I’m enjoying one of my Holiday beers, which have been mellowing in bottles for about a month now. I am quite glad I bottled these in Grolsch bottles and not used regular caps. By the thinner body and strong “pop” of the stopper, these seem to have fermented a bit more in the bottle. I should take a hydrometer reading from a bottle, but I’m not sure how the carbonation might skew the numbers.
The color is dark, pretty much opaque black. There’s a light carbonation that develops into a nice creamy head, though not to the extent as you’d see in Guinness. Not a problem though, since this is more a dark Belgian style than a stout anyway.
The nose is still sweet, though much of that is actually coming from the vanilla, which is now very pronounced throughout the beer, but not in an extract kind of way. Typically brewers use vodka to leech the flavors out of the beans and add that to the beer at bottling time. the decision (or guess, as it was) to just crack the beans and add them into the secondary fermenter was sound; the beer’s own alcohol did a fine job of leeching the flavor, and I don’t have any of the bite associated with vodka or other leeching agents.
There’s a strong presence of cinnamon in the nose and taste as well, though not overbearing. The vanilla seems to be keeping many of the other spices in check, and the orange peel is keeping the vanilla in its place as well. All in all, very balanced as far as the adjuncts are concerned.
Mouth feel is still thick but not as syrupy as when I first tried it. It’s still quite heavy, but it definitely has a beer characteristic and not a liqueur characteristic. Carbonation is very present on the tongue, but not so much in the glass. By its appearance I was expecting a Guinness kind of feel to it, but it was very much carbonated (though not overly so).
Initial attack is hops and vanilla, quickly moving to caramel and roasted grains. Still many candy-like flavors popping in, which isn’t bad for this style of beer, and it has traces of coffee and citrus zest. Aftertaste is about the same – a nice blend of all the flavors, with a slight warming sensation in the back of the mouth, reminding you that you’re drinking a beer that’s likely pushing over 9% ABV by this point.
Overall I’m extremely happy with this one, and I’ll be duplicating it again next year. I may brew it in September though to ensure it’s ready for the Holidays. I’d better brew a double batch as well, since this one’s over half gone already! I don’t think this one will last much into January at this rate. I’ll be putting a few bottles aside to try as spring approaches.