Posted December 22, 2013 by Kevin in Eats & Drinks

St. Bernardus Makes a Less Christmas-y Christmas Ale

St Bernadus Christmas Ale
St Bernadus Christmas Ale

I am generally a hold-out on the traditional Christmas Ale.  While I have nothing against cinnamon and nutmeg, I do think that many breweries go overboard while attempting to define their holiday beer.   St. Bernardus showed me that these traditional spices can be used in a well-balanced beer.  Pitched as a Belgian Strong Ale, the St. Bernardus Christmas Ale is a dark beer reminiscent of an excellent Belgian Double with the alcohol content of a quad.  I found this one on tap at Ray’s Place in Kent, Ohio.  A fine watering hole is Ray’s . . . always stocked with some truly off-the-wall beers.  I ended up ordering this as part of a sample flight because, well, I’m prejudiced against Christmas ales.  Shame on me, because this one is a winner!  Should have ordered a glass . . .

This won’t win any awards for appearance in the glass.  It pours a cloudy brown with a thin but long-lasting head.  It was in a sample glass, though, so I didn’t see it for long.  Looks aside, this one is a winner from start to finish.  It is earthy, malty, roasty, sweet and ever-so-slightly bitter all at the same time.  Lots of dark fruits, nuts and oak accompany the subtle spice notes.  Yes, the cinnamon is there, but it accentuates the beer and does not cover up the complexity of this fine brew.  It finishes thick and syrupy with lingering alcohol presence.  A winter warmer indeed!

I’m going to quit writing now and just say this:  Get a bottle of St. Bernardus Christmas Ale and give yourself a present this holiday season.

Cheers (and merry Christmas)!


Kevin has been drinking and brewing beer for more than 20 years, and enjoys re-capping the interesting craft and microbrews that find their way into his glass. Feel free to contact him at [email protected] to talk favorites, but hold back on the technical questions – he sees himself as more of a beer nerd than a beer expert.