My trip to Germany left me feeling decidedly sated as regards beer and food, as trips to Germany are wont to do, so I took a few days off beer to try and regain both my appetite and a view of my feet. However, by the weekend I was ready for another drink and needing something suitably special to break my fast. Step forward Nøgne Ø's God Jul Islay Edition, a December gift from that big jolly man who lives up by the North Pole.
I've complained before about heavy-handed carbonation in Nøgne Ø beers, so I poured carefully. Yet the viscous dark brown beer showed no inclination to develop a head until I lifted the bottle high. The end result was a satisfying thick layer of foam which had melted away to a thin skim by the time it reached drinking temperature. And you have to allow it reach drinking temperature: somewhere around ambient. I discovered from drinking an excellent oak-aged barley wine of Barry's that if barrel-aged beers are served too cold, all you get it is the astringent wood. The actual beer needs a bit of warmth to come out from under that. And so it is here, the first pull was all medicine cabinet and little else, but given a little time indoors the complexities emerge.
Yes, that iodine-disinfectant flavour is still there at the front, with the peat you'd expect and also a salty seaweed tone. They really got their money's worth from that whisky cask. The beer under it adds a subtle undertone of clove and cinnamon spices, plus a mellow warmth from the smooth texture and 8.5% ABV. The light aftertaste is a fading dry woodiness and just the ghost of the peaty scotch.
As the label says, it's not a beer that even pretends to be balanced, but as a relatively light winter sipper it's lovely. If you're interested in the non-whiskified version, see Boak & Bailey's recent post thereon.