ClubGonzo’s Christmas Date

Christmas Date by ClubGonzo, Dark Ale, 5.8% ABV, 29 IBU.

ClubGonzo's Christmas Date, Contract brew no.4, batch no 32.

ClubGonzo’s Christmas Date, Contract brew no.4, batch no 32.

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

Look what I found in my beer cellar when looking for Christmas beers: a 2 year old specimen brewed with date syrup! That should bring forth that Xmas feeling!

This is an aggressively carbonated brew that almost manages to escape from the bottle by its own. The light gushing causes lots of sediments to be whirled up, so I end up with a quite murky looking, dark amber beer with lots of particles of different sizes and colours floating around. The beige head collapses quite quickly, but it’s easy to build up a new one by swirling the glass.

Sweet and strong aroma of dark dried fruits, dark caramel and a touch of malt extract. Quite malty, in other words.

Strong flavour that follows the aroma, but with far more dark roasted malt, I actually get notes of coffee. Also faint hints of chocolate. The flavour profile is quite clean, without any obvious flaws (not even solvent, yay!) The taste is light to moderate sweet, and there is enough bitterness in the quite long-lasting finish to back it up.

The mouthfeel suffers a bit from the overcarbonation, but that’s something a bit of swirling can easily fix. When the fizziness is gone it’s smooth and creamy on the palate. It’s got quite a body for such a low-ish ABV brew.

Conclusion: a sweet, christmassy beer with nice contributions from the date syrup. 

Aroma:      6/10
Appearance: 3/5
Taste:      7/10
Palate:     4/5
Overall:    12/20
Ratebeer score: 3.2/5.0

ClubGonzo’s Last Minute Xmas

Last Minute Xmas by ClubGonzo, Spice/Herb/Vegetable, 7% ABV, 29.4 IBU.

ClubGonzo's Last Minute Xmas, batch no. 46.

ClubGonzo’s Last Minute Xmas, batch no. 46.

Dark beer, Christmas spices. That's all you need to make a wonderful Christmas beer. Simple and efficient!

Dark beer, Christmas spices. That’s all you need to make a wonderful Christmas beer. Simple and efficient!

A spicy dark ale – that sounds like my kind of Christmas beer!

And spicy it is! The aroma is fairly strong and dominated by Christmas spices, mainly ginger, cloves, hints of cinnamon and a touch of cardamom. And it actually reminds me a bit of a mix of the Tomtegløgg and Tomtebrygg bottles you can buy at your local Rimi. Ah, Christmas!

It has a close to black body, with a bit smaller than average, long-lived, beige head that sticks to the glass.

The flavour is strong and fits the aroma like a glove. I’m very happy with the amount of spices, I love my Christmas beers intense and spicy. The spice mix is very well balanced, none of the spices dominate. It’s a quite a sweet brew, but there is enough bitterness to balance the sweetness, and the spices freshen things up further. Finally I don’t get any overwhelming notes of anise as I often do in spiced Christmas ales, I actually doubt that there are any anise in this one at all. Splendid!

It has a pleasant mouthfeel, maybe a bit too lively carbonated initially, but it gets smoother after a while.

Conclusion: it smells and tastes like Christmas. The main drawback is that it isn’t Nøgne Ø Underlig Jul.

Aroma:      7/10
Appearance: 4/5
Taste:      8/10
Palate:     4/5
Overall:    14/20
Ratebeer score: 3.7/5.0

ClubGonzo’s Garde de Nöel

Garde de Nöel by ClubGonzo, Bière de Garde, 7.7% ABV, 21.8 IBU.

ClubGonzo's Garde de Nöel, batch no. 68.

ClubGonzo’s Garde de Nöel, batch no. 68.

It looks darker than it tastes!

It looks darker than it tastes!

Christmas is over, so it’s time to start rating a few Christmas beers! First one out is what ClubGonzo calls a non-Xmas beer, i.e. not the usual sweet malty stuff. Instead this is bière de garde, which is a beer style I hardly know at all (I’ve got no more than 3 bière de garde ratings on RateBeer!)

It’s a good-looking brew, with a large, off-white, creamy, long-lived head on top of a hazy medium amber body.

The aroma is strong with pleasant fruity yeasty notes, pale malt and a touch of caramel. It reminds me of a Belgian strong ale, a bit like a modest Duvel with more emphasis on the caramel. It certainly gives me the urge to take a sip!

It’s got a sweeter taste than I had imagined, and the bitterness is relatively light, so the overall impression is in fact a sweet malty beer. Not that far from a Christmas beer after all! The flavour is strong, and not surprisingly it’s yeasty, fruity and Belgian (to my untrained palate, it is of course French). But then, of course, I find some disturbing elements. Something somewhat reminiscent of… yep, you guessed it: solvent. It’s not extremely unpleasant, but enough to make the beer a bit demanding to drink.

The mouthfeel is nice (apart from the solvent thingy), it’s quite light on the palate for its moderate ABV, and the relatively high carbonation fits the light elements of the beer.

Conclusion: a dark-looking and Belgian tasting light French beer, with hints of solvent. 

Aroma:      7/10
Appearance: 4/5
Taste:      6/10
Palate:     4/5
Overall:    10/20
Ratebeer score: 3.1/5.0

Meilby Brewing Pumpkin Xmas 13

Pumpkin Xmas 13 by Meilby Brewing, Spice/Herb/Vegetable, 5.5% ABV, 30 IBU.

It’s getting close to summer, i.e. it’s time for a christmas beer!

Meilby Brewing Pumpkin Xmas, all the gory details.

Meilby Brewing Pumpkin Xmas, all the gory details.

The Pumpkin Xmas makes a loud PSSST when I remove the cap, this sounds like a heavily carbonated one. It pours a very hazy, medium amber body with a large, creamy, beige head that is very long-lived. After a long time it settles as a thick layer, and impressive amounts of foam is left on the glass.

The aroma is pretty strong, and it’s spicy, sour and funky. Regarding the latter two: I clearly identify notes that to me are rather bretty, but that might also be due to the fact that all pumpkin beers I’ve ever tasted are funky stuff from Jolly Pumpkin, so what I think is wild yeast might actually simply be the pumpkin. I’d like to hear the brewer’s opinion on this! However, this is a christmas beer, and no christmas beer without some christmassy spices, in this one I mainly get anise and clove. Maybe a bit disappointing given the long and impressive ingredients list (see photo to the right).

Looking good!

Looking good!

The rather strong flavour is also very spicy. It’s dominated by anise, so heavily dominated that it’s a bit hard to detect the other spices, although clove and nutmeg shine through, the latter probably caused by the allspice. The wild yeasty notes (which may or may not be partially due to the pumpkin) are also a main element of the flavour profile. Finally there are some citric notes in the back. The taste is light to moderate sweet, and the long finish is moderate to light bitter.

It’s quite light and dry on the palate, with a lively carbonation, and a particularly dry finish. Christmas beer is a pretty loose style, but to me a christmas beer should be sweeter, but I will of course not hold the lack of residual sweetness against this little pup.

Conclusion: a nice and refreshing beer that will probably fit well as a break between overly sweet christmas beers. It’s loaded with christmas spices, although a bit heavy on the anise, and the pumpkin and the wildness is a nice twist. 

Aroma:      6/10
Appearance: 5/5
Taste:      7/10
Palate:     3/5
Overall:    13/20
Ratebeer score: 3.4/5.0

ClubGonzo's I Hate Christmas

I Hate Christmas by ClubGonzo, Spice/Herb/Vegetable, 6.2 % BV, 29 IBU.

Roald Dahl might have hated christmas, but I’m quite sure he would have loved this remarkable ale! In the glass this christmas beer simply looks perfect. It has a slightly hazy, dark copper colour with a lovely looking, creamy, light-brown head with an extraordinary longevity: even when I empty my glass there is still .5 cm of foam left. It also leaves lots of foam on the glass. Beautiful!

I Hate Christmas a.k.a. The Fevik Batches - Vol 2.

The nose is strong, complex and delicious. It’s very sweet and roasted with nice yeasty notes, almost a bit Belgian. Please tell me which yeast you’ve used, ClubGonzo! There is also a lovely mix of fresh fruits and berries, even a touch of banana, with hints of dried dark fruits. On top christmassy spices, e.g. ginger.

The taste is moderate sweet with a moderate to light bitter finish. The aftertaste is quite long-lasting and a bit dry. I love the contrast between the initial sweetness and the dry finish! The flavour profile is quite strong, sweet and spicy, with caramel, fruits (again this faint sweet banana), vague yeast, lightly roasted notes and a herbal mix that reminds of a Jägermeister. Yummy!

Everlasting, creamy head!

The mouthfeel is very pleasant with a close to full body. The texture is oily to creamy and the carbonation is soft.

Conclusion: a wonderful brew with delicious spicy and fruity notes. One of the very best homebrews I’ve had, and one of the best christmas beers I’ve tasted this christmas.

Aroma:      8
Appearance: 5
Taste:      7
Palate:     4
Overall:   14
Ratebeer score: 3.8

ClubGonzo's Meh-rry Xmas

Meh-rry Xmas by ClubGonzo, Spice/Herb/Vegetable, 4.3% ABV, 27 IBU.

The past month I’ve been busy tasting commercial christmas beers, so I haven’t had time to rate any home brews. However, after a month of nothing but christmas beers I’m more prepared than ever to taste ClubGonzo’s takes on this style, or rather, styles.

ClubGonzo isn’t exactly overselling this beer, with the sad looking guy on the label and a name that reveals that this isn’t the favourite beer of the brewer. In the glass however, the Meh-rry Xmas looks very nice! It has an opaque black body with an average-sized, light-brown head that is quite long-lived and laces the glass well. As I empty the glass there is still a thin layer of foam left.

The aroma is a bit, well, meh. It’s not that strong and it’s pretty dominated by some dull notes of bakers yeast, it reminds me a bit of my Dad’s non-alcoholic Tomtebrygg™ before it has finished fermenting. The aroma is slightly burnt with some coffee notes, but that’s about it. Not unpleasant, but not exactly inviting either.

The taste is light sweet with a light to moderate bitter finish. In addition to the yeast, roasted notes and coffee, I get some spicy hints, I think it’s nutmeg and clove. No off-tastes, but rather boring stuff.

ClubGonzos Meh-rry Xmas aka batch no 12. Too boring to enjoy, this one I hurled down so fast that I didnt get a shot of the beer in the glass.

The carbonation is far too soft for such a light bodied beer, it’s a bit like drinking cold coffee. But it’s drinkable, I downed the bottle so fast that I forgot to take a picture of the newly poured glass. The texture is quite watery, and there is a light dryness in the aftertaste.

Conclusion: Meh.

Aroma:      5
Appearance: 4
Taste:      6
Palate:     2
Overall:   10
Ratebeer score: 2.7