I have been very slow with this beer series. Apologies.
From St. Bernardus in the brewing city of Watou comes the strong St. Bernardus Christmas Ale. St. Bernardus basically invented the modern Belgian “abbey” beer when in 1946 they took over the commercial production of the beers of abbey St. Sixtus. That is the monastery that produces Westvleteren Trappist ales, what many consider to be the finest beer in the world. Since that time beer brewed inside the walls of the monastery is available only to those who visit the brewery in person (or submit themselves to grey-market thuggery). St. Bernardus got the recipes and the moxy and ran with it, becoming a wildly successful commercial brewery. Until 1992 they were even selling it under the name Sixtus. They have quite a legacy: it is interesting to see today the wide variety of Belgian beer claiming association with this or that abbey that hadn’t existed for centuries before the brewery began, cashing in on the whole Belgian beer thing.
The Christmas Ale is very hazy and a deep dark mahogany, almost chocolate. The head is creamy and sticky, a pillow of wheat. The aroma is light and fruity but also noticeably cidery. A note of perry aroma as well. A bit of brown malt and a light alcohol tinge come through as well.
The flavor is strongly alcoholic – present but not sharp or overpowering. There is an exotic fruit flavor of passion fruit and papaya. A mild cider flavor and dustiness intrigue me. There is just a hint of residual sweetness. After the fourth sip or so I start to detect an oak flavor. There is some character that is just not right: it is all interesting but some fusel alcohol is really turning me off. The palate is creamy and full, perhaps just a little too lingering. But you’ve gotta hand it to Belgian brewers; for a 10% beer this is really very smooth.
St. Bernardus Christmas Ale