I hope this summer has treated you well. When it comes to local craft beer, our friends-in-beer have certainly taken great care of us. Without looking, I know that in my beer fridge right now is beer from Next Level, Clinch River, Albright Grove, Xul, and Elst and that’s just what I can remember as I type, but that’s not the point. The point is that our local beer scene is firing on all cylinders and the gang is doing a great job. It’s not just about great beer but diversity of beer as well. A big shout out and thanks to all our local breweries – well done!
The beer on deck today is an interesting one. Last weekend Elst Brewing Company hosted a Christmas in July gathering. For that gathering they brewed a Belgian Style Christmas Ale. While I missed the gathering due to family obligations, I did sneak by and buy a few bottles of the beer – one for now and one for the holidays. The weather lately has been exceptionally hot and while I don’t typically go all-in on the holiday style beer even during the season, Elst doesn’t disappoint. Let’s check it out.
This beer pours with a wonderfully full, white, thick head that sticks all over the glass. The beer is an amber red hue and is unfiltered. On the nose I find the Belgian yeast notes I anticipate – fruit, some banana, clove, and I’m getting some of sugary-sweet notes. It’s not uncommon to use candi sugar in beer like this, and it is likely that’s what I’m finding. On the first sip I can tell this is a big beer not because of any alcohol burning sensations but just because it is so thick and sweet. With each sip the beer gets moved around and the carbonation activates again releasing more of the beer’s flavors. I’d rate the mouthfeel as full, carbonation as high, with a sweetness that gives way to a light bitterness on the tongue. As the beer warms the alcohol notes become more prevalent and provide a warming sensation to the palate.
Final snobs: Wonderful beer. This is everything I’d expect from a Belgian holiday beer and perhaps a little more. It’s rich, vivacious, and full of holiday spirit. While this beer is certainly out of place for the dog days of summer, it is spot on for a Christmas in July celebration as well as for the style. I’d highly suggest you stop by, give it a try and do like I did, put one back for the holidays which will be here before we know it.