Are You Tasting the Pith? - 5th December 04
What better way of getting into the swing of christmas than a few strong Belgian christmas beers, served up in a novelty glass? No, I can't think of one either, so away we go, with our rather meagre trio of offerings served up in the Gordons thistle, the peak of Belgian glass lunacy. If you're lucky / unlucky (delete to your preference), you can make the beer fill the bulb and the foam fill the thistle fluff cone.
First of all, the Affligem Christmas (9% abv) fills the top cone with froth, delighting my eyes and exciting me to the task at hand. Sadly, the beer fails to do the same, being a tad watery on the palate, and a bit lean on flavour. If I was hard pushed to write a description (I do this for fun, remember?), I would say something like "light hints of spice on the nose, very lively on the palate (over carbonated?), not much fruit or hop in the finish". However, I'm not sure I can bring myself to damn with such faint praise, so lets move on.
Next up, Kerst Pater (8.5% abv) fills the glass in the same manner (what fun!), and offers up a bit more nose and palate for my appreciation. Quite a riot of aromas here: fruit, spice, hints of phenols (medicinal / TCP), maybe a touch earthy. Perhaps a bit over-confected for my oh-so-delicate sensibilities? Maybe, although the palate is much less fun, again falling a bit short of the slightly sticky sensation and accompanying flush of alcohol that I look for in a Christmas beer (look, it's cold out there, OK?).
Finally, it falls to the ever-reliable Gordons Xmas (8.8%) to save the day. Firstly, yes it really is called that, it's not my lazy shorthand for "Christmas". Secondly, everything that this brewery puts out is great - not just because it's strong, but because the beers have a definite beginning, middle and end; wonderfully structured. And thirdly, PHWOAR! This is what a christmas ale should be about; deep and dark, slight whiffs of chocolate and cherry liqueur on the nose, a little bit unctuous on the palate, and a wallop of warming alcohol in the finish. The winner by a mile.
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