Now that Halloween and Thanksgiving are in the history books, I can move on to my favorite beer season of the year. Holiday seasonals!
Over the next three weeks, I will suggest some great craft beers to have on hand for your holiday gatherings and I will give some non-beer but beer-related gift ideas to put under the tree.
But for today, a review of the final Vendome Toluca Lake beer tasting of 2010. Winter Beers from around the World.
For those of you who still haven’t experienced the Saturday beer tasting presented by Vendome, here are some quick facts. $10 gets you a pour of 15 different beers. The theme changes from tasting to tasting. It might be German vs. English beers or IPA’s. You get a sheet (see picture above) for notes and then you start.
This year’s winter beer list was heavily tilted towards Belgium and France. And I was both pleased and surprised to see so many holiday offerings that I either had not heard of before or that I had not previously sampled. I was also glad to see one of my favorite winter beers on the list, the Holiday Abbey Ale from St. Bernardus.
Two beers fell to the bottom due to my taste buds not enjoying the anise/licorice taste in my brew. Affligem Noel and the Gouden Carolus Noel both sported a strong taste of licorice that comes off as medicinal to me.
Another taste that I have not acquired a liking for is smoke. And I mean smoke, as in, around the campfire or BBQ. The Haandbryggeriet Bestefar is a Norwegian traditional ale that had some spice notes that mixed with the smoke but it was too much for me. This same brewery does Rauch (smoke) beers too. If this was too much for me, I can’t imagine the burnt taste in the others.
Along with the St. Bernardus (I highly recommend all of their beers, even though they can be pricey), my favorites for the day were the Corsendonk Christmas Ale which poured a dark red/ brown and had a great combination of sparkly fizz and sweetness that reminded me of the season.
I also gave thumbs up to a beer that seemed completely different from the others due to its tart nose and finish. Fantome Noel is brewed with a secret recipe that may include peppercorns and coriander; this is a strong and sour version of a saison. It had a lot of fruit flavors with grape being the most predominant to me.
Since, there were no British beers on the list. I decided to cart one home from the extensive bottle selection at Vendome to add an epilogue to the day’s tasting. Rosey Nosey from Bateman’s has a great name and a super cool label with a pink cheeked Santa Claus on it. The beer inside however was way too sweet for me. The balance was off. I needed either some spice or some hops to bring this beer into the recommend category.
Next week, I will give you tested recommendations for some great Christmas beers.
Find more of Sean Inman’s writing on his blog, Beer Search Party.