Just in time for Christmas it donned on me that so many of my trips to Vendome Toluca Lake have involved the casual skipping of a vast holiday beer collection. Though the sight of a year’s worth of dust on some of the bottles would give anyone pause when dealing with some of their more expensive stock, I considered this to be my only chance to justify a purchase from this largely ignored section of brews. I thought it only appropriate to go with the St. Bernardus Christmas Ale, a Belgian Quad that is the newest in their line-up of Abbey Ales.
Having had good experiences with their Tripel and other beers in the line-up, I was fairly confident going in this would be a quad worth writing about. This bottle was lively, shooting the cork clear across the room as soon as the tension was released from the cage.
A pour into a tulip reveals a deep mahogany body with amber and even plum tones. The head is larger than usual and a steady stream of bubbles keeps a frothy cap of a finger and a half for some time. Lace is sporadic, but lasting.
The nose is a great example of a rich, dark, Abbey Ale. Floral and fruity tones surrounded by seasonal spices led by cinnamon. A constant aroma of distinct Belgian yeast melds with the adjacent scents to create a whiff of banana.
Initial taste is a nicely carbed dark bready malt with dark fruit notes and rich spice in line with the nose. Prior to warming, an alcohol burn in the finish is startling and plays well beyond 10%, but subsides allowing a rich, dark fruit sweetness to dominate the finish. There is a tartness on the back end that stops just short of cranberry.
|Name||St. Bernardus Christmas Ale|
|Brewery||Brouwerij St. Bernardus|
|Availability||Widely Available in Bottles|
|Rating||4 out of 5|
Drinkability for this selection is surprisingly high for a Quad, due to a well balanced body. The mouthfeel is rich and creamy, but not overbearing, making this easier to enjoy than many other Christmas brews. Overall I feel this is a solid Belgian worthy of accompanying a holiday feast or to be shared at seasonal gatherings. It will set you back just under $15.00, but I think that’s reasonable for the quality.