Wednesday, December 25, 2013

St. Bernardus Christmas Ale (6/10)

I’m a big fan of St. Bernardus Abt 12.  I also like their Prior 8 and Tripel beers.  When I saw that they also offer a Christmas Ale, naturally I had to grab one (in this case, from the Giant Eagle at Sawmill and Hayden Run). 
The beer pours a dark, slightly cloudy brown with a massive, massive tan head that takes a while to dissipate down to a drinkable level.  It leaves behind spotty rings of lacing.

The aroma is yeasty, with some spice, fruit, and caramel to it.

The flavor is a nearly evenly balanced mix of malt, caramel, sourness, and hops bitterness.  The usual Belgian spices are in the background.  The overall flavor profile, while not unpleasant, is very disappointing.  I’d still rather drink this than a macro brew, but I’d rather drink anything else I’ve had from this brewery than this beer.   I thought that maybe I’d gotten a bad bottle, so I picked up another a few weeks later and had the same experience.  For curiosity's sake, I've even bought a third and will age that until Christmas 2014.

December 20, 2014 Update:  That bottle I aged from last year was opened tonight.  The first and most obvious change was the carbonation level.  The cork blew out of the bottle and out of my hand like a shotgun blast.  It hit the ceiling and bounced across the kitchen.  In the glass, it created about twice the head you see in the photo above... The aroma after a year of aging is now more a balance of malt and yeast, with a mineral element.  The flavor has definitely changed.  The hops bitterness has dropped to a more subtle level, but there is still a bitterness to it.  Caramel is pretty much gone, though it's plenty malty.  Dark fruit is more pronounced.  It's definitely better than last year when it was fresh, but I have to say that I still don't love it.  I'd rate a year-old bottle of this a 7 out of 10.  It's a good beer but just doesn't "wow" me.

I’m in the minority here.  Beer Advocate rates this 90-94 or “outstanding” with over 1,000 ratings.  Rate Beer gives it a 99 overall.  I don’t particularly like it, so I’m rating it a 6 out of 10.  Without the sour element, I might give it an 8.

As mentioned earlier, I’ve seen this beer at Giant Eagle near Sawmill and Hayden Run Road.  I don’t recall having seen it at any other local retailers.  Price is around $13.99 per large bottle.

Flavor Profile:
Sweet, Malty, Dry, or Bitter:  Slightly tart
Spice Level:  Low
Hops Level: Low
Dominant Flavors:  Malt, hops, and a kind of mild vinegary sourness
ABV: 6.5%
IBU:  25
My Rating: 7/10

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