Monday, 5 January 2015

12 Beers Of Xmas - Day 12

The Twelve Beers Of Christmas
Beer Twelve
Goose Island Beer Co. - Pere Jacques 2009 8.0%
And so that was Christmas, to paraphrase John Lennon if you will allow me this indulgence, and what have we done?

As the dying embers of the yule log fade for another year and we shake off that Christmas magic it's time to look forward to the new year, 2015, and all the beery delights that await us there.

But, before we start afresh I just want to take a moment to reflect on the last year, and particularly the last thirty-six days blogging, through the season of Advent and on to the #12BeersOf Xmas. I could venture that it was a journey, but in reality the journey was from the bottle to the glass to my mouth, and if we're honest that is generally the kind of travelling that we don't mind at all. Even though it might appear so, I haven't drunk alone over the festive period, far from it, but I have always made sure that I had a beer lined up to right about before I went out, even catching after giving myself the luxury of both Christmas Day and New Years Eve off.

I have plenty of things planned, or certainly in the planning stage for the coming year and I know that some of you have too, but now is not the time to discuss them as they will all be revealed, or not, in the fullness of time. With more breweries exploring what beer can be and pushing it beyond the limits of our expectations, 2015 promises to be a very good year indeed.

And so, beer review aside, for those of you who have been with me throughout, those who dipped in and out, and even those for whom this is the first piece of mine that they have ever read, I would just like to raise a glass of good beer and wish you all a very happy new year.

When you finish a series of reviews it is traditional to finish on a high, usually it's a beer with a high abv, a special release or something that's absolutely super new or super different, and who am I to turn my back on tradition? I have after all followed beers in Advent, a seasonal observation that dates from the sixth century, with the twelve days of Christmas, an older observation but also a song first published in England in 1780. That's tradition for you, sometimes you just have to go with the flow.

Today's beer from the Goose Island Brew Co. in Chicago, Illinois is a Belgian Dubbel-style ale, brewed with Saaz and First Gold hops, and is a limited release. I'm sure you've all heard of Goose Island and know a few things about them, particularly as some of their beers, notably the Honkers Ale and India Pale Ale are relatively easy to get hold of in the UK. You may have had the excellent Bourbon County Stout, a beer that ages extremely well, and you may also know that they are owned by Anheuser-Bush InBev, producers of Budweiser, target of much of the tasteless mass-market beer vitriol.

This beer however pre-dates the A-B Inbev purchase by some two years, and was brewed in the brewery's twenty-first year of production. The label states that it will continue to develop in the bottle for up to five years although this is nearly a year over that, being bottled on the 11th March 2009, I have kept it cool and dark for most of that time, I didn't buy it until the October of that year, so I'm hoping that it will still be very drinkable.

There is, as they say, only one way to find out. Time to open that bottle, we have reached the conclusion, it's the Twelfth Night (another sixth century tradition) beer.

It pours a dark amber with some beautiful ruby red highlights and a surprising amount of carbonation considering its age, leaving a thin beige head on top of the beer. The aroma is rich and seductive, freshly sliced brown bread giving way to raisin giving way to blackcurrant wine gums giving way to burnt toast giving way to some merlot tannins then back around again like a heady beery whirlwind. The body is erring on the full side of medium and it pushes across the tongue quickly with a soft fizz of carbonation which astonishes me as I really had expected this beer to have gone a little flat by now. There are raisins aplenty up front slipping easily into a combination of blackcurrant and red berry wine gum flavours, fruity and sweet with a chewy edge, and this in turn develops into a lightly toasted port-soaked plump sultana flavour and this rounds out main body of the beer beautifully. The finish starts with some lightly toasted bread and butter pudding, but this is remarkably brief as a light tawny port character emerges before it dries slowly but definitely leaving a delicious apricot jam topped raisin pudding flavour right in the middle of the tongue, and this spreads up the sides of the palate and filling the mouth for a long long time. It is simply amazing.

I can say without any shadow of doubt that this beer has benefited from careful ageing, and if you have a bottle of this stashed away then you should definitely bring it out now. Even as I type these final words my head is still filled with its majesty. I am privileged to have tasted this beer in this condition and feeling very satisfied right now. That is what great beer is all about and that is why we love it so much. I don't need to add any more than that.

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