Good Day and welcome to Day 1 of our 2010 Advent Beer calendar. Last year’s calendar was so much fun for us to do and fun for our readers to follow (or so you told us) that we decided to repeat it. Our first beer of the season is the second release of Special Holiday Ale. It is a collaboration between our own near and dear Jolly Pumpkin, Stone Brewery in California, and Nogne O Brewery in Grimstad Norway. Each brew follows the same recipe, including native ingredients from each region: Michigan chestnuts, white sage from southern California and Norwegian juniper berries, but differences in brewing and aging practices produce different beers.This particular beer was also brewed with caraway.
The label of the bottle features silouettes resembling that of the three magi who brought gifts to Christ at the nativity. If Jesus were born in 2010 and these three breweries were the three wise men, I’m pretty sure they’d be bringing him (or at least his parents) this beer. To hell, with gold, frankincense, and myrrh! Mmmm…sacrilicious. But we digress…
This beer is a nearly opaque dark chocolate brown color with a slight haziness and deep red highlights. It pours a tan head with a thin layer of foam on thre surface of the beer and a lacy ring around the edge of the glass.The sage and juniper in this beer seem to give this beer a very prominent herbal aroma. We also detected a faint alcohol nose although it was slight and not off putting.
This beer is very well attenuated with a lingering alcohol warmth, a dried fruit malty sweetness coupled with a slight hop bitterness and a hint of olivey tanginess. The mouthfeel is medium bodied to full yet dry. Full yet very drinkable. The herbal presence from the juniper and sage is just as prominent as it was in the aroma. I would almost go as far as to say that it has a medicinal quality to it but not in a Vicks cough syrup kind of way…more in a kind of ancient secret elixer kind of way. Not synthetic. Natural. The dark malt coloring of this beer seems makes it surprising that it does not have a heavier, roasted quality that you would expect. Instead it is very well balanced. The roasted malt comes through more sweet than bitter.
Out of the three distinct styles of the breweries represented, the norweigan influence of this beer seems to dominate. When we tasted it we noted that it reminded us very distinctively of the norwegian beers that we sampled during last year’s Advent series. Beers that, as we learned last year, are very well crafted winter selections which warm without being heavy. The influences of Jolly Pumpkin and Stone in this beer seemed much more subtle. Yet the collaborative effort of three great breweries is obvious. Cheers to Advent and to the wonderful gifts that the talents of these three breweries bring to us all year ’round.