The holiday beer season is upon us — a time when even the most devout beer groupies are probably overwhelmed by the increased selection at their local retailer. Because old Belgian breweries are the granddaddies of this season in beer, we'll begin by guiding you through imports and detail domestics in a few days.
If you missed out on the bedlam that was last week's Westvleteren release, you can still visit traditional Belgium via tulip glass with these Christmas selections. All six features are Belgian Strong Ales ranging in alcohol from 7.3-12%. While spice and dark fruit are common flavors found throughout, each brewery (or in this case brouwerij) represents Noel distinctively.
Don't let the blitz of Christmas beer discourage you from drinking outside the box. Use this guide to determine if you're the flannel pajama Gouden Carolus type, or better-suited for the hint of s'mores in Corsendonk Christmas.
(In order of alcohol content)
Scaldis Noel a.k.a. Bush de Noel; Brasserie Dubuisson 12% abv
Thankfully this beer comes in a 250 ml bottle, because if you were tempted to drink a bomber of the stuff you'd likely be explaining how you got into a fight with a Douglas Fir for years to come. For being so high in alcohol, there is no astringency or overwhelming taste of booze (even more dangerous). Noticeable are the fresh pear and peach flavors along with molasses and Christmas spice. Good for rich desserts or heavily roasted meats.
Gouden Carolus Noel; Brouwerij Het Anker 10.5% abv
Vanilla, brown sugar and spice are all present in this classic choice, but with sronger anise flavor than you'd see in most Christmas profiles. Makes you think of red flannel pajamas and what you'd crave after shoveling the driveway. If you didn't live in Los Angeles, of course.
St. Bernardus Christmas; Brouwerij St. Bernardus 10% abv
Yeast and brown bread are indicators that you're drinking St. Bernardus. Add fig and big alcohol and it must be Noel. Less sweet than other choices, and with a complexity that increases as it warms. Likely to inspire increased creativity when decorating Christmas cookies (though the label won't admit it.)
Affligem Noel; Brouwerij de Smedt/ Affligem 9% abv
The captivating rich mahogany color of this beer will be your first impression. If your hardwood floors looked anything close to this you'd never part with them. Balanced sweetness with raisin and tropical fruit and just a lick of RC Cola. The label may be owned by Heineken but perhaps it's nice to know that corporate parent company ownership transcends borders and cultures!
Corsendonk Christmas; Brouwerij Corsendonk 8.5% abv
Reminiscent of spiced rum but still carries the characteristic dark fruit and spice of the holiday Belgians. Toastier than others and definitely the choice for you if you're more inclined toward s'mores than figgy pudding for Christmas. Throw a bow on it and you've got the perfect hostess gift for any party.
La Rulles Cuvee; Brasserie Artisinale de Rulles 7.3% abv
Over 4 percent less alcohol than our biggest featured beer this one is more manageable in quantity. Somewhat less reliable in taste than the preceding Belgian heavyweights but also brighter and less intense, and with a stronger hop presence. The right beer if you're the type to cut down your own Christmas tree. Don't be dismayed by the incredibly creepy impish Elf-Santa on the label.