Father Christmas Highland Ale | The Olde Burnside Brewing Company

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Father Christmas Highland AleFather Christmas Highland Ale

Brewed by:
The Olde Burnside Brewing Company
Connecticut, United States

Style: Scotch Ale / Wee Heavy

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 9.20%

Availability: Winter

Notes / Commercial Description:
Legend has it that Father Christmas wandered through Scottish villages gathering a merry following and distributing sweets to children and "wee heavy," a cheery libation, to adults. Like its predecessors, Father Christmas is heavy and potent, tremendously and uniquely satisfying and flavorful. The aroma of toasted grain and mocha are mouth-watering. Father Christmas Ale is ruddy and ruby-brown, topped by a thick, loose, tan head. Sweet, roasted malt and mild smoky tastes merge into a phenomenal finish. The tall, cobalt-blue bottle, brightly labeled, makes for a wonderful presentation and host's gift. Delightful in every respect, Father Christmas Highland Ale is a Yuletide staple and Santa's favorite. He enjoys a pint at my house annually and never spares a drop.

Added by sulldaddy on 01-27-2004

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Reviews: 30 | Ratings: 57
Photo of bgjohnston
4.52/5  rDev +17.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

It's back for Fall 2009... and it is so nice to see it in my glass again.

I couldn't resist reviewing it this time around, even though I have lost a few reviews on this site lately, as it is not only back, but as good as ever.

Pours a dark caramel color with a big, foamy brown head. The head dies down quickly, but at least a little of it stays around for most of the pour. Smell is sweet, mildly spicy, and a bit of fruitiness.

Taste is an intense delivery on the promise. Sweet, with a roasted flavor, a caramel flavor that goes on forever, and the quick little bite of a hoppy bitter finish. There is no hint of alcohol whatsover, and the finish is dry enough to leave you ready for the next sip, whether it is the 2nd or the last.

Very easy to drink a lot of this. A really wonderful seasonal beer.

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Photo of tigg924
4.4/5  rDev +14.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

Appearance: high carbonation, 1/4 inch head, clear, brown in color

Smell: peat, caramel, and berries

Taste: big time caramel and cherries, light chocolate and bread

Mouthfeel: very sweet, medium body, moderate carbonation

Overall: I loved this beer and is now one of my favorites coming out of Connecticut. This is a malty dessert beer and not an everyday drinker. The caramel works perfectly with the cherry for a holiday treat. I will be getting this again.

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Photo of kennyo
4.3/5  rDev +12%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Beer comes in cool looking cobalt blue, 33.8oz, swing type, grolsh, bottle. This is the 2003 xmas ale from the Olde Burnside Brewing company out of East Hartford. This is a wee heavy Scottish Ale, abv unknown.

The beer is an opaque brown with a nice tan head that sticks around for a little while. The aroma is all malt, a little like homebrew, with a little chocolate and alcohol to it. The beer has a very malty flavor to it with a very minor hop taste to it. This beer is very drinkable. I saw that it was 33.8oz and figured that it would take a while to drink but no way. It flowed very easily. I wish that they stated the alcohol content. Went to website and there is nothing on any of their beers except the ten penny ale. As previous reviewers stated, I wish I bought more than one bottle.

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Photo of Hibernator
4.3/5  rDev +12%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

I picked this beer up last weekend while in Connecticut. It comes in a cool looking 1 quart, 1.82 fl oz blue bottle with a swing top. There was a $1.50 deposit on the bottle. I poured the beer into an imperial pint glass.

Dark brown, almost black in appearance with a great 1.5 inch head on top. There are some nice sticky lacings clinging all over the glass.

Aroma of roasted malts, toffee, oak and a tad of hops.

Very smooth chocolate and roasted malts flavors. Just the right blend of caramel sweetness coats the mouthfeel. There is a hint of chocolate flavors coming through, maybe from the roasted malts. The finish provides a slight hop snap, but ends mostly with an oaky dry flavor. Very drinkable with a surprising 9.0% ABV.

I really dig this beer. Great offering from Olde Burnside. An awesome, heavy malted brew to warm you up on a cold January night such as this evening.

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Photo of BWMKappaSig
4.28/5  rDev +11.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

1 liter blue swing-top bottle.

Appearance: Very deep brown with a light tan head that pours thick and goes down to a thin ring.

Smell: Butter, sugar, and a slight roasted note dominate the nose.

Taste: Immensely smooth malt flavor that speaks nothing of its 10%+ alcohol content. Not quite as peaty as most scotch ales, the earthiness is pleasant but subtle. A little bit of a dark chocolate note and roasted taste come in as the beer opens up.

Mouthfeel: Smoother than a glass of chocolate milk.

Drinkability: If it weren't for the warm cheeks, I'd have no indication this was a 10% beer. Tastes far smoother than it smells, and is a thoroughly enjoyable beer.

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Photo of MarkD
4.22/5  rDev +9.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Really cool,cobalt bottle, almost don't want to return it for the deposit. Pours an opaque rusty brown, with a small bubbly head that leaves a bubbly ring that lasts to the end, and given the size of this bottle and the ABV, thats a long time. The aroma was incredible, a wonderful smell of toffee or peat, maybe burnt coffee or roasted malt.and it didn't quit, it lasted from start to finish. It has a slick mouthfeel with a slight sweetness, and a pleasant malty flavor profile, with just a hint of hops.The same roasted malt/coffee flavor is presant also. The alcohol is very subtle, almost unnoticeable. One of the best scotch ales I've ever had.

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Photo of KelsoSaaz
4.19/5  rDev +9.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Poured into snifter

A: Pours a deep mahogany brown that shines amber when held to light. Thin, quickly dissipating, khaki head.

S: Woody, peaty and rich cherry aromas up front. Caramel and other sweet malt tones are apparent as well. Earthy and boozy notes too.

T: Sweet and rich malts up front dominate flavors. Not as much cherry flavor as I would have expected. Very soft, medicine and cherry flavors are what you taste here. Earth and slightly tart dark fruit flavors lurk in the background.

M: Very slightly viscous body. Moderate to mild carbonation.

O: A nice winter treat. Malty and sweet with deeper cherry flavors than other similar beers this beer sets itself apart from the pack in a good way. Not your typical scotch ale; this beer is great for philosophical evenings in the dead of winter.

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Photo of Arenbeer
4.12/5  rDev +7.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Big Purple Bottle into a Snifter Glass

A- Pours a extremely dark reddish brown with a super thin tan head that doesn't bother leaving any lacing as it leaves the glass.

S- Real sweet toffee, figs, and a nice vanilla, wood and malt base.

T- Woah! Almost has a sour flavor to it. Maybe from the age!?! Real sweet fruits with a nice dark crystal malt body and a slight burnt flavor in there. Pretty decent, held up nice for being summer!

M- medium body with low carbonation and a nice bitter dry finish.

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Photo of BrewMasterG
4.1/5  rDev +6.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Appearance: Deep brown, with garnet hues. Crystal clear when lit with bright light.

Smell: Sweet figs and dates bathed in a wonderfully malty abyss.

Taste: See above. The only thing that detracts from the great flavor is the sticky-sweet viscosity. Mounds of dark crystal malt with very little roasty astringency. Alcohol is very sneaky as I can taste none of the 9+ ABV. Be careful!

Mouthfeel: Thick and sweet. This is most definately a full-flavored sipper. Some dryness would be greatly appreciated. Then again, we can't all be Belgians.

Serving type: 22oz swing-top bottle purchased refrigerated on 01/07/2010

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Photo of sulldaddy
4.09/5  rDev +6.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Opened up my 1 liter bottle with some friends nite before the cask fest.
I pour a sample into mypint glass,the brew pours dark brown with ruby tints. A bubbly beige head foams up easily and dissipates to a thin layer across the surface. THe aroma is mostly sweet caramel malts with some roastiness as well. I also detect very mild floral hops underneath the other scents.
First sip, this is a fairly thick brew, almost chewy. The flavor is roasty caramel and is very rich like good toffee.
I get a mild hop bite in the middle but the finish returns to the caramel dominance. Wish I had bought more bottles of this one.

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Photo of far333
4/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Necktag number 3996. Served in an imperial pint glass.

Flipping up the swingtop cap resulted in a loud and energetic pop, calming any fears of a flat bottle. Pours a deep brown with ruby highlights, not totally opaque. A thick and frothy light brown head rises up an inch and slowly falls back down, but leaves a thick ring around the inside of the glass. Aroma of grassy hops with an underlying roasted malt backbone.

Flavor is also initially grassy hops, but morphs quickly to dark malts, a little roasty, some hints of talc, and fine charred bark. There are hints of cocoa and molasses, but they never totally come to the top. An espresso bite lingers. Hop burps punctuate. If the ABV is for real, it is undetectable, both on the tongue and seemingly on the brain (just drank a liter of nearly 12% ABV and I could operate a crane right now). Mouthfeel is just a bit thin, medium-bodied, but fine carbonation tingles the tongue. Pretty drinkable, it’s a good sipper.

This is a fine effort from a local brewer, but it’s unfortunate that they can’t provide a consistent product/experience for the home state supporters that are sincerely routing for them to do well.

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Photo of goodbyeohio
4/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

big 1L swingtop, bottle #3730 purchased at southington wine and spirit depot or whatever its called.

pours a dark dark brown with ruby highlights, rather clear overall. big soapy head dissolves halfway leaving craterous caverns and thick, dominant lacing on the glass. aged hop aroma mingles with a big brown sugar blast. sweet, bready and lots of honey roasted malt wafts. musty forest scent lingers in the wake of the big-nosed maltbomb. medium-bodied and lacking much carbonation, this beer leads off with heavy almond flavor and mild chocolate. hops pepper the taste nicely, and create a mild, attention-grabbing bitterness. finish contains lip-smacking vanilla and overripe banana muffin flavors. unlike previous reviewers, i can detect the larger alcohol presence although i still disagree with the 11.8% listed.. more like 8% IMHO. very drinkable and satisfying with no off flavors to speak of. i am also distressed by the fact that the maltiness and sweetness of this beer fails to produce the stickylip syndrome that one would expect from such a monster.

i think i ended up with a good, fresh, healthy bottle from a different batch than those rec'd by my homies pbrian and mikeys01. very much on-par and similar to the kilt tilter (lifter?) wee heavy from bru rm. for $5, this is a must-try connecticut seasonal and pleasantly warming for a cool winter's eve.

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Photo of MediocreatBest
3.96/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

dark muddy color with a sandy head. thick like mud too. modest head lingers for a bit. smell is lacking when cold but wait til it warms up a bit and the chocolate and alcohol scents come out. also burnt coffeee coming out far mroe as it warms. the taste follwos the smell, only with the alcohol pretty well hidden. not much carbonation. thick in your mouth. hearty beer. makes the bitter night seem less cold. another fine beer by the boys at olde burnsides, and Hooker specialties get all the pimping but these guys do a heck of a job under the radar.

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Photo of Durge
3.95/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

Thanks to the auspices of the Ohoove reserves, we regarded this cloudy dark ruby-brown colored holiday brew with a big off-white head and minimal lacing. The aroma brings a decided sour mash with a huge vinegar punch by my nose. Something like fruit fermenting perhaps. Not necessarily that alluring but kind of fun. The flavor mellows a bit from the aroma (thankfully) but maintains that musky quality with plenty of malt to help balance this unique brew. There's a deep smokey mango hidden in here with near citrus hop highlights. As it warms further you pick up many intricacies including some chocolate and it mellows really nicely. Pretty full bodied and smooth with modest carbonation. I find it drinkable enough for the style, better than a sipper if you are OK with this vinegar deal going on here. It was a neat experience and I would look forward to another one by next Christmas!

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Photo of wowbagger
3.94/5  rDev +2.6%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Found this while traveling for the holidays. Decent head. Pours dull brown with reddish notes. Smells of yeast and cherries. Sharp flavor, but mild hops and malt. Sweet but only just, which balances well. Aftertaste is bready.

Overall, very pleased with this one. I would recommend it to anyone who can find some.

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Photo of Pahn
3.8/5  rDev -1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

1 liter swing top bottle into Duvel tulip. It's Christmas Eve, may as well start into this giant Father Christmas Highland Ale from my hometown brewery.

Appearance: Free pour yields a 2 inch frothy offwhite head that dissipates steadily and lacelessly. Pours a hazy red orange, and leaves small streaks and spots of lacing.

Smell: Butterscotch and caramel at first. Very rich and dessert like. Soon, a strong cherry cordial note emerges (it's not like cherry, or chocolate, or chocolate covered cherry, but the full on, syrupy flavor of eating a cherry cordial). The cherry cordial and caramel sort of vie for prominence. Faint sourdough aroma present underneath.

Unique and inviting.

Taste: Like the nose, but with a watery and sour Euro-lager-like tang, with cherry cordial in the middle and caramel in the crisp finish. Takes some getting used to, but after a few sips, I'm on board.

The two main players in the flavor and aroma remain prominent... in fact, this beer doesn't change much from start to finish. Alcohol is completely masked. Some toasted bread flavor is there under the fruit and caramel. It's good, and well balanced, but a bit bland.

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied. At times creamy, at times watery. High side of moderate carbonation. Crisp, semi-dry finish.

Overall: This is an interesting beer. Despite being decidedly less complex than the better Scotch ales of the world, the flavors here aren't something you often find in a beer. Nor is anything really out of place.

Father Christmas Highland Ale is a good one for celebrating. It doesn't have the character to stand up to the kind of "sit there, drink, think," kind of drinking that I often do, but it would be perfect for getting merry in the company of friends. Hidden alcohol, pleasant taste, giant bottle.

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Photo of kingcrowing
3.75/5  rDev -2.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Big swing top poured into a tulip.

pours a nice dark ruby red with a small white head with no lacing. Nose is sweet, a bit fruity like cherry.

Taste is pretty dry and fruity but not over the top. Mouthfeel is pretty crisp and sharp and smooth. Overall very easy drinking.

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Photo of erosier
3.73/5  rDev -2.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

This beer comes in a very cool 1 Liter Blue swingtop bottle. I picked this beer up from my local liquor store because it was stuck in the back of the fridge laying down, for probably a year or so. I got it because the homebrew shop I go to bought out their brewery of their bottles and I bought them from him so I had to clean them all out. I figured I should give this a try. It is a very nice christmas beer. It pours a dark brown, almost black from the bottle with a short caramel head. The aroma is much like the taste. Very thick in rich and roasty malts. Not much else I could detect, however. I think this has to do with how old it was. But either way, it was very enjoyable. I also don't think they make this anymore so getting a bottle of this is a treat as it is.

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Photo of MaxBrews
3.73/5  rDev -2.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Purchased the .9 liter blue cobalt swing-top bottle.

Pours a very ark brown at the verge of being black. Has a creamy tan two finger head that dissipates quickly into a bubbly thin ring of tan lacing. Sticks to glass. A nice swirly sensation in my NON-etched snifter.

The aroma is very strong and smells primarily of toffee, vanilla bean and alcohol.

Taste is very similar however is much fruiter then the aroma would suggest Hints of pear and prune. Its very strong on the vanilla bean and not much alcohol in the taste. Though it has the warming feeling that a high alcohol beer has. Hops and a cereal maltiness come out as it warms

Very smooth and creamy in the mouth,very little carbonation. Also a very sweet beer. Low bitterness.

This is a good christmas beer to share with friends, but the taste is subject to personal taste and may not suite all tastes. A whole bottle for a single person though is quite a task. A good fireplace sipper.

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Photo of PicoPapa
3.71/5  rDev -3.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

12oz bottle. Part of the ever so popular 2 pack.... Pours a dark brown color with some medium brown ruby hues and a half inch of head. Minimal lacing. Aromas of caramel and butterscotch. Malty and boozey. The taste is more of the butterscotch with lots of caramel malts. Slightly watery with lots of alcohol flavor. Earthy towards the end. Slightly medicinal. Butterscotch finish. Mouthfeel is a bit thin. Overall, a decent Scotch Ale I'd buy again, but I'm not a big fan of the 2 pack format.

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Photo of NEhophead
3.7/5  rDev -3.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

Deep brown in color with a bit of floating sediment. A creamy, thin tan head that leaves patchy, condensed lacing down the glass.

The aroma is a nice balance of milk chocolate, peat smoked malts, caramel/toffee tones, and a bit of warming alcohol.

Creamy toffee, light molasses sweetness with a background presence of smoke. Light, rounded oak with notes of caramel. Earthy flavored hops as well. The flavors are all present, but are a bit subdued due to the thinness in texture.

A thin, full bodied; a bit watery.

No way, this one weighs in over 11% abv. If so, this brew hides the abv better than any beer I've ever had.

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Photo of SteveO1231
3.65/5  rDev -4.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Tall indigo 1liter swing top bottle, Magenta Olde Burnside Brewing Label with a thin red label underneath stating the "Father Christmas Highland Ale." No freshness date. Pours and incredibly dark brown almost black. Decent foamy tan head, reduces to a thin layer of bubbles rather quickly. Not much lacing. Aroma vanilla beans, chocolaty and bready with a hint of pete smokiness.(smore's comes to mind) Medium bodied, with a caramel malt sweetness. Large flavor of chocolate a bit nutty with a smokey bitter finish. Enjoyable, well balanced beer. I agree with other reviews that this beer is no way 11.8% ABV I consumed the entire bottle with only a minor head change. Nevertheless this is IMHO one of OBside's better brews.


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Photo of Boto
3.61/5  rDev -6%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

1 liter blue swingtop bottle: This one pours a cloudy brown color with a decent tan head on it. It does drop off rather quickly. The aroma is a little faint for something this big. I get some coffee and roastiness as the main components. Also some malt sweetness. The beer seems to have the feel of a medium bodied beer. Certainly thin for something that borders on 12%. There is the roasted coffee in the taste, as well as some smokiness. Some caramel malt in the background. No noticeable alcohol either. This beer is OK, but it should be much more robust for something this "big".

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Photo of jdhilt
3.6/5  rDev -6.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Pours with a one-finger brown head that fades quickly leaving a little lace. Deep cloudy amber color. Light carbonation and medium bodied. Nose is like an oak barrel. Flavor is a roasted coffee, smooth finish, quite different - not as heavy - from any scotch ales I have had; the high ABV (11.5%- [from brewer]) is totally unnoticeable. $8.55 for a 1 liter bottle [nice split with a drinking partner] from Colonial Spirits Acton, MA.

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Photo of Dewey0603
3.56/5  rDev -7.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a black liquid with a thick 2 finger foamy tan head.The smell wasn't too strong,but I could make out some malt.The taste has a very carbonated feel with malt and fruitiness being the main flavor along with some holiday spices.The m/f is medium and well balanced.This is a pretty good offering from Olde Burnside.

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Father Christmas Highland Ale from The Olde Burnside Brewing Company
3.84 out of 5 based on 57 ratings.
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