Thursday, December 10, 2009

Jolly Pumpkin Nøgne Ø Stone Special Holiday Ale review

Special Holiday AleIt's the winter holiday ale season and I found a seasonal brew that was originally bottled back in late 2008 to sample. Today, I'm reviewing a special collaboration beer from Jolly Pumpkin (Michigan), Nøgne Ø of Norway, and Stone Brewing of California. It's simply called Special Holiday Ale. This is not an ordinary ale as it's spiced with a lot of different ingredients including: White Sage, Juniper berries, Chestnuts (roasting on an open fire...), Caraway seeds and a fair amount of Rye malt and oats.

Little did I realize it when I spotted this single 12oz bottle on the shelf that it had already been cellared for a year. All the better! This is a big beer, around 9.0% ABV, and should hold up well for at least a year or two. At least that was my hope. So how would it taste after a year?

Appearance: The Jolly Pumpkin Nøgne Ø Stone Special Holiday Ale (that's a mouthful) poured dark brown, mostly see through, with some lighter ruby edges. The head was light tan and thick and left a good lacing on the glass.

Aroma: Here is where the spices took over. The white sage and juniper really dominate the nose here. I half expected to get a big alcohol whiff but was pleasantly surprised that I got more spice and malt than alcohol. It's like I had rubbed sage between my hands and breathed deeply. The blend of spice and malts were very inviting.

Mouthfeel: The Special Holiday Ale was immediately creamy, slippery smooth and slightly drying. There was a low amount of carbonation, mostly from the nucleated glass. My mouth started watering slightly after the first few sips (result from the added oats perhaps?).

Taste: The first sip was - oh ya sage! You can definitely pick up on the spices, yet they were not as over the top as I might have expected. Stone Brewing is known for going over the top on some of their beers, but this one was blended well with the malts. The extra 12 months in the bottle may have mellowed the spices a bit, but that's a good thing. The Special Holiday Ale held up well for the last year.

I still have no idea what Chestnuts taste like, but I can imagine it would add some nuttiness to the brew.

The beer itself was semi-sweet, creamy and the spices added an extra bounce to this beer. Normally, I'm not a big fan of spiced holiday ales but I'll give an exception to this beer. I actually enjoyed it.

Overall: Jolly Pumpkin, Nøgne Ø and Stone seemed to have done their homework on this recipe. The blend of different malts and spices seemed to work well together in this Special Holiday Ale. Still, being 9% ABV, one of these beers was about all I felt I wanted. You can only go so far with a spiced beer. I imagined pairing this beer with a nice sweet holiday Christmas cookie.

I recorded my thoughts on this beer on video as well (see below). It's spontaneous, unrehearsed and a bit rough but you'll get the idea on how I felt about this brew. Overall, I was very pleased with this beer. I wouldn't drink a lot of it but for a special event this beer will definitely impress, even after a year in the bottle.

If you are unable to view the video below, you can go to YouTube and watch the video there:

Disclosure: This review was not paid for by any brewer or marketing firm. The beer used in this review was bought and paid for by myself. My opinions expressed here are strictly my own. I am not being compensated for writing this beer review.

Related articles:
- Nøgne Ø Imperial Stout review.
- Stone Arrogant Bastard Ale review.
- Jolly Pumpkin Bier de Mars Grand Reserve at DRBT.

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