Brewery: Nogne O, Jolly Pumpkin and Stone Brewing Co.
Vintage: 2009 vintage brewed at Nogne O in Grimstad, Norway
Style: Christmas Ale, Winter Warmer
Availability: unknown frequency, November – January
Pairing: butternut squash soup, beef stew, roasted chestnuts
I love brewer collaborations. It’s a great example of what the brewing community is all about and it often takes the best of each brewers skills and combines them into something greater. Stone Brewing Co. has been on a similar kick with their Collaboration Series, traveling around the world and joining forces with renowned breweries such as Brew Dog, Mikkeller, and Ale Smith to bring their unprecedented technical knowledge to new and exciting concoctions. For Special Holiday Ale (now in its second vintage) they’ve teamed up with the sour beer loving jokers over at Jolly Pumpkin (Michigan) and style pushers at Nogne O (Grimstad, Norway) to create a holiday crew that combines local ingredients from all three regions – California white sage, Michigan chestnuts, and Norwegian juniper berries. The result is a medium bodied winter ale thats much more drinkable then a lot of the strong beers floating around this season. Perfectly balanced, I’ve been hunting this one for a while and glad to see if found it’s way to my glass!
Appearance: Pours the deepest brown imaginable, almost black. Rich, frothy tan head leaves a nice creamy lacing on the side of the glass. Notes of excellent craftsmanship right off the bat.
Smell: There’s tons of spice and herbs on the nose of this one. Lots of the sage, juniper, allspice and chestnuts come through without too much malt character.
Taste: The Rye used in brewing really stands out giving a good, grainy character along with some roasted barley malt balance. It tastes dark and woodsy with a piney, peppery finish.
Mouthfeel: A refreshing medium body for a holiday beer. There is well calculated carbonation behind this and it goes down easy leaving a nice spice tingle on my tongue.
Drinkability: Very drinkable for a winter warmer. The medium body and balanced spice hide the alcohol and makes this one easy going. Well, easy going for an 8.5% dark, spicy beer.
Overall: Take one of the world most practical brewers, one of its most adventurous, and one of its most technical, and give them a Santa’s sack of local ingredients to play with. The result is Special Holiday Ale, a winter take on all the things going right in brewing today. I could easily drink two or three of these over a night, especially after an icy commute home or a long day on the slopes. I’ll be picking a few more up to share at Christmas dinner!
Brewing Note: Special Holiday ale was first brewed in April 2008 at Stone’s facility. This version was brewed this past July at Nogne O’s facility. The beer uses the same ingredients as the original: white sage from Southern California, chestnuts from Michigan and juniper berries from Norway. The differences in brewing and aging may have lead to a slightly different beer though. (source)