The fourth and final beer we are BrewViewing for our December 2016 BREWERY SPOTLIGHT is for the SPENCER BREWERY and their TRAPPIST HOLIDAY ALE (25.4 oz. corked version). The 25.4 oz corked version of The Spencer Brewery’s Trappist Holiday Ale has some subtle differences in aroma, flavor, and finish than its 11.2 oz. crown capped brethren. Both are excellent ales, and should be added to your holiday beer enjoyment, without a doubt.
BEER STYLE AND COMMERCIAL DESCRIPTION FROM THE SPENCER BREWERY
Style category: Trappist Strong Ale
Mahogany in color, wholesome in body, lightly spiced, a heart-warming feast day ale from our table to yours.
OUR BREWVIEW ON SPENCER TRAPPIST HOLIDAY ALE (CORKED VERSION)
APPEARANCE / THE POUR:
NOTE: The characteristics of the corked version are very similar to the capped version with some subtle differences…
9% ABV. Poured into the signature long-stemmed Spencer Trappist glass, and served at 50°F. per the abbey’s suggestion.
It poured an easy 2 1/2-finger height, dense, creamy, light tan colored head with tighter bubbles than the capped version. We did ensure the glass was “beer clean.”
The color is deep ruby, with an SRM value between 15-18. The rim color variation is Pale Amber, SRM value of of 9. There is a bit of yeast haze due to the bottle conditioning, and as you all know, we enjoy tasting our beers with the “yeast dump.” The meniscus is slow rising. After 5-6 minutes, the head held a 1/2′ height. After about 10 minutes of it being poured, the head left behind even sheeted Brussels lacing on the sides of the glass, and the head height stayed a constant 1/4″ high throughout consumption time.
AROMA / BOUQUET:
Just as we thought, there is a slightly different taste characteristic to the corked version. As with the capped version, you are greeted with aromas of the Spencer Trappist yeast, along with candied fruits, sweet caramel malt, brown sugar and holiday spices, but a bit more prominent. With this, you get faint nutmeg and marzipan. As with the capped version, the hop notes are also very nuanced, but again this is more a malt-yeast-spice forward beer. As the beer warms, you get Trappist Brandy Fruitcake and increased bready yeast aromas, as well with St. Joesph’s Abbey Trappist Kadota Fig preserve aromas… we’re thinking this has a lot to do with the subtle difference in the bottle conditioning between the capped and corked versions.
The aromas also carry over into the taste- sweet malt, Kadota Figs, plums, raisins, nice spicy phenols from the Trappist yeast, gentle black pepper in the finish. The corked version does offer slightly more prominence in the taste descriptives, however. It took us 45 minutes to enjoy this bottle, and around 60°F, it expresses some jammy notes, and very heavy in the Trappist fruitcake flavors.
MOUTHFEEL / PALATE:
Very similar the capped version- It hits the tip of the tongue with its spiciness, then coats the soft palate and the sides of the mouth with a silky, almost creamy character. The aftertaste with the spices and deep caramel do linger a bit deeper with a nutty finish and with a bit more toastiness to it.
FOOD PAIRING SUGGESTIONS:
NOTE: The food pairing suggestions will be the same as the capped version.
Washed-rind Trappist cheeses (Will Spencer ever make their own cheese one day?) Again, a Charcuterie platter with game meats and duck or goose pâté.
The flavor profile of the Holiday Ale leaves it open to a wide range of cuisines. From a hearty steak, to a holiday ham with yams or sweet potatoes, to pork and even some rich chicken dishes. For the adventurous, Mussels cooked with the Holiday Ale would lend an interesting sweet and spicy component to the brininess. Pork Tenderloin, Braised Lamb shanks, and Venison Kabobs would all pair well.
Ok… we could not go without mentioning the awesome food products from Monastery Greetings! Chocolate Whiskey Cake, Hermit cookies, Gluten-Free Hermit Bars, Trappist Rum Fruitcake, Brandy Fruitcake, Ginger Date-Nut Fruitcake.
OUR OVERALL IMPRESSION:
We were super impressed with this Holiday Ale from Spencer as well. They have taken time-honored Trappist traditions and fused them with American ingenuity. As with the capped version, the alcohol content of the beer is very well hidden, which makes the drinkability factor very high. It warms the soul; it would be great to sit by a cozy fireplace, to sip the Holiday Ale slowly, and contemplate on life and God’s goodness…
This is also destined to become a world classic. The corked version of the Holiday Ale is also hearty enough to gently mull with a cinnamon stick to intensify the spice factor. The corked version most definitely should be aged. Buy some bottles and enjoy now, and age some for 3-5 years. Seek this one out for sure- this beer certainly joins the family of world class Trappist Ales from Europe, as all Spencer Trappist ales are available in Belgium, France, and Spain.
ADDITIONAL LINKS- DECEMBER 2016 BREWERY SPOTLIGHT FOR THE SPENCER BREWERY
BrewView author GORDON A. PONCE is the main driving force behind Belgian Beer Journal.com. Since 1983, Gordon recognized that beers from Belgium were special, set apart from the typical craft beer.
He views beers from Belgium (plus Belgian-style and Belgian Inspired beers from other countries) great examples of the brewer’s art. Gordon and his wife live in beautiful Northern California- a great place to enjoy Belgian beer! Ecclesiastes 8:15