Behind Window 16 was Gordon Xmas Ale 8.8%, a beer I enjoyed reading the backstory of. It claims to have started the tradition of Belgian Christmas brews when it was brewed for the Brits during World War One and they Belgians developed a taste for it. Whether or not this is true, it’s certainly a cute tale that makes me interested in trying a beer with a century long history. I remember drinking Gordon’s Highland Scotch for the first time tears ago in Dr Okell’s (now the more famous Mr Foley’s) and stealing the Gordon’s glass to go with it. I think my old housemate then stole it from me… Anyway, enough memories. Let’s drink.
A dark bronze with a lovely ruby hue, the familiarities with a Scotch ale are here with the slightly smoky wooden tones but much sweeter base. The taste matches this as a peaty flavour settles on your tongue whilst a smack of vanilla drags it down your throat. There’s that customary sherry stickiness and a decent astringency that pulls the whole mix together. As my understanding of traditional Christmas ales has grown over the past fortnight, I can recognise this as a classic example. However, I would’ve not said the same on the 30th November. I’ve really enjoyed this beer and find the bottle empty surprisingly quickly. Yet its tradition doesn’t match my first expectations so I should critique it as I perhaps would had this been behind window one. If this was marketed as a regular scotch ale I would not be surprised. Still delicious.
Window 17 sees two beers clumped together for the simple purpose that they were the first two beers I bought to be included in the calendar, having been purchased back in April; Goliath Christmas 8% and La Gauloise Christmas 8.1%. They’ve been kicking around my bottle stash for a while awaiting their turn and are the longest serving beers that haven’t been bought for the purpose of ageing. I know nothing of the Goliath from Gouyasse Brewery, but remember when La Gauloise’s beers used to be sold in Morrisons. My interest in them simply stemmed from a childhood love for Asterix the Gaul, though I recall the beer itself being somewhat disappointing.
The Goliath Christmas is one of those beers I’m not beer-tasting literate enough to know how to describe. I want a good word or THE word to use and I don’t have it. All I know is that this beer is going to be carbonated; too carbonated. It smells carbonated. There’s so much carbonation I could add this to iron to create a high tensile steel. But I’m judging this on a scent of carbonation. We can taste this and find sweet cherry flavours mixed into a Belgian yeast, grassy warmth and a slight, but enjoyable alcohol burn. This all happens within milliseconds before the carbon takes over. Fizzy, burp-creating, bubbly carbonation that I want to serve in a plastic flute at a chav’s wedding. You can always tell. It’s all I experience the whole way down. Somebody please tell me the word I’m searching for. But for now it will remain as high high carbonation. Disappointing.
The La Gauloise has the deep colour of a Christmas port and the head of a morning Bucks Fizz. There is certainly an interesting aroma of Chinese plum sauce but the sweet dark fruit hints a port can provide. At first taste, I’m concerned this is particularly thin. It certainly drinks as a much weaker beer. But what you have here is a tasty, but rather modest affair. It’s flavoursome enough to enjoy, but one-dimensional. In fact, it’s a sherry beer. We’ve described several beers with the term ‘sherry’ recently, including the Gordon’s above, but this is the definition. This could be served up to Emily Bishop everyday in the Rovers and she wouldn’t spot the difference. This is sherry. I suppose I should commend La Gauloise, for the majority of Brits associate sherry with this time of year, and therefore this would certainly count as a Christmas beer. But it’s not beer. It’s sherry.