnamon, and a pleasant citrusy note that might be curaco additions or hop derived. Rum-like and red wine alcohols seem to be the catalyst that brings all the flavors together to give the rounded impression of rum-soaked fruitcake.

Up front sweetness gives the early impression of cloying or heavy sweetness. But the beer seems to evaporate off of the palate, much in the same was as does cotton candy- leaving a powdery dry alcohol warmth and only a memory of sweetness. The beer weighs effortless on the late palate and stomach for a remarkably drinkable session for such strength in both taste and alcohol. Assisted by strong effervescent, the beer lifts off of the tongue with ease.

St. Bernardus Christmas Ale does all that world class Belgain Strong Ales are expected to, and with many extraordinary nuances to set it apart from the mere good ones. An absolute delight with each sip as new flavors reveal themselves with each visit to the glass. The descriptor words for this beer are seemingly endless.

Photo of Phyl21ca
4.33/5  rDev +2.4%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Bottle: Poured a deep burgundy color ale with a super large foamy head with great retention and good lacing. Aroma of dry fruit and fruity ester with some candi sugar and some nicer Belgian malt. Taste is a well balanced mix between some fruity ester, some dry fruits such as figs and notes of Belgian malt. Body is full with great carbonation and no appearance of alcohol. Very well done though it probably fell short of the ABT 12.

Photo of kylehay2004
4.13/5  rDev -2.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A: Word of caution, make sure you aim this one away from anything breakable or your face as my cork rocketed across the room unlike any I have ever seen. Large frothy head, nice retention on a deep clear amber body.

S: rich dark fruit aroma with mostly fig and cherry and strawberry, not too sweet.

T: more dark fruit but more sour than sweet. Spicey Belgian yeast as well.

M: medium body and moderate carbonation. Semi dry in the finish.

Overall: a Little sour but overall a nice drinkable strong ale from this brewery.

Photo of BuckeyeNation
4.22/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Generously bubbled dark cranberry with orange and gold highlights. The pale toffee colored head was at least four fingers following a gentle pour and doesn't look as though it will melt until New Year's. Thankfully, it's sticky enough to decorate the goblet with fine sheets of lightly stippled lace.

The nose is classic BSDA. It's hard to say for sure, but it smells like the typical yeasty spiciness, not so much added spices. The beer smells like freshly baked pumpernickel covered in dark fruits and ground cloves. Good, but not quite magical.

That's my first impression of the flavor as well, but I have a sneaking suspicion that warming will make this dark ale blossom into something even more delicious. For that to happen, the metallic vibe that has intruded on the first few mouthfuls has to fade. It does... eventually.

I'm surprised at how bitter and dry Christmas Ale is, relatively speaking. It isn't out of line for the style, but it is a little unusual for a holiday beer. The flavor profile is made up of toasted brown bread (with a rye-like earthy spiciness), black tea leaves, figs, anise seed, orange peel, cloves, black pepper and a wee pinch of musky cardamom.

That this Brouwerij St. Bernardus offering would be complex was never in doubt. Warming does, indeed, open up the flavor profile and fills it in with bold strokes of color. Is it enough to earn the next highest flavor score? Tough call, but by mid-bottle, I've decided that it is. The alcohol, although well-masked, adds a bracing power that lovers of big beer should embrace.

The mouthfeel doesn't deliver the usual creamy lushness of a big Belgian ale. It's a little too brightly carbonated and is a trifle thin. It's still more than acceptable, but I was expecting mouthfeel excellence from the merry monks.

St. Bernardus Christmas Ale manages to capture the spirit of the season with a spiciness whose origins are a mystery. It probably won't be everyone's cup of ale, but I'm having a great time sipping and savoring. What a wonderful beer to cap off Christmas 2008 in style.

Photo of jaydoc
4/5  rDev -5.4%

Photo of ygtbsm94
3.5/5  rDev -17.3%

Photo of womencantsail
4.38/5  rDev +3.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

On-tap at Stuffed Sandwich

A: The pour is a dark brown color with some amber sort of highlights and an appropriately large off-white head.

S: A really rich, luscious nose of caramel, brown sugar, candi sugar, and toffee. Tons and tons of fruits too, like cherries, figs, and plums.

T: The flavor is just as wonderful. Sweet brown sugar and caramel lead the way with plenty of cherries, plums, and raisins to provide further sweetness. There's some clove and nutmeg flavors as well as a nice yeastiness.

M: The body is medium with a really full and rolling carbonation.

D: Maybe the best of all the Belgian Christmas beers I've had to this point. This is pretty much what I think of/look for in this kind of beer.

Photo of Knapp85
3.35/5  rDev -20.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

This beer pours out as a deep red color with a foamy tan colored head. The lacing isn't too bad here. The smell of the beer has a lot of spice to it. There is some decent flavors once the beer warms up. The beer right from the fridge has a metallic flavor at first. The spices kick in and leave a slight amount of heat in the aftertaste. The mouthfeel is a little warming and had a lot of carbonation. Overall it's not a bad Christmas ale.

Photo of westcoastbeerlvr
3.75/5  rDev -11.3%

Photo of SocalKicks
4.25/5  rDev +0.5%

Photo of ChainGangGuy
3.95/5  rDev -6.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Appearance: Pours a brown body with a large, foamy khaki-colored head. Quite effervescent!

Smell: A nice mix of pitted fruits with notes of cocoa powder, holiday-minded spices, cracked black pepper, and yeast.

Taste: Juicy dark fruits with a hearty dusting of cocoa and tossed with a mix of sugar 'n' spice. Slight bready yeastiness. Just of earthy bitterness. Semi-dry finish.

Mouthfeel: Medium-bodied. Well carbonated. Warming alcohol presence.

Drinkability: A fine holiday sipper (regardless of the 10% ABV) that made for pleasant Christmas Day drinking.

Photo of largadeer
4.18/5  rDev -1.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Appearance: Poured from a 750ml bottle depicting a jolly monk (with a Santa hat) drinking beer in the snow. The beer itself is dark amber, nearly black, with a cloudy tan head that doesn't show any sign of fading.

Smell: Caramel and chocolate, wintry spices, a bit of alcohol. Very aromatic.

Taste/mouthfeel: Dark dried fruits, caramel, a bit of molasses. Dry and spicy in the finish with a greater hop presence than I was expecting. Crisp but soft carbonation similar to other St. Bernardus brews. This is nice, but I think it will drink better with 5 or 6 months on it. Recommended.

Photo of biboergosum
4.05/5  rDev -4.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

750ml corked and wired bottle, shared with my dark Belgian-loving sweetie (uh, beer, that is...).

This beer pours a muddy, sediment-strewn rather dark orangish-brown hue, with an ambitious rising column of frothy, fairly soapy beige head, which leaves some thorough swaths of sudsy lace around the glass in its very somnolent wake.

It smells of chewy raisins, caramel/toffee malt, everything ever baked by my mom for Christmas, a bit of earthy yeast, and softly simmering alcohol (which also has something in common with my dear mom's holiday goodies). The taste is more caramel and raisin malt sweetness, plummy fruit, nutmeg, cinnamon, brown sugar, and strongly warming alcohol.

The carbonation is sedate, but not exactly absent, the body well weighted, smoothly-textured, and a tad creamy. It finishes with that same complex, spiced Christmas baking, duly steeped in rum.

Like other holiday season libations, this is a barely restrained, indulgent sipper, for satisfying that sweet tooth, keeping out the chill, and keeping the craziness to an acceptable hum.

Photo of emerge077
3.55/5  rDev -16.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

It looked nearly perfect in the light, tiny jets of carbonation raced through the hazy chestnut liquid, with a fluffy head of tan foam. Every so often, larger bubbles would be carried upward from the bottom, powerless in the slipstream.

Strong aroma of bubblegum/banana from the yeast esters. Slight sweetness, bordering on cloying.

Deeply malty flavors with light fruit and nuttiness. A bit too sweet for my taste, but it's not overdone. Dry finish hints at the high abv, but it's hidden in the taste. I'm happy that I shared this at a holiday party instead of trying to drink the whole thing myself.

Photo of TMoney2591
4.22/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Served in a wine glass.

Man, that monk sure looks happy and festive. His brew pours a hazy sienna topped by a finger of dirty tan foam. The nose comprises nutmeg, fig, cinnamon, and a touch of roasted malts. The taste runs very similarly, with the addition of banana and chocolate. The body is a staunch medium, with a light moderate carbonation and a somewhat grainy feel. Overall, another win from Bernardus. I can't wait to try the others I've yet to experience.

Photo of JAHMUR
4/5  rDev -5.4%

Photo of zeff80
4.33/5  rDev +2.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2007 Edition

A – Poured out a rich amber color with a beautiful, tan, foamy, three-finger head. It left sticky rings of lace on the glass.

S – It smelled of dried fruits (pear and apple). There was also a strong malty presence.

T - The taste was quite complex. Spices hit the tongue on first sip, cinnamon and maybe vanilla. A rich, roasted malt flavor lasts throughout. It had a biscuity quality, as well.

M – It was soft and smooth with a warm alcohol presence. This is a very heavy-bodied beer.

D – This is a very nice Christmas Ale. It is quite a lot to handle in one sitting. I might have to pick up another and cellar it (the bottle claims it can be cellared for up to 15 years).

Photo of Jason
4/5  rDev -5.4%

Photo of WVbeergeek
4.5/5  rDev +6.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Super carbonated, Belgian ale just in time for this holiday season, pours a slightly clouded mahogany brown burgundy color with a light khaki tan head forming thick and fully bubbled. Aroma is full of Christmas spices meaning hints of cinnamon, ginger, and other famous pie spices. Full on flavor of ripened fruits and sweet bursting dessert like bready pie crust. Fruit filled with spices galore this is some big festive drinking Christmas ale. Full on honey tinged ripened fruit with hints of papaya, pineapple tartness with bittering hoiday spices balancing out the pure sweetness of this big Belgian ale. Alcoholic slight medicinal burn in each sip with high carbonation this really tickles the nares but the effervescent carbonation carries things well, and it finishes with bitter dry holiday spices. Wonderful amazing freak of nature Belgian Christmas bier that we all look forward to each year.

Photo of nickfl
4.4/5  rDev +4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A - Really big head, basically 2/3 glass of foam. As the rocky head settles, and it settles very slowly, it leaves a spider web of sticky lace. The body is slightly hazy, and very dark brown with just a hint of red.

S - Fruity notes and dark malt combine to product distinct aromas of prunes, figs, and raisins. There is a nice, herbal hop undertone as well as a subtle note of alcohol.

T - Sweet and fruity up front with a strong alcohol note. Big, roasty flavors come in next with lots of chocolate and fruity notes of bananas and prunes. Herbal hops are present throughout the experience and they linger and provide a bit of bitterness to mingle with the intense toffee and chocolate flavors in the finish. There is a late alcoholic note, and quite a lot of tobacco character that lasts longer than any of the other flavors.

M - High carbonation, thick body and a dry finish.

D - I expected a big beer, but this is huge. Very complex, with a very nice, wintry roasted quality. Not exactly an easily drinkable beer, but my overall impression is very favorable. Considering the complexity and the high alcohol content, I am inclined to think that this would age very well. I also think that with its smokey tobacco flavors, this is one of the few beers I have had that could really stand up to a good cigar.

Photo of RblWthACoz
4.25/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a clouded dark brown with a good sized creme head that leaves a decent amount of lacing on the way down. Nose is spices and yeast. Flavor is extremely heavy on the spices. Just buckets and buckets of them. Dough rests in the background. Carbonation is extremely full and attacks the tongue. Liquid is as it should be. This is definitely a winter style brew. It is so spice forward and heavy on the body that it is to be sipped and savored over time. A nice brew for sure.

Photo of jlindros
4.33/5  rDev +2.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Had on tap at Armsby Abbey Belgian Christmas night, 2007 vintage. This was the catch of the night, so delicious.

Comes with a light Belgian fizzy head and light lacing, over dark brown molasses color with hints of rosy hue, and very dark with very little light coming through.

Nose comes with sweet malts, Belgian dark malts, little candi sugar, caramel, toffee, aged malts, slight dark raisiny fruits, and just the faintest hit of spices and nutty aromas.

Taste brings lots of raisin and dark fruits, little plug and fig, nutty malts, plenty of Belgian dark malts and that aged malt taste, smooth and semi sweet, some dark candi sugar and little caramel, hints of spice and a little warming booze, a little bitterness too. Finish lingers with lots of dark malts, a little sweetness and more candi sugar, and hints of fruits that linger for a while.

Mouth is medium to a little heavier bodied with decent carbonation and very little warming booze.

Drinkability is pretty good, drinks a lot smoother and lighter than 10%, and sweetness is balanced well and the aged malt flavor probably helps.

Photo of Slatetank
4/5  rDev -5.4%

Christmas Ale from Brouwerij St. Bernardus NV
94 out of 100 based on 1,736 ratings.