Spring is almost upon us (yeah, I know that Spring in Ireland officially begins on 1st February -- that's just mass self-delusional wishful thinking if you ask me). So I've been clearing out the final few Christmas ales I bought at the arse end of 2009. Not that there's anything wrong with drinking beers out of season, I just don't trust what'll happen to them when the house temperatures start going up.
Among the most outwardly seasonal is Gouden Carolus Christmas, a whopping 10.5%-er from a Belgian brewery already well known for its big full-flavoured beers. It pours a dark shade of amber, though without much by way of nose: normally I'd expect those funky Belgian yeast notes to be jumping out of the glass, but they're barely present. Nor is there any big boozy heat either. I was quite wrong-footed by the whole thing. Instead there's a sharp herbal bitterness to the taste, exactly like liquorice to me. The body is remarkably thin, though mercifully it's not too fizzy. And yet despite this thinness, the flavour runs for miles, leaving a long-lasting aniseed echo in almost exactly the way pastis does.
Yes, it's the Pernod-as-beer you've been waiting for all these years.