Or in the case of a Christmas blind tasting, how about a classic coming out on top (to prove why classics are classics) and for there to be a jaw-dropping surprise at the top of the results table too…
The final tasting of the year, which came hot on the heels of the Golden / Summer Ales session, set a few new records and firsts. For a start, there was a record for the breadth of reasons potential judges had for being unable to attend: anniversary with girlfriend, Meredith Music Festival, finishing a soundtrack to a movie, wedding in New Zealand, daughter’s Christmas show etc. All of which led to firsts such as: first female panelist (about bloody time, you say), first blogger / beer writer on the panel, and first time without Prof PIlsner as steward.
The last of these meant we had to step up to the plate (although he did provide glassware and his AIBA apron) and do the stewarding. So, having received lengthy instructions from the master (a 14-word text message), we spent the evening pouring, clearing, cleaning and repouring rather than supping and scoring. And, what do you know, it’s actually just as entertaining, not least because you know what beers are coming out and thus can eavesdrop on the comments, a process that indicated just how perceptive one of the judges making their debut (a brewer) was.
“It tastes old, like it’s been in a warm room for a few months. Or because it’s four or five years old,” he said while tasking a four-year-old beer.
“Now that’s the spice characteristic I’ve been waiting for,” as a world classic came out (and was promptly put to one side for later “in case there wasn’t any more left for when we’re finished”.)
Other than those changes, however, the process, scoring and everything else remained the same. And the results were as enjoyable to reveal as ever.
With Christmas ales coming in a few shapes and sizes (with the first flight like a set of traffic lights in shades of gold and brown), there was a little leeway within the scoring. Most beers were spiced, but not all. Some used Belgian yeasts, others were based on winter warmers from the UK. So while “How Christmassy is this beer?” played a part, their quality as a beer regardless was also taken into consideration with one beer (HopDog’s Secret Santa 2013) being praised for feeling like “an Aussie Christmas”.
As seems to be the case more often than not, a beer that is widely regarded as a – if not the – classic of its style came out on top. But while many might have predicted St Bernadus appearing at the top of the pile, no one would have picked number two.
With drop outs meaning that the panel was only four strong, we were able to pull a few more beers from the fridge for the tasting as one 330ml stubby was enough to supply the four judges. As such, there were a couple of obscure ones and also a chance to pull out five vintages of Red Hill’s Christmas Ale plus their one-off barrel-aged version from a couple of years back. Those beers took out three of the top eight spots and for the most part seemed to show some logic: the beer’s scores got slightly lower with age, except… the oldest, from 2008, scored higher than all except the barrel-aged version.
Anyway, congrats to Goodieson, the SA brewery that came in second and provided the final jaw-dropping moment of the year.
- St Bernadus Christmas Ale – Purvis Beer Richmond (shelf)
- Goodieson Christmas Ale 2011 – from the brewery cellar door
- Ní¸gne í God Jul – Purvis Beer Richmond
- Red Hill Double Barrel Christmas Ale 2010 – from the brewery
- Mad Abbot Christmas Ale 2013 – from the brewery
- HopDog BeerWorks Secret Santa 2013 – from the brewery
- Red Hill Christmas Ale 2008 – from the brewery
- Red Hill Christmas Ale 2013 – from the brewery
- Sideshow Brewers / Kooinda Decembeer – from the brewery
- Moon Dog Dasher’s Envy 2012 – from the brewery
- Lobethal Bierhaus Christmas Ale 2013 – from the brewery (by courier the day before the tasting after the brewer drove across town to send them – legend!)
- Red Hill Christmas Ale 2012 – from the brewery
- HopDog BeerWorks Secret Santa 2011 – from the brewery
- Red Hill Christmas Ale 2010 – from the brewery
- Red Hill Christmas Ale 2009 – from the brewery
- Rogue Santa’s Private Reserve – Purvis Beer Richmond
- Black Heart Brewery Christmas Ale – from the brewery
See you in 2014 for more Blind Tasting action! If you’re in Adelaide, pencil in Jan 11 as we’re holding a public one at The Wheaty- IPAs. Full details soon…
Thanks to the Terminus for the use of their upstairs room.