Sunday 3 February 2013

The last day of Christmas

I've been reliably informed that yesterday, Candlemas, was the last day of Christmas in some traditions, so it's just as well that on the eve of Candlemas I succumbed to the temptation of a bottle of Hopfenstopfer Christmas Strong Ale 2012 (I'll shorten that to HCSA). Well, that and it's probably a cardinal sin to drink out of season!

It's fairly festive-looking, with its red and white labelling, topped with gold foil hiding a plastic cork and cage. It had been residing in our potato cellar (you'd think I'd have left that behind when I departed Ireland) for a few weeks, so was well-cooled and clear, pouring an attractive copper-gold with a gentle carbonation. A lovely, clean aroma, highlighting light caramel with fruity notes - sultanas, a breath of pine needles, but mostly a generous orange peel. Definitely not in the tradition of most German Weihnachtsbier, which isn't  bad thing in my book. Unlike many other German beers of this class of strength (9% ABV), HCSA is not at all sticky. It carries a caramel-biscuit base lightly, which in turn supports a medley of citrus, dried fruit and somewhat herbal flavours. For some reason, the body and some of the background flavours (there's an almost vinous hint way back in there) reminds me of a Trappist Tripel, but the up-front flavours shout American Imperial IPA, toned down, however, to a balance that allows everything a fair voice, by turns pithy, herbal and berry-like. The finish is bitter-sweet, a thin fudge lingering under a persistent pine nut and nutmeg, orange pith bitterness that lingers for a long, long time.

I think I'd like to try this is a little more carbonation, just to see how it behaves, but it might well detract from the soothing oiliness of the whole experience. I'm looking forward to Christmas 2013!