Affligem: Noel (Belgium: Belgian Strong Ale: 9% ABV)

Visual: Reddened body. Caramel creamy froth of a head with tight packed bubbles and moderate carbonation to the body.

Nose: Christmas herbs and spices. Vanilla and custard. Christmas pudding. Glacier cherries and figs. Shortbread. Butterscotch. Raisins. Light peanuts.

Body: Sultanas. Malt loaf. Christmas spices and herbs. Butterscotch. Figs. Smooth as silk texture. Plums. Vanilla.

Finish: Butterscotch. Figs. Buttery shortbread. Very creamy. Slight greenery.

Conclusion: Oh yes. Oh very yes. This sort of beer is why you can never mistake Christmas in Belgium.  It may be the time ageing that it’s had but this beer is smooth as silk. In fact despite having just under a year and high abv, this beer is smoother that many beers I’ve tried over twice its age. The beer feels almost like a trappist quad with rich flavours and fig elements, lots of dark fruit in fact as a base. What really works is the butterscotch and almost vanilla flavours laced through it. Combined with the texture it turns what could have been a really heavy beer into something deceptively easy to drink. Dangerously so.

The elements give it a very dessert feel, though it also has a light spiciness to it. That, along with the Christmas pudding flavours, are a distinct nod to it being a winter seasonal beer. Very much a celebratory beer, very rich. It really is a beer to share, while you could drink it alone that would be a dangerous path, and let’s face it, part of the joy of beer is the camaraderie.

A heavy beer, with an aroma that never settles on one element. You could easily spend the first five minutes just letting the smell waft from the glass without even needing a sip. The flavours come in almost spirit like it style some times, but somehow it keeps just on the easy to drink side with its insane smoothness that utterly hides the alcohol.  A delicious Christmas treat.

Background: This may surprise you, but this is actually from the road trip of awesome. No really. Despite being in the USA we found this beer, a Christmas ale from Belgium that I have never managed to find in bloody Belgium. Never found despite being in Brugge just before Christmas a few years back, in Belgium again since then, and live in the UK right next to it geographically, well comparatively speaking when you compare it to the USA. So, I found this at the house of brews and grabbed it.  I’m guessing it’s from last year so had best part of a years ageing on it.