24 December 2009

Vintage Notes: George Gale & Co. Ltd. 2001 Christmas Ale

Corked 9.3 oz bottle.  Pours deep garnet with little to no head or carbonation.  Nose of a classic oaked barleywine, almost reminiscent of oaked Olivers Three Lions or the like, with a prominent malt background.  Initial sip is tart--not surprising for Gales, which often cranks out its Prize Old Ale with a serious tartness.

The flavour is a surprise.  Between the woodiness and the acidity, this is more akin to a red wine with an old-ale nose than it is a barleywine, though at 8.5% it's dancing on the line between barleywine and old ale.  The front of the tongue tastes the toffee of malty barleywine, but the back of the tongue and throat taste tart raspberry/blackberry flavours, and the tart effects emphasize the berry character.  The tasting notes from the importer mention spices; come to think of it, this tastes like the "woodiness" of spices that have aged too long (chew a cinnamon stick that's boiled through three cups of cider, and you'll see what I mean).

Verdict:  Once again, don't sit on these these things too long.  This bears the signature of spices, and spiced beers don't age that well, if at all.  (Hint: don't age Anchor Our Special Ale unless you're a masochist for identifying such aged flavours.)

Well, you may not have the chance anyway.  In November 2005, the British mega-brewer Fuller's acquired George Gale & Co Ltd of Horndean, Hampshire, in a deal worth £92 million. The deal encompassed Gales' brewery in Horndean and 111 pubs, mostly in Hampshire and the South Coast of England.  Gales beers are now brewed at the Griffin Brewery in Chiswick.  Some batches of Prize Old Ale made it to recent real ale festivals, including the Chesapeake Real Ale Festival a couple years ago.......  The website alleges that they still do a Winter Brew.........

Has anyone seen this beer on the shelves anywhere in recent months, or years?

And with that:  Best wishes for a Merry Christmas, or any other winter holiday of the season you choose to celebrate...........

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