12 Bottles of Christmas – Part 3

By: Stephen Beaumont

Bottle #7: Gouden Carolus Cuvée van de Keizer Rood

‘Rood’ does not mean ‘rude,’ but rather ‘red,’ and notwithstanding the certain amount of fame that the Cuvée van de Keizer Blauw, or ‘Blue,’ has received, this may be the Het Anker brewery’s finest ale.

Originally styled as the brewery’s Easter beer, the popularity of an ale that would only be available for a month or so prompted Het Anker to rebrand it as a year-round sibling to the Blauw. Medium gold to the Blauw’s dark brown, and slightly hazy, it has a honeyish nose with hints of tangerine and ample amounts of sweet floral notes. On the palate, it leads with a wild flower honey sweetness before transitioning to a more pale caramel, sweet citrus and green grape malt body, with lightly spicy notes in reserve and a warming strength on the finish.

Overall, this ale is too sweet to act as an aperitif, although its countenance might suggest such a role, and it lacks the weight of a proper digestif. A bottle shared in the mid to late afternoon, however, or enjoyed over the course of a relaxed evening, would make it just about the ideal tipple.   


Bottle #8: Founders CBS

The Founders Brewing Company of Grand Rapids, Michigan is many things. It is the brewery behind the juggernaut All Day IPA. It is a ‘Can’t Miss’ brewery from my and Tim Webb’s latest book, Best Beers, one of only 107 so designated in the world. It is 30% owned by Mahou San Miguel, a large brewing company based in Spain.

And it is the brewer of this very occasional masterpiece of a beer, the initials of which – in case you didn’t figure it out from depiction of a Mountie on the label – stand for Canadian Breakfast Stout.

Although, in truth, there is nothing at all Canadian about this beer. It is a very strong, chocolate- and coffee-flavoured Imperial stout that has spent time conditioning in ex-bourbon barrels that were subsequently used to age and flavour maple syrup – all ingredients and vessels being American in origin. But where some beers speak boldly to the bourbon-y, vanilla-accented flavours of their barrel, this speaks most softly of maple and bourbon and coffee and chocolate and all the gorgeous complexity they together convey.

Served at cellar temperature – please, I beg of you, don’t serve this too cold! – CBS offers aromatic notes of espresso and chocolate brownie, raisins and maple syrup, along with warming and boozy br own sugar notes vaguely evocative of some dark, aged rums. On the palate, it is all unctuous luxuriousness, with various flavours rising and ebbing, though always in delicious harmony. And the finish, oh that finish! – alcohol and mocha and roasted maple sugar and satisfaction.

Limited quantities of this beer are presently available in Ontario’s LCBO and various amounts have also been shipped to other areas in which Founders sells its beers. If you can, you should get some and enjoy it this winter, since despite its strength and fortitude, this is not a beer for aging.

Bottle #9: Central City Brewers + Distillers Queensborough Gin

When Central City Brewing outgrew its suburban shopping centre location, it was decided to add a distillery to the new 65,000 square foot facility that the company built not far from the original brewpub. According to brewer and co-owner Gary Lohin, it was an easy call to make, since the cost of the distilling licence was but a drop in the bucket when compared to the expense of the entire project.
One suspects that more serious consideration went into the decision to support that distilling licence with not one, but three German-built stills of differing sizes and capabilities. Although it took Lohin and distiller Stuart McKinnon some time to work out the kinks in their new system – the distillery’s first gin, Seraph, was less than a complete success – recent developments have shown much more promise and, in the case of this spirit, promise fulfilled.
Queensborough Gin is styled as a classic London dry gin, fitting the bill nicely with a full bouquet of locally-sourced juniper accented by the intriguing New World twist of spruce tips, resulting in a nose that offers faintly piney, citrusy and floral juniper, subtly evocative rather than overtly reminiscent of an evergreen forest. On the palate, a sweetish and fruity front gives way first to a creamy but drier mid-palate packing notes of resinous herbs, then juniper and piney flavours and finally a peppery, just off-dry finish.
This bottle has racked up some impressive awards this year, and deservedly so. Once it becomes available in Ontario, it will have a steady presence in my liquor cabinet.