Posts Tagged ‘Belgian beer’

12 Beers of X-Mas: St. Bernardus Christmas Ale

Friday, December 19th, 2008

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

3.4 (4-6-7-3-14)

Ambrée Des Moines

Thursday, December 11th, 2008

Tonight I opened a bottle that I brought back from Belgium. It wasn’t any particular occasion; I didn’t buy this beer because I thought it would be any good. I got it because it is labelled “Ambrée Des Moines”. Being a native Des Moineser I couldn’t pass that up. I saw it (along with its sister the blanche) on the shelf at a little beer shop right off the Grote Markt in Brussels. I can’t figure out the name of it, but I believe it was about here.

Ambrée Des MoinesAnyway, to the beer. It was brewed by Brasserie du Bocq, independent brewers of numerous beers, of which I have heard only of the Blanche de Namur. They also contract produce, among others, Corsendonk and the Tesco Finest Belgian beers. Ambrée Des Moines is such a contract production, to the point that it is difficult to tell the name of the company marketing this beer. Ok, I’ll stop rambling and get drinking.

This pours quite strange. For the most part it is an opalescent lemon yellow (not amber). Down the middle is a colloidal haze making a shape that reminds me of the double helical molecule of life. There is just a bit of spongy white head. The aroma is very subtle, only the faintest fruitiness coming through. This is the only serious problem with this beer.

The flavor is complex. Dry and dusty like a good saison, the flavor is clean. There is some maltiness manifesting as biscuits (or triscuits!) and a slight caramel note. A good yeast fruity character is present as well. This beer is ridiculously effervescent, approaching a champagne. Even though it is so bubbly, it is far from too intense.

This beer certainly won’t turn the heads of bigger-beer geeks, and may not even win awards (I honestly don’t know). However, it is a testament to quality drinkable beer. It is flavorful, it is beer, but you could still give it to your mom and almost convince her she was drinking champagne. By the time she realized it had barley and hops she would already be in love.

+Ambrée Des Moines

RateBeer: 3.4 (3-5-8-4-14)