This year a few new Christmas beers were released from Icelandic breweries, providing an opportunity for me to have a beer tasting with my friends again. A lot of the new beers were dark beers, porters and bocks, probably due to the popularity of the Einstök Christmas beer
Barleywines are very strong beer (around 10% alcohol) , which is why they are called wine despite being a beer. The high alcohol content and the fact that some of us had already had cocktails (not me
) lead to some flowery descriptions.
The first we had was Giljagaur
from Borg brewery. Last Christmas they had Þvörusleikir
, a beer that had my respect, despite it not being the type of beer I enjoy and which my flatmate really liked. Giljagaur is the second of the Jule Lads. He sneaks into cowsheds to steal milk.
The barleywine tastes like you know that Christmas is coming, but it is still some time away (my other flatmate had a poetic day). One can compare it to a dark winter night, according to another friend of mine who jumped on the whole being poetic about beer bandwagon. It is a low carbonated beer with a nice balance of bitter and sweet. There are slight hints of caramel and licorice in the sweet tones and not much of an aftertaste.
Jóli Barley Wine
from Ölvisholt brewery had the nicer label, though it is a bit confusing as it is the same label and name as the Jóli
Christmas Beer last year, which isn't the same as this one.
It inspired more beer poetry from my friends: "It tastes like Christmas morning with fresh snow. The Christmas tree is in the basement and there is a fire in the fireplace." Yet they actually liked it less than the beer before. There is a lot going on here, it is slightly citrusy with an oaky aftertaste, which might be nice, however it gets overpowered by the bitterness.
RIP wine glass, killed by Jeff and our dishwasher.
My (actually ex) flatmate and me decided to skip on going swimming and have more Christmas beers instead. We tried to be as poetic as the guys had been at the last tasting, but did not really succeed, maybe because we only had two 33ml beers with 6-7% alcohol for the both of us.
is another beer from Borg brewery and named after the Jule Lad which licks the pots after everyone had gone to bed. It is a "Brown Beer?" according to the label and confused Mariska who was in vain looking for something Christmassy about it. The description claims it has caramel, chocolate and coffee notes, none of us tasted them. It has a murky dark colour, is little carbonated and has a nice foam crown (as a German I appreciate beer foam). After I finished my glass and some effort I decided it tastes like the smell of pine. It is not bad, not too bitter, not too sweet, a beer you can give to everyone and which will be liked and then forgotten. Meh.
a doppelbock from the mother company of Borg brewery and biggest beverage company in Iceland, Egills, was more memorable. You might want to drink this beer after a walk in the snow in front of a fire while the wind is howling outside. Ok, half a beer and poetry happens with me, in Icelandic they call this "hænuhaus" (chickenhead). Not that having a low tolerance for alcohol is a bad thing in a country where any of these 33cl bottles of Christmas beer cost something between 2-3 €.
Boli has a clear dark colour, is medium carbonated and has another nice foam crown (maybe I just get better at pouring?). The outstanding taste here is the smokey flavour. It is quite mild though and balanced out by the slightly sweet licorice taste. It isn't a beer I would drink all night, but I would enjoy a glass with my dessert.
Dark chocolate and bitter licorice
Jóla Kaldi Chocolate Porter
was a beer I was excited about because a) chocolate and b) Jóla Kaldi
was my favourite Christmas beer last year. It tastes like very dark chocolate (more bitter than sweet). Case closed, we can go home now, we have a winner. What there is still a licorice beer to be reviewed? Well I guess if I have to (my flatmate, who I still refuse to call ex-flatmate refused to give up the chocolate beer for science).
Steðji almáttugur jólaöl
is the darker sibling of the Steðji Jólabjór
which positively surprised me last year. Unfortunately here the licorice did not work out. The beer smells repugnant (can licorice rot?) It tastes like weirdly bitter licorice. This is the worst of the licorice added beers and the worst of the ones tried this year. Sorry Steðji.
- Jóla Kaldi Chocolate Porter -- mhhh chocolate
- Boli doppelbook -- smokey and interesting
- Giljagaur -- nice if you like sweelty, malted beers (but the Einstök Icelandic Doppelbock one is better
- Potaskefill -- good, but a bit meh
- Jóli Barley Wine -- interesting, but does not really come together
- Steðji almáttugur jólaöl -- what happened Steðji? You got Licorice and beer so right last year and now, ugh.
My favourite Christmas beer is still Jóla Kaldi, but Jóla Kaldi Chocolate Porter comes as a second and I prefer it over Einstök Icelandic Doppelbock, which I found a bit sweet.