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Father Christmas Highland Ale | The Olde Burnside Brewing Company

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Father Christmas Highland AleFather Christmas Highland Ale
Very Good
57 Ratings
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

Bros Score:
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Ratings: 57 |  Reviews: 30
Photo of chrispoint
2.5/5  rDev -35.6%

Photo of pbrian
2.66/5  rDev -31.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

Dark brown with ruby highlights around the edges, ample tan head which dissapates into thin film pretty quickly. Fresh chocolate malt aroma with slight yeast undertones. But, as will be a common theme with this beer, the aroma is lacking any depth. Flavor is subtly chocolatey and biscuity with a dark fruit sweetness. That's it. This is supposed to be a Wee Heavy? Where's some smoke or peat? Or anything. Finishes dry, quick and thin. All flavors just vaporize and you're left with nothing to savor. Drinkability is good, but the "drinkabilty" of an 11.4% Wee Heavy (would that make it an Imperial Wee Heavy?) is supposed to be such that you would want to sip it out of a snifter in front of a fire on a cold night. This beer would not fit that bill. Mind you- there are no super offensive off flavors and it's not a terrible beer. But if they're going to label it as a 11.4% Wee Heavy (and defend that designation when questioned about it) I'm going to review it as such and it did nothing for me. And I usually feel something after drinking just a bomber of any 10% beer. Why didn't I feel anything after drinking this liter of 11+% beer? Hmmm.

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Photo of jfcaa193
3/5  rDev -22.7%

Photo of Gambrinus1184
3.2/5  rDev -17.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Poured from a cool looking blue glass 1 liter swing-top bottle into a tulip-shaped Duvel glass. No freshness date spotted.

A: Poured a medium amber brown with crimson highlights and a bit of sediment floating about in it. A one and a half finger head of off-white foam reduced to a fine lace within moments and left a soapy set of legs behind it.

S: Smells faintly sweet and malty, with a bit of roasted malt and some spicy, bitter citrus notes.

T: Taste is a little tart (checking the bottle for freshness wasn't far from my mind) with subtle hints of toasted caramel malt and a bit of cinnamon spiciness. There's a faint, bitter hop flavor coming through the rich orange peel (as I'll call it here) flavor. Interesting, but this one might have turned, even though it got better as it warmed.

M: Mouthfeel is thin-medium bodied and slightly puckeringly sweet for a wee heavy.

D: Truth be told, maybe a third of this went into my glass, and it was sort of a bear to get through it all. Malt, spice and some citrus notes are there, but something was amiss with this wee heavy, and there was no strong, warming alcohol or heavy malted notes to tip off the style.

Okay, so maybe this was a bad bottle. I've heard mixed reviews over this brew, and even some reports that it's no longer made, which makes me question the validity of the currency of this bottle. I'd like to think a fresher one might have presented more defined and enjoyable flavors, but this was almost a flush before it warmed a bit!

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Photo of ppoitras
3.31/5  rDev -14.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

1L swing-top bottle purchased at Julio's, Westboro, MA.

Poured into an imperial pint glass, formed a 3/4" light brown head over the clear garnet brew. Head lasts nicely, with ample foamy lacing. Aroma is lightly chocolatey. The taste is starts with the same light chocolate, but fades into a light fruitiness and closes with a somewhat odd aftertaste. Mouthfeel is pretty thin, and drinkability is not too bad. Frankly, if this is 11.8abv, I'll eat my hat. Can't sense that at all, for better or worse. This Wee Heavy could definitely use more depth of flavor and just more oomph overall.

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Photo of ybnorml
3.38/5  rDev -12.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A dark brown ale with mahogony with highlights. Has a small tan head that clings thinly to the surface all through the glass. A light sweet molasses note comes thru with a hint of sourness on the backside. The taste starts with a good strong roasted malt bitterness which carries through a quick bittersweet chocolate character to an almost dry finish.
This has the flavor and mouthfeel of a porter. It is tasty and drinkable but I could not give it higher marks because a Wee Heavy does not have these characters.

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Photo of Rifugium
3.41/5  rDev -12.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

First had: on tap at Capone's, Norristown, PA

Served in a snifter, a garnet-brown liquid, hazy, with a thin cap of beige bubbles on top; minimal retention and lacing. Muted aroma of caramel, nutty, woody, touch of brown sugar and cocoa. Taste was fairly mild, caramel malts, brown sugar, light fruity esters, hints of cocoa cobwebs, and smoked wood. I find some beers of this style to be bland and flavorless, and others to be overblown and even sickeningly sweet. This one was at a pretty solid mid-ground, though overall not very interesting. Medium body, perhaps thin for the style, but easily drinkable; soft carbonation, and ABV fairly well-hidden.

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Photo of Robtobfest
3.5/5  rDev -9.8%

Photo of slim2043
3.5/5  rDev -9.8%

Photo of Dewey0603
3.56/5  rDev -8.2%
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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Photo of jdhilt
3.6/5  rDev -7.2%
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 Boto
3.61/5  rDev -7%
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".

 583 characters

Photo of SteveO1231
3.65/5  rDev -5.9%
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 NEhophead
3.7/5  rDev -4.6%
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 PicoPapa
3.71/5  rDev -4.4%
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 erosier
3.73/5  rDev -3.9%
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 -3.9%
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 kingcrowing
3.75/5  rDev -3.4%
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 Atomicskis5
3.75/5  rDev -3.4%

Photo of thegerm87
3.75/5  rDev -3.4%

Photo of Pahn
3.8/5  rDev -2.1%
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 wowbagger
3.94/5  rDev +1.5%
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 Durge
3.95/5  rDev +1.8%
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 MediocreatBest
3.96/5  rDev +2.1%
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 far333
4/5  rDev +3.1%
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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Father Christmas Highland Ale from The Olde Burnside Brewing Company
Beer rating: 3.88 out of 5 with 57 ratings
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