December is here, and it's time for Christmas beers, if you like gently spiced Belgian ales with that nice roundness in the mouth, richness on the palate, and a hint of Christmassy spice that makes you think you are in a jolly, dark pub somewhere in Europe, with the snow falling heavily outside, and you inside fortifying yourself with something as satisfying and appropriate as a glass of rich red wine.
On the eve of December (Nov 30), we headed out to our local Irish pub which features "pint night" every Tuesday, wherein a beer is chosen as a special, and you get to keep the glass. This night was dedicated to Delerium Noel, from the fine folks in Belgium who make Delerium Tremens (a golden ale) and Delerium Nocturnum (a dark brown ale). As we are fans of this brewery, and their glasses adorned with pink elephants, we looked forward to trying their Christmas ale.... and it was good! Not heavily spiced, just a hint of spice, but mostly a golden ale with a rich body, something that you feel good about drinking even when it is cold outside, not some summery beer that makes you feel cold when you don't want to be.
Another one we tried this week was the Christmas ale from Achouffe, which is another Belgian brewery whose beers are best recognized by the labels that sport the red-hatted gnomes. I believe the brewery is in the Ardenne forest somewhere, which separates the French-speaking part of Belgium from the Champagne region of France. This was also a rich, full-bodied golden ale with a gentle hint of spice, and maybe a refreshing citrus note as well. Also delicious.
As places adopt more specialty beers on their lists, it gets more fun to try these specialties, and I think it contributes much more to the holiday spirits than fighting at the malls for electronic toys and gadgets. Buy your gifts online, or shop on a Tuesday morning, avoid the crowds, and enjoy a Christmas ale this season.
Enjoy your Noel!