In my continued search of the best Christmas ales, I thought it would be good to look at some of the holiday ales being brewed by some of my favorite breweries. Avery is a brewery that isn’t quite as outspoken as some of the other big names in craft brewing, but they do release a ton of good stuff. I have had, and reviewed, quite a few of their different beers. I think I may even still have one or two more in my possession right now that I’m wait to review. So, when I was creating my own six-pack in Virginia Beach the other week, I definitely knew I had to jump on this one. It was the only bottle they had left of it, and I was sure it had to be a sign that it was destined for me to have and review. Having seen others place this in their own list of top 5 Christmas beers, I was hopeful this one would find a place amongst my own top favorites. I won’t lie that I have a vast knowledge of different Christmas beers, because I don’t, but I think my knowledge is growing.
The bottle states that Old Jubilation is a “winter strong ale (that) has a gorgeous mahogany hue, a hint of hazelnuts, and a finish reminiscent of mocha and toffee. No spices, just a perfect blend of five specialty malts. Cellarable for 3 years.” Having just started to become interested in cellaring beers, I am even more interested in picking up another bottle of this beer. Anyway, I find this description rather interesting. It would seem a lot of brewers take Christmas beer to mean it needs to be heavily spiced. Now I know a lot of others don’t seem to think this is enjoyable, but I have found that I don’t mind some spicing in my beers. This beer goes a different route though. Instead they seem to create a beer that is deep and rich. It may not have spices, but it does have enough malts and sweetness to warm you up on a cold winter day.
This one pours out a warm brownish hue with some hints of red throughout. There is a very thin layer of white head that develops over the beer, but it dissipates fairly quickly. Swirling the glass brings that thin layer back, but it isn’t very long lasting. There is some ample sticky lacing that develops on the sides of the glass, which does manage to last for an extended period of time. Viewing the actual beer, there is quite a hazy nature to the composition of the beer, but you can not really make out a whole lot of visible carbonation in the glass. I’m not sure if it hiding, or if there is just not a lot of carbonation in the beer itself.
The smell is surprisingly crisp. I think by the description, I thought it would have a much heavier and thick nature to the smell. I don’t really get a whole lot of this though. You can pull out some of the sweet toffee scents, and there is certainly some type of nut in there. I know the label says hazelnuts, but I’m not sure my nose is refined enough to pull a particular nut out of the smell. I definitely can get the rich malty smell there as well, and there are some very light hops that come through.
The taste starts with that rich malty sweetness that is described on the label. The sweet nature of the toffee is also evident pretty close to the start. This sweet nature at the start is met with the nutty hazelnut flavor that comes in. I think the nut flavors are fairly powerful here to the point where this one almost fits nicely into a nut brown ale category. The very subtle hops come in to put a little Christmas pine into the mix. This may be the most “Christmas” aspect of this entire beer. The nut flavor continues into the aftertaste and is met by some very light chocolatey coffee flavors. I know it says mocha on the label, but I kind of just pick them up as individuals and not as a combined flavor. These rich sweet flavors linger on the tongue in the aftertaste.
This is a really well-balanced beer. Even though the carbonation isn’t really visible, you can definitely get a moderate amount of carbonation. I think it is the perfect amount to combat the sweet nature that this beer has overall. The sweetness isn’t overpowering and manages to warm the consumer just enough, but the carbonation helps to keep this sweetness in check as well. The aftertaste is smooth. You have a nice blend of the sweet, malty, and nutty character of the beer all blending to a perfect harmony.
Searching for the perfect Christmas ale is hard. It seems like everyone puts something out, and I don’t have the time or money to make sure that I taste all of them. This is such a well-balanced beer that is perfect for this season. It has the sweet warming effect I want at this time of year. The spices aren’t necessary. I’m very hopeful I can obtain a few more bottles of this. I would be very interested to see what cellaring does for a bottle like this.
Teacher Grade: A
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