Sunday, 28 December 2014
12 Beers Of Xmas - Day 4
The Twelve Beers Of Christmas
Jacobsen - Golden Naked Christmas Ale 7.5%
I have to hold my hand up straight away here, I'm drinking Carlsberg tonight.
You read that correctly this is a Carlsberg beer, but not one you're likely to find in the UK as this beer was brewed by Husbryggeriet Jacobsen in Denmark, Carlsberg's specialist brewery. Opened on the 31st May 2005, it was set up as a response to the growing microbrewery and craft beer movement and is located within Carlsberg's own brewery in Valby, Denmark. It has an annual capacity of around 1,700,000 litres, that's about 5 million 330ml bottles, and headed by brewermaster Morten Ibsen, it shows that it takes the threat very seriously. The beers were originally only available only in Denmark, but now distribute to Norway, Sweden, Finland and the United States. They were also briefly available in the UK shortly after the brewery first opened, I was able to pick up the earliest releases in my local Sainsbury's of all places, but I haven't seen them since which is a real shame.
It is also the brewery that brewed the world's most expensive beer trilogy. Selling for upwards of 250 euros a bottle on release the beers, called simply Vintage No.1 (10.5% abv, a barley wine brewed in 2008 and selling for 2008DKK), Vintage No.2 (8.7% abv, a Baltic stout brewed in 2009 and selling for 2009DKK) and Vintage No.3 (15% abv, a pale barley wine and selling for 2010DKK) were only brewed in very small batches, and had hand stencilled and signed labels from five different Danish artists for each Vintage, one artist for the first two releases and three for the last. There were six hundred bottles each of Vintage No.1 and Vintage No.2, and one thousand bottles of the Vintage No.3.
The beer I'm opening tonight for the Beer O'Clock Show #12BeersOfXmas isn't quite so rare and nor was it quite so expensive, in fact it didn't cost me anything at all as it was a prize in an online competition where the winner of the best festive photograph won six bottles of Jacobsen beers (two bottles each of three different beers), kindly organised by Beer Genie. I thought that I had drunk all six but when I was contemplating which beers I would choose I came across a bottle of each (and both of these) in a separate box under a blanket at the back of my 'cellar'. Golden Naked Christmas Ale is a Dubbel-style ale, first brewed in 2006 although this bottle is only just over two years old, and is inspired by the Nordic Christmas. Brewed with Golden Promise Pale Ale malt, often used for whiskey, and Naked Oats, those with loose husks that fall off during harvesting, it is easy to see how this beer got it's name. A typical run also uses one thousand two hundred oranges, two hundred cinnamon sticks and twenty one days to mature, so I'm expecting some big Christmas flavours. I can't wait to see how this tastes.
It pours a rich ruby red with plenty of carbonation that throws a creamy off-white head, it's a thing of beauty and certainly looks very inviting in the glass. The aroma is full of stewed prunes, raisin and cherry, it's like a wonderful dark fruit punch with slices of orange peel floating to the surface. It's the kind of beer that you could sit and hold in your hands feeling the aroma change as it warms, and indeed as it does so I'm picking up some of that cinnamon spice riding on the back of the prunes, giving it more of a sweet syrup note. A soft tickle of carbonation brings through quite a thin liquid but it's absolutely packed with prune and blackberry flavour, big, juicy and slightly tart, before on strolls the supporting cast; hints of raisin, a light dusting of cinnamon and a grating of orange zest, maybe a drop or two of port as well, and these really lift it. This is absolutely stunning. The finish is sweet and tart, with an intense blackberry aftertaste that reminds me of an excellent merlot, and this lasts long enough that you can savour it's rich juiciness before wanting to go back for some more.
This may be a beer from a major player on the international beer stage, but it has so much flavour, so much nuance and is so beautifully defined that you can tell that this has been brewed with love, care and passion, and I defy anyone to tell me that this isn't a craft beer. I was hoping for a little bit of Christmas, but what I got was a joyously fruity, beautifully deep festive punch, so much more than I could ever have expected. It is simply astonishing.