I recently had Corsendonk Christmas Ale for the first time and was duly impressed. Beer has been brewed at the Corsendonk Priory for centuries — originally by monks. This rich historical tradition adds an interesting depth to many Europeans beers.
Corsendonk Christmas Ale is an excellent illustration of a point I made in an earlier column on winter seasonals: When spices are used in this style, they are skillfully and subtly done. When I first tasted this one, I couldn’t tell whether any spices were used at all. Many Belgian yeast strains produce a remarkable amount of spicy phenols entirely on their own, and I wasn’t sure if that’s all that was at play here.
According to Corsendonk’s website, they do indeed use “a touch of coriander” in their Christmas ale. But it’s so well done you aren’t left with a hideous coriander monster; you get a perfectly balanced beer with some dark fruit, a hint of chocolate, a range of spiciness both from the yeast and the coriander and a dry finish.
When I found this on the shelf at my local Western, it was packaged in a six-pack with a unique Corsendonk Christmas Ale glass: a short stemmed glass with the beer’s logo and a gold ring around the rim. That’s one of the fun traits of many Belgian beers — most have their own glassware.
In some cases glassware contributes to the overall sensory experience of drinking beer. A snifter really does concentrate the aroma of beer. A weizen glass is tall with room for the giant creamy head. The Samuel Adams glass has laser etching to increase the release of carbonation.
But with most Belgian beers, glassware is a matter of branding and a way to enhance the beer’s aesthetic. Such is the case with the Corsendonk Christmas glass. It’s very elegant, and the gold on the rim has a look that might remind you of fine china only brought out at holiday meals. It’s a fun way to enjoy a great beer.
In a perfect world (a.k.a. most states other than Alabama) you could enjoy the full aesthetic experience of this beer by pouring it into the elegant glassware from a corked 750 ml bottle, to enjoy with your honey glazed ham and candied yams at Thanksgiving. Oddly, that bottle is illegal in Alabama. Give us another year or two and Free The Hops will get to work on that.
“Hopped Up” is a weekly brew review by Danner Kline, founder of Free the Hops and co-organizer of the annual Magic City Brewfest. Send your feedback to email@example.com