Next on my list, as I mark my way through the next load of papers to get sorted and there is a fire on in the other room. So, to join the warmth and leave the pile of marking behind, to relax and to ruminate on the start of the new year and to take stock of this madness where I'm drinking twelve ales in twelve evenings. I suspect I'm mad. Which is why I'm cracking open the Festive Star from Northern Monk Brewing Company and their fine stable of ales.
I really ought to get back to Leeds and sample their brewery taps in the centre again, it was a lovely place and great company. Would you like to know more?
First impressions are that this smells like Christmas in a glass, this is likely down to the cinnamon and nutmeg that have been used in the brew, but it is very Christmassy and thus different to what I expected. I blame having a proper stout last night for this odd effect. Even so, it pours nicely into my glass with the sort of viscosity that one would associate with a good porter and there is a feeling that something is being done right and for the right reasons. the head forms easily enough and there is a biscuit tinge to it but this is a swift-ish head, falling to nothing within a minute or two and then leaving only the skein of popping bubbles from the carbonation. There may be something of the coffee on the nose but mainly it is smothered by the Christmas spices that have been used in the construction. Good deep brown colour too, that tends toward the black but doesn't quite manage the depth and darkness of the stouts that I have had recently. It's warmer and flatter in character than the Black Christmas of yesterday (I shan't bother including a link, it was yesterday) and yet it is still a decent brew and one that I am glad I left later.
Onto the tongue and this is a surprising indeed. Big activity with the carbonation but a tickly sensation rather than an over-powering fizz and celebration ale. It brings a big hit of the coffee with it, bubbling through and with a back up of the sort of chocolate that one finds in a mocha, or, at least, the mocha I've had at work so I'm not sure it does the job. This fills the mouth and mingles with the nutmeg that swirls around the edges. There's a malt there, struggling in amongst the eddies of the coffee and the cinnamon, but it does the job of delivering the smooth character of the ale as a whole. Dry and roasted but with a strange moistness to it from the Christmas spices rather than the actual ale itself. I suspect that the non-Christmas version is actually better than the one I have in my hands right now. However, this is not a suggestion that this is an inferior ale, far from it, this is a good ale and one of the better ones that I have had on my recent endeavour. I like the way this works and the way it all hangs together. I like the flatness of the character across the tongue and the smooth roasted feel toward the end of the mouthful before it all falls away to a wormhole of smooth cream.
I keep mentioning the word 'smooth' in this review. But it is, the whole thing is smooth and slippery, so that it just slips down and doesn't hang about. For 5.9% ABV it is deceptive and almost light, so that I feel I ought to be having more but that would just wreck me now that I'm back at work. No, this is a brilliant ale to be having on a cold evening as the fire roars and the children are elsewhere (the bath and bed, reading). Even so, I like it. For a Christmas ale perhaps I ought to have had it closer to the day itself to properly reward the spices and get all I could from the milky finish and the sweet opening but it is not completely lost. This really is like a Festive coffee mocha that reminds me of what the whole holidays were and what they stood for. Alas, misplaced for it being part of a marking evening but I can't complain about the fact that it allows me to relax a little and take a deep breath before jumping headlong into the rest of the week.
Enjoy best closer to Christmas, or at least whilst still on holiday, so that you can indulge the spice and the coffee and take a moment to go 'ah' as you sit back deeper in the chair. Maybe on Boxing Day as the meals are raging and immediately afterward someone asks you if you'd like a coffee - you decline and have this instead. Good with the turkey and the gravy and the sprouts and the family and the arguments and the crappy film that you secretly love on the telly. It's worth getting in and storing for another year, come to think of it, and it will reward you waiting well.