First published in BEER December 2007 as part of a piece about strong beers for the festive season. For more strong festive beers see previous post.
ABV: 9 per cent
Origin: Montignies-sur-Roc, Hainaut, Wallonie
Belgium excels at producing strong bottle conditioned ales for laying down, including seasonal specials that are well worth keeping for a few years after release. This is a great example from the rural commune of Honnelles near the French border. Abbaye des Rocs isn’t an official abbey brewer – the abbey in question now lies in ruins – but it is an outstanding brewery that since 1979 has blossomed from a weekend hobby into one of Belgium’s best new generation micros.
The Noël is based on the brewery’s flagship Abbaye des Rocs dark ale brewed from seven different malts and Belgian, German and Czech hops, with subtle spicing. It pours a hazy ruby colour with a thick sediment and a good yellow head.
A seedy, spicy dried fruit and juicy malt aroma leads to a big mouth-numbing palate that’s notably dry and hoppy for the style, unfolding slowly with rich fruity grape and incense flavours. A satisfying finish is initially quite stern and dry with mineral notes, warmed by alcohol and a subtle background sherried sweetness.
Some brewers of Christmas beers seem to take the traditional sweet baked goods of the season as their model and produce sickly concoctions: that’s certainly not the case in this refined and delicious beer that should help ensure your Noël is indeed joli.
Read more about this beer at ratebeer.com: http://www.ratebeer.com/beer/abbaye-des-rocs-speciale-noel/9446/