This review is brought to you as part of the Beer Advent Calendar over at The Brew Site – check it out for some great holiday brews, one reviewed each day until Christmas!
With three men on camels riding into an orange sunset, who could resist this for a whimsical holiday drink? A collaborative effort between Nogne O (Sorry, I don’t know how to make the special characters!), Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales and Stone Brewing Company, I first spotted this on the bottle list at Novare Res in Portland, and vowed to try it again. Another year passed, and it has finally made it into my hands again.
It pours with a really creamy head that stays for a while and seeped out of the bottle when I was first trying to open it (though that also could have been the result of me man-handling it while trying to get it open without an opener available). The smell was at first vaguely reminiscent of cookies baking. There is definitely “spice” in this beer – and the sage, caraway and juniper leap right out at you. Put your nose in deep and you’d swear it was a ginger snap cookie – but there’s no ginger to be found in this brew. There is some maltiness there, but the spices certainly are the overwhelming smell here.
The first sip is almost shockingly spiced – the sage and juniper leave the tongue feeling dry and it opens up your nose a bit. It does smell and taste a bit like a mushed-up cookie – in a really good way. Each sip grew on me a bit more – and revealed some complexity. Not too thick (I expected thicker considering the head and the dark brown color) the primary characteristics here are not the malt backbone but the added ingredients. I can admit that I have not had any chestnuts in my lifetime, so this ingredient is eluding me, though maybe it is the source of the bready or starchy part of this brew? I’ll have to go get some in NYC when I’m down there for the holidays to compare.
As far as this beer’s place on the advent calendar, I’d say it is solid. It reminds me of the incense they used to burn at Midnight mass in the church I attended in my youth, and the yeast+spice combination does make me think of baking cookies. With each sip I liked it more and more, and I think I could only have topped off the experience if I were sitting with a bottle of it while watching new December snow fall.