Father Christmas Highland Ale
1L bottle, $11.99 & new 2-pack 12 oz’s, $7-something, 9.6% ABV
Purchased at Parkview Wine and Spirits and Maximum Beverage
I’m about to step in a minefield. I’m going to do something many museums, trail maintainers, are breweries have urged me to do over the years: Re-try something a second time.
I just don’t have the time, money, or wherewithal to do that. In the case of this winter seasonal from my friends at Olde Burnside, it was more of an accident rather than anything else.
You see, since I started on this crack-headed “review every beer in Connecticut” thing, Olde Burnside has undergone a bit of a transformation. A slight rebranding, a bottling line, new packaging and now brewery tours and such. But the real reason I had this beer twice was because the first time, I found it at a package store in late summer and after talking to Jason from the brewery, I learned it was probably pretty darn old.
Note: It was still very good.
Olde Burnside is not sparing with the descriptors. They like to tell stirring Scottish stories to give their beers a bit of a backstory. The funny thing is, this backstory changed from the old flip-top blue (quite attractive) liter bottles to the new (handsome) boxed 12-ounce 2-packs. Which are insanely affordable for what you’re getting here, by the way.
In fact, I had to double check with Jason that the store I bought them at hadn’t screwed up.
Olde Burnside Said in 2012:
Legend has it that Father Christmas wandered through Scottish villages gathering a merry following and distributing sweets to children and “wee heavy,” a cheery libation, to adults. Like its predecessors, Father Christmas is heavy and potent, tremendously and uniquely satisfying and flavorful. The aroma of toasted grain and mocha are mouth-watering. Father Christmas Ale is ruddy and ruby-brown, topped by a thick, loose, tan head. Sweet, roasted malt and mild smoky tastes merge into a phenomenal finish. The tall, cobalt-blue bottle, brightly labeled, makes for a wonderful presentation and host’s gift. Delightful in every respect, Father Christmas Highland Ale is a Yuletide staple and Santa’s favorite. He enjoys a pint at my house annually and never spares a drop.
That’s a bold claim, OB. No, not that Father Christmas himself drops in and drinks a beer with you; rather, that Father Christmas Highland Ale is a “Yuletide staple.”
While the OB boys have been doing great things in getting the world out about their non-flagship beers, I think they still have a ways to go. They currently brew and sell 9 beers. For every 100 people who have have OB beer, I’d bet that 97 of them have only ever had the Ten Penny.
And that’s lamentable, because their lesser-known beers are their best.
Now in 2013, I tried the new boxed 12-ounce Father Christmas. The box has an entirely different tale printed on it:
Olde Burnside Says in 2013:
During “Yuletide,” leading up to the Scottish New year celebration of “Hogmanay,” the ancient tradition of “wassailing” was popular in the Highlands. Dressed in his tartan plaid with long flowing robes against the cold Highland winds, Father Christmas would lead a merry band of villagers from door to door. At each stop, laden with sweets and coins for the children, Father Christmas was offered a “wee heavy,” a favorite libation shared with everyone present!
Wait. Even the kids? Actually, in old timey northern Scotland? Absolutely.
The box continues on wishing us “the best the season has to offer” and notes that the ale is “a traditional wee heavy Scottish ale with a cherry finish.” (the “wee heavy” in question is their own Ten Penny Reserve if you’re curious.)
My 2013 experience was excellent. I had a bottle one night after having Two Roads’ Holiday Ale. To be fair, the Holiday Ale is a completely different style of beer, but even so, it didn’t come close to the Father Christmas.
While I loved the big blue swing-top bottle, having fresh beer (even if this should age fairly well) with a fresh backstory (with drunken Scottish kids) and a fresh (real) Christmas tree to take the picture with… I’m totally down with this seasonal.
I typically dislike many seasonals with their syrups and spices and other nonsense. Father Christmas has a tart cherry finish that I really enjoyed.
“Now, thrice welcome Christmas!
Which brings us good cheer,
Mince pies and plum pudding –
Strong ale and strong beer!”
Overall Rating: A-
Rating vs. Similar style: A