12/25/21: St. Bernardus Christmas Ale

7:38 PM

I've never had anything from St. Bernardus before. 

I know, I know. They're a famous brewery and their Christmas Ale is what a good chunk of Europe seems to view as the definitive Christmas beer. I've always associated winter warmer ale styles with Christmas, but, because it's the jolliest day of the year, let's give St. Bernardus Christmas Ale a go.

St. Bernardus can trace its roots to when trappist monks made the move from France to Belgium in 1900, in an effort to avoid a new taxation law France had issued. When France welcomed them back in the early '30s, they brought their beer and their cheese with them. While St. Bernardus isn't in the cheese game any longer, they're a big name in Belgian abbey ales.

St. Bernardus Christmas Ale (first brewed in 1946) is a 10% ABV Belgian quad that's brewed for the holiday season. It's a dark ale that's full of winter-inspired flavors. This is a classic beer, to which I doubt I have any significant discourse to add. I'll do my best, though, and give you my honest opinions.


I get candied sugar and dates from the ale's nose, along with some orange, dark chocolate, raisin, some licorice, clove, coriander, and a touch of coffee. Really, this is reminiscent of raisin bread. Purrl gave my bottle four reluctant whiffs. Sorry, kitty girl, hope this doesn't ruin your Christmas. It's definitely helping to enhance mine.

Christmas Ale's giving me honey, fig, caramel, toffee, coriander, raisin, plum pudding, and a bit of black pepper from its flavor profile. The finish is smooth and sweet, with a little warmth creeping through me. This isn't a beer that tastes as strong as it is.

Nor does it drink as strong as it is. It's a little sharp, sure, but it's mainly luxurious. It's big and smooth. Definitely world-class.

Let's talk appearance (since this is another beer I've given the whole "poured into a glass" treatment): The beer itself is a deep copper with some ruby accents along the glass where the light shines through. The head is a luscious cream (the weird coloring in the picture at the top of this post doesn't really do it any justice),  with measured lacing and sporadic bubbles. This is a damn fine looking beer.

I've never been a big fan of wrapping Christmas presents--I just don't have the manual dexterity you really need to get it done well or quickly. Yet, I enjoyed it this year. Michelle did hers first, taking over our newly-purchased and newly-assembled kitchen table. Once she'd finished, it was my turn. Johnny Mathis' crooning accompanied my wrapping. It took me some time, yeah, but I did well enough. At least my gifts were hits. Note to self (and to you, reader): buy some St. Bernardus to sip while wrapping next year.

Like I said a few paragraphs ago, St. Bernardus Christmas Ale is world-class. I can see why so much of Europe sees this as the defacto Christmas beer. It's heavenly. 10/10. Buy it, drink it, love it. Merry Christmas!

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