Another Joliet trip and I was scanning beer shelves at Cardinal again, looking for another Christmas beer. I was still in the spirit and was looking for something I hadn’t had. There’s a Slink going up tomorrow in the Beer section and I took some notes from it for my trip. The top beer I was looking for was Schlafly Christmas Ale. Avery’s Old Jubilation, one from Lost Abbey and the return visitor in the pink bottle, Delirium Noel for over 13 bucks a bottle.
The only other Christmasy beer I spotted was St. Bernardus Christmas Ale. A four-pack of St. B. was cheaper than a couple of bombers of Noel but it’s still over 20 bucks for beer. What would the Bud Light drinkers think if they saw me buy this?! What would they say if they tasted it?! I paid the man at the register and he put my beer into a little tiny bag that made the twenty some dollars spent seem frittered away.
I know I’ve had this before. I know that you know I have a penchant for dark Belgians. Maybe this is the last time I’ll be able to drink this beer. I’ll drink zis beer and vee vill luff it!
St. Bernardus is brewed at, of all places, the Brewery of St. Bernard in Watou, Belgium. The beer they brew are Abbey ales. Only beer brewed in Trappist monasteries can be called Trappist ales although, regardless, the beer tastes the same. There’s an interesting story of the Westvleteren/St. Bernardus history and how both are brewing the same (but different) beers.
The one thing that Westvleteren has going for it is its rarity in the U.S. Only once was it sold here and that was back on 12/12/12. The monks needed money to repair and upgrade the monastery. I compared Wesvleteren and St. Bernardus Abt 12 back in Feb. of ’13.
When one considers a Belgian quad over an imperial stout of the same ABV, that says something. There seems to be a glut of strong stouts at any given time by many breweries. Wouldn’t that suggest that they’re in demand and that they’re easy to brew?! Maybe so. However, there are only a few breweries (or brouwerijs) that create the big, bold Belgian warming beers in comparison.
Compared to anywhere else on the planet, the USA has largest variety of beers of all styles. I thanked the deities for that last Thanksgiving.
Enough of that. Time for some Christmas cheer.
The beer poured and brought up a moderate beige head of about 3/4 inch which slowly faded away. When held up to the light the beer had a beautiful ruby red color. The aroma was slight but had a hint of a dark, sweet fruit.
Cheers, and happy holidays to you all.
The first sip was absolutely wonderful. The first thing I noticed was the mouthfeel. It was almost like syrup on my tongue. The flavors in the middle were different than the St. Bernardus Abt 12 I tasted a few weeks ago. There was a bit of spice in the middle, almost like a ginger cookie. The dark red fruits could still be discerned; some raisins or dates perhaps. The swallow left a nice coating at the back of the throat. No heat or alcohol flavors were apparent.
I was sitting there reveling in the wonderful taste of this beer and it hit me… I felt a bit of a loss. These beers were bottled in 11.2 ounce bottles. I was being gypped out of eight tenths of an ounce of beer. Who knows why the brewery chose this size?! Perhaps it was due to the popularity of the 330 milliliter bottles in Europe.
The more I sipped the beer, the more of the spiciness became apparent. It gave a unique characteristic to the taste but not so much as to confuse this with another style of beer.
Many if not all Belgian quads are nearly identical to each other. However, due to the slight spiciness in this St. B., one could argue that the style be more of a spice beer than that of a quadrupel. I say poppycock, tommyrot and balderdash to all of this nonsense. Who gives a rat’s ass?! Beer styles are for conversational reference. That’s all. It’s a quad with a dash of spice, pure and simple.
With the big holiday just over the horizon next weekend, give some consideration to bringing along or having at home some of this St. Bernardus Christmas ale to share with family and friends. Pour into small sample glasses and sip together. Extol the virtues of the flavors and tastes. People will love you for it. Then play some Barking Dogs Jingle Bells when it’s time for everyone to go home.
Sure, it’s expensive but, hey… it’s Christmas. Buy the four-pack. You’ve been good. You deserve it.
Style: Belgian Quadrupel ale.
Taste: Delicious. A little ginger snap Christmas cookie inside.
Smoothness: Big, bold and smooth going down.
Bang for the buck: Expensive. You have to really want this beer to pay that much.
Amount paid: $21.99 for four 11.2-ounce bottles.
Get it again? Yes but with damn good reason.
Wife’s all-encompassing opinion: Dark stuffs (?) are usually bitter. (sniff) Just beery. (sip) Not what I was expecting but I don’t know what it is. (sip) … (sip) It’s strange. Weird. But not bad at all. (Kinda like some of our relatives.)
St. Bernardus Brewery tour [5:30]