Christmas is reviewed by Chris Hall; that’s the beer, not the overall concept.
Brouwerij Leroy, Belgium
Well, those good people at Leroy don’t beat around the bush, do they? From the festive greetings card scene on the label, to the fact this beer is simply called Christmas, they could not be any clearer about what this beer is about. The remarkably small serving (that’s 250ml for those keeping score) is offset by this beer’s winter-busting strength. While Brouwerij Leroy make a range of beers including stout, red ale and pale ale, their festive beer is probably the only one you are going to see in the UK.
It pours a thick, glowing mahogany, reddish and brooding with intensity. The head, pillowy and bubbly, throws out plenty of baked bread, spice and wine-like booziness. Yes, this is Christmas pudding; yes, this is a bakery on a winter’s morning and yes, this is mulled wine, all rolled into one, festive package.
Like a lot of good beers, this translates directly onto the tongue. Big, rolling waves of thick, jam-like malt lay the foundations for crackles of spice and a fierce punch of alcoholic warmth. The body is so thick it just sits on your tongue, and instead of offering something as conventional as a finish or an aftertaste, it simply repeats the flavours for a few more minutes.
There are more intense, spicy, malty beers than Leroy’s ‘Christmas’. There are certainly many more complex, warming and stronger beers, too. I couldn’t care less. This is the most balanced and easy-going strong Belgian dark ale I have ever had. It’s unpretentious, knows what it is and wants you to have a good sit down and enjoy it. This is winter relaxation in a bottle.