As usual, in order of tasting.
1) Red Hill Christmas Ale (8.3%): light fruit and spice with some alcohol smell. clear citrus front palate, big spice in the middle and alcohol back, which became more hoppy as it warmed up.
2) Hunter Christmas Beer (8.4%): Chocolate with cinnamon smell and much darker. The chocolate comes out more with warmth and there is a slight dusty coffee taste at the back. My favourite of the early beers.
3) Baladin Noel (9%): So after a few aussie attempts, we had a go at this Italian sample. Had a dark yeast smell at the start but warmed to become a bit fruitier. Lost of carbonation with a surypy malt, and tasting the alcohol from the midpalate.
Finally, to Belgium...
4) St Feuillien Cuvee de Noel (9%): Caramel look and smell as it warms with slight spice. Again, bit of carbonation and alcohol comes through more as it warms along with a bit of a spirit taste (for everyone reading this, Shanti noted this one as tasting like arse. Hope that is more informative than my own notes).
5) Huygue Delerium Christmas (10%): Get a banana smell initially (possibly caramel and alcohol in combo?), but becomes the well know bubblegum once it warms. There is a fair bit of alcohol, but do get some nice creaminess from it.
6) Achouffe N'ice (10%). One I had been looking forward to trying after not finding it in Belgium. Has a dark malt smell with a brown ale look. dark fruit and malt up front with some slight bubblegum. got some spirit flavour as well. I wrote 'I like caramel' in my tasting notes, so must be some caramel in it (just a guess).
7) St Bernardus Christmas Ale/Kert (10%): Actually did try this beer in Brugge at a beer festival in September. Has a nice caramel look and good tight frothy head with bubblegum smell and taste. Seems like candied sugar has been used the lighten and sweetend the bubblegum flavour, and overall seems well balanced.
8) Mikkeller's Santa's Little Helper (11%): CHOCOLATE! Smell reminds me of Holgate Choc Porter, so instantly love this beer. There is some hazy darkness (maybe the alcohol was hitting hard by this stage. What sort of comment is that?) to the smell, but absolutely no head on it at all. Little too much alcohol but overall very well rounded.
9) Eggenberg Samichlaus (14%): Yes, the alcohol is 14%, and this is a lager...damn those crazy Austrians! Aged for 8-9 months, I had an expectation of the alcohol being too much for it, but the aging really mellows out the flavours. Having had a few aged beers, I did not enjoy it as much as others I have had, but have to say this was the most impressive beer in the line up. With very little head on a light brown body, had a brown ale and alcohol smell, but a sweet honey flavour that also came with a bit of body. The alcohol did not seem overly pronounced, but after 10 minutes, my body sure felt the affects...
Still, I made sure to go back to the Mikkeller as my last beer, as there was some left over, so smelt and sipped that til we got kicked out. Of course, this was the only one not to be available to buy on the night (curses!), but will definitely be doing a taste of between this and the Holgate, so see if my hunch is close, and to have the Mikkeller on a fresher palate.
Congrats to the team at Slowbeer for another intense and interesting showcase of beer. Overall, Mikkeller was the personal favourite, a tie for second with St Bernard and Eggenberg, and third was the Hunter Chrissy beer. Good luck to the Sunday tasters getting through these. As with all the Slowbeer tastings I have been to, there is a definite feeling of tipsiness which is quite enjoyable, but as I have found, does not take away too much from the beers towards the end. Having re-tried many of the beers I think I enjoyed during the tastings on a fresh palate, I still find I enjoy them (Cantillon Kriek Lou Pepe, Mikkeller Black [Islay Barrel Edition]). Maybe all the different beers keep your taste buds on edge, even while your brain and body tries to cope with the alcohol in your system.