Ho, Ho, Hum. St. Bernardus Christmas Ale

It might be a little early for a Christmas beer review, but the seasonal brews have hit the store shelves and I decided to get the reviews up while you can still actually buy these puppies.

This is the first time I’ve had St. Bernardus Christmas Ale, and I didn’t know what to expect. But I expected something a little different, and I’m not sure I got it.

To be honest, it was difficult to tell this Belgian Abbey Ale from the very good St. Bernardus Abt. 12. If I tasted them together, I could probably pick out the differences, but I’m not sure they’d be all that significant.

The beer poured a dark ruby red with a very bubbly tan head.  It smelled strongly of dried fruit and clovey spices, typical of a Belgian Dubbel.  And it tasted very much like your average Beligian Dubbel as well, with a sweet maltiness balanced by spice and yeast flavors.  All in all, a very pleasant beer.  I’m generally a fan of St. Bernardus’ beers (their excellent Abt. 12 was my go-to Belgian for a while) and this one keeps to their high standards.

But I’m not sure what’s so Christmas-y about it.  Perhaps it’s a little sweeter and spicier than a typical Abbey Ale, but that might be my imagination.  It makes me wonder just what the Christmas “flavor” is.

If you think about it, the other seasonal beers have very clear identities.  Oktoberfest beers usually follow a very strict formula, and pumpkin beers taste like (cover your ears, Scott) pumpkins.  But what’s a Christmas beer supposed to taste like? I have it in my head that Christmas tastes like an Ayinger Celebrator Dopplebock, sweet and malty and warm. We’ll see if this turns out to be true as I have several other examples of Christmas brews waiting for me to try.

Stay tuned.

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Categories: Beer

Author:Jim

Craft beer nerd, frequent beer blogger and occasional home brewer.

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13 Comments on “Ho, Ho, Hum. St. Bernardus Christmas Ale”

  1. mikemoriendi
    November 17, 2009 at 4:48 pm #

    I was discussing the same thing last night with some people on the comparisons to Abt 12. I do not think I could pick them out if drank back to back. I think they are amazingly similar but both very good.

    • Jim
      November 17, 2009 at 4:51 pm #

      I think the Christmas Ale has a ruby twinge to the color and a slightly metallic taste that I don’t recall in the Abt 12, but I’m really reaching to find a difference. Still, a good beer to give to a non-beer-geek as a gift.

  2. November 17, 2009 at 5:00 pm #

    Mike and Jim, you are missing the obvious difference between the two beers. Unlike the Abt. 12, St. Bernardus Christmas Ale is contracted out and brewed by elves. Like a child, you have to open your mind and only then can you taste the magic.

    • Jim
      November 17, 2009 at 5:15 pm #

      That explains all the little fingerprints on the bottle! I thought my kids were getting into the beer fridge…

    • mikemoriendi
      November 18, 2009 at 6:02 pm #

      Those crazy Belgian elves trying to pull a fast one on us.

      • Jim
        November 18, 2009 at 6:38 pm #

        Our grandpa would get a little tipsy and start railing against those sneaky Belgian elves. I always thought it was the gimlets talking – turns out he was right!

  3. November 17, 2009 at 5:58 pm #

    In addition to what Nate said, sugarplum essence is usually added to Christmas beers.

    • Jim
      November 17, 2009 at 6:00 pm #

      I knew about the goody gumdrops, but not the sugarplums. Thanks for spreading the knowledge, Scott.

  4. November 17, 2009 at 8:54 pm #

    Sales are what make some of these Christmas beers different. I’m personally happy when a Christmas beer is not overly spiced, especially since they cut off missile’s toes to make it. They never walk the same after that…I might have gotten something wrong there.

    • Jim
      November 17, 2009 at 9:09 pm #

      I’ve heard the same thing – it’s how they make sidewinders, which never fly straight.

  5. Don
    November 18, 2009 at 1:15 am #

    I was out all day in a meeting,
    And I thought I would come back and do some reading
    I opened the blog to find this yule log
    Of a beer that finds Christmas cheer fleeting

    What is the problem it was said
    Of a beer that was colored red
    A yule celebration ale that was anything but pale
    But had a cheery bubbly head

    Perhaps Elvin magic could help this brew
    that tasted like nothing much was new
    Color is nice but perhaps some spice
    Would keep this Christmas from being blue

    So now I know as Christmas nears
    that Santa shouldn’t trust the reindeers
    You see deer can’t brew anything new
    so they simply put dye in the beers!

    -Don

    • Jim
      November 18, 2009 at 1:59 am #

      You have a lot of free time when you travel, huh? But I agree that you can’t trust the deer with the dye. Very lazy creatures, those.

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