I’m loving all of these holiday beers/winter seasonal beers from breweries around the world – they’re all drastically different, yet of the same genre. Because of this, it’s also quite difficult to rate them from a style standpoint – the craft of each brewer’s interpretation is just that – an interpretation of what a winter brew should be.
We’ve got Goose Island’s 2009 Christmas Ale, and it’s a marvelous light brown, spiced winter ale. Goose Island claims you can age this beer for 5+ years, despite the relatively low alcohol percentage of 5.7% ABV. It is undergoing a secondary fermentation in the bottle, allowing stability and maturity that would otherwise be difficult to achieve without making this beer much heavier in alcohol content.
Goose Island’s iteration of their Christmas Ale this year pours a rich honey color – quite light for a brown ale, but a beautiful color. It’s quite clear, and has a slowly dissipating off-white head that gives notes of caramel and allspice on the nose. Fresh American hops (smells like Chinook and Cascade on the finish) complete the profile.
A quick taste reveals a medium-bodied, rich ale with some comfortable spice, notes of toffee, roasted malt, and a nice bitterness provided by the Chinook hops to balance it all out. I could see how this beer would mellow with age, but I’m not sure I’d want it much more mellow than this.
It’s really quite good – not offensive in the slightest, and would go absolutely wonderfully with savory foods such as a braised short rib or a lightly seasoned steak.
Applause to Goose Island – they’ve really done a nice job with this winter seasonal, and it would be an excellent foray into the spiced ale world for those who haven’t previously explored this genre. It’s just interesting enough where I would like to enjoy it all evening. Super mellow, yet full-flavored. My friend Louis says “I like this holiday beer – it’s not like chewing on Gingerbread.”
Agreed, Louis. Agreed.
- Originality within style (17): An interesting winter seasonal that’s not offensive, and not boring. Middle of the road.
- Nose (17): Notes of caramel and hops, roasted malt – but no pinecones. I dig that.
- Mouthfeel (19): Solid, full-bodied beer that is still easy to drink and a bit effervescent on the palate.
- Character (18): Comfortable, friendly winter seasonal that’s just interesting enough. Age might mellow it a bit much for my taste.
- Overall Quality (19): Quality beer, no lack of ingredients, and a festive label.
- Total (90): A well-rounded winter ale that’s great to share with friends.
Beer: Goose Island 2009 Christmas Ale
ABV: 5.7% ABV
Brewer: Goose Island 2009 Christmas Ale
Availability: You shouldn’t have a problem finding this beer.
Reviewed by: Jameson Huckaba (twitter: @jamesonhuckaba)