Friday, December 11, 2009

Goose Island Christmas Ale 2009 review

Goose Island Christmas Ale 2009What could be better for the holiday season than a holiday ale? Here's another seasonal ale from Goose Island Beer Company in Chicago, Illinois. It's their 2009 Goose Island Christmas Ale. The label features a Christmas goose with a Santa hat and the beer comes in a big 22oz bomber bottle. Surprisingly absent from the label is the ABV rating. I had to go to Goose Island's web site to find out that this is a Brown Ale weighing in at 5.7% ABV. The IBU rating is not listed, but if it's anything like their regular Nut Brown Ale I imagine it's low around 25 IBU.

Appearance: Goose Island Christmas Ale poured a brownish red (like a typical brown ale) with a decent 2-finger light tan head. The bubbles in the head seemed to be a bit bigger than most other beer bubbles I've seen. The head lasted only a minute but leaves a nice bit of lacing around the edges of the glass. This beer was see-thru and had very little haze.

Aroma: Smelling this beer leaves no doubt that this is more than just a typical brown ale. I could smell not only sweet malts, but also some citrus from the hops, a slight fruitiness and some mild spices. It is a very pleasant smell. Surprisingly, Goose Island didn't list any spices on the label or the web site. I'm wondering if the spiciness is due to the hops or actual holiday spices like cinnamon, nutmeg or clove? The spices seemed familiar but somewhat different.

Mouthfeel: Brown ales can vary from somewhat watery to medium bodied. Goose Island's Christmas Ale seemed to fit in the middle of that range. It felt medium bodied but a bit less than that. It felt creamy in the mouth and had a slight drying bitterness going down.

Taste: If you take a typical brown ale and add a hint of spices to it, that's exactly the description I'd use to describe the taste. Served cold out of the fridge, it was crisp, semi-sweet from the darker malts. Goose Island stated that they added Pale, Extra Special Briess, and Dark malts to this beer, but I think part of the dark malt is caramel.

I picked up some citrus flavor from the hops in this beer as well (Cascade?). It's an easy drinking holiday brew. Being at a modest 5.7% ABV, you could get away with finishing the entire 22oz bottle yourself. However, I found that I was feeling rather full after the first glass and had little desire to finish the rest. Not because of the alcohol but because I felt that's all I wanted of this beer.

Truth be told, most brown ales to me are a bit unremarkable but the addition of spices to this beer helped it out quite a bit. Goose Island recommends serving this beer at a fairly cold 40 degrees. Now I know why.

As it warms, the beer took on additional tastes. Late in my sampling, the creaminess of the beer almost seemed to acquire a bit of buttery sensation in my mouth. Not exactly diacetyl, just a slickness that wasn't there earlier. It was much better tasting when it was colder.

I paired this beer with sharp cheddar cheese and multi-grain crackers. They seemed to go well enough together, but I was rather full from previous holiday food so it was difficult to tell.

Overall: As a holiday ale, Goose Island Christmas Ale seems to fit the style rather well. It's decently spiced, but not overly so. It's lighter fare than most and it was nice and crisp when cold. Still, I had mixed feelings about this beer. It was good, just not my favorite style of brew. It's more like a Newcastle brown ale than anything else. The spices felt like an after thought but made the beer more enjoyable. I don't think I'd want more than 12oz in an evening. I felt like seeking out something with a bit more flavor and potency for later (like their Bourbon County Stout).

Goose Island's web site says that this beer should last up to 5 years in the bottle. Really? A 5.7% ABV beer can last 5 years in the bottle? Their Nut Brown Ale says it is best up to 180 days. That I'd believe, but this being a low ABV beer probably won't taste as good a year or two later. I could be wrong but normally a beer needs to be around 8% ABV or higher to stand up to time. Perhaps the spice acts like a preservative.

If you like a mild holiday spiced beers then the 2009 Goose Island Christmas Ale should be just the thing for your holiday gatherings. But if you like a beer with a bit more kick, look elsewhere.

Related articles:
- Goose Island 2008 Bourbon County Brand Stout review.
- Goose Island 2012 Bourbon County Brand Stout review.
- Left Hand Snowbound Winter Ale review.
- Jolly Pumpkin Nøgne Ø Stone Special Holiday Ale review.

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