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Jan
14

Special Holiday Ale

By Andy Murphy
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I really have no idea how to describe today’s beer. For the full story, be sure to read the tale of collaboration posted at The Stone Blog.

“Special Holiday Ale” is a joint venture of Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales, Stone Brewing Company, and Nøgne Ø.

I came across Special Holiday Ale at my liquor store when its seemingly simple bottle — featuring a triangle linking the logos of Stone, Jolly Pumpkin, and Nøgne Ø — stood out simply by being so understated. I picked it up and, upon further inspection, surprising details became apparent. One such example being a haiku by Jolly Pumpkin’s head brewer, Ron Jeffries:

Triad formed
saged hills speak slowly
a beer is born

The bottle isn’t the only thing about this beer I would describe as nuanced.

Poured into a Duvel tulip glass, the ale is black cherry red. The beer developed a terrific foamy head that glided up the glass like a true Belgian. The color is tricky — it looks brown until the light catches it, revealing red highlights. It’s quite beautiful.

But the aroma, often a beer’s second chance to make a first impression, is complex enough to approach off putting. Stick with it though and you’re in for a treat.

For insight, let’s start out with the ingredients list. The list starts out simply enough: barley, hops, water, and yeast. Then comes malted oats and rye malt, which you don’t see often. But then things get decidedly strange — chestnuts, juniper berry, white sage & caraway seed!

The sage seems to dominate the nose; and it’s a leading player in the taste, too, toying with the toasty malts and hops. There’s a warm spicy element, which I think is the juniper but really don’t know.

Rich.

The description I keep returning to is “rich”. The velvet mouth feel, the robust aroma, the 9% Alc/Vol, the complexity of the flavors — there’s a richness to this beer that is undeniable. Also undeniable, this collaboration is a beer worth savoring.

If you find a bottle someplace, take your time.

After all, saged hills speak slowly.

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