Teresa's Next Door last night led first to a wonderfully thirst quenching glass of De Ranke "Père Noël" (on tap), which led next to a leisurely perusal of the menu and, in turn, to a quite fortunate flip by my dining partner to the rear of Teresa's book of beers. To the holiday bottle page. To this little gem.
Noel de Calabaza Special Ale, Jolly Pumpkin (Blend 3, 2009)
9% abv. 750 ml bottles. Distributor: Shelton Brothers
"Noel de Calabaza" is a Belgian-style strong dark ale, brewed annually and released each winter holiday season by the wild fermenting, oak aging adventurers at Jolly Pumpkin. While in name it's the Christmas companion to "Oro de Calabaza," the only obvious similarity comes via that characteristic Jolly Pumpkin sour streak—part wild yeast, part lactic acid, entirely delicious. Otherwise, we're dealing with an entirely darker, maltier, spicier animal, albeit one that is eminently drinkable, just barely if at all hinting at its 9% alcohol level.
A year of bottle aging (notice the batch number, above) has rounded out the beer's mouthfeel and subdued its spiciness since this time last season, bringing the focus around to its dark fruited, wine-y nuance, yet plenty of vitality remains, suggesting that it will continue to develop through at least a couple more Noels. While, for me, it doesn't quite deliver in that instantly magical, "God damn, this is some serious gourmet shit" way that "Oro" does, it's nonetheless a damn fine holiday beer.