The Spencer Brewery - 2015 Trappist Holiday Ale
- ABV: 9%
- Bottle Size: 750-ml
- Serving Temperature: 46–54° F
- Suggested Glassware: Tulip, Chalice, Goblet or Pinot Glass
Kicking off this very special, vintage-y, delicious roundup of releases for our latest Rare Beer Club special offer is an abbey-cellared release from the U.S.’s first Trappist brewery. A lightly spiced holiday ale from Spencer, after two+ years of cellaring behind it, it’s developed into something sublime. Aged notes of rich caramels and more contribute layers that expand this beer into something else, giving it entirely new dimensions. This pours slightly hazed with a reddish-amber core, capped by fine-bubbled, lightly tan foam that’s in this for the long haul.
The aromatics here are generous, a brilliant combo of Belgian-style esters and phenolics (all kinds of pepper and fruit) with that emergent caramelization at the center contributing notes of toffee and butterscotch. The spicing throughout this beer stays on the subtle side, all sorts of allspice and mace and holiday-like mulling elements, but integrated as secondary notes. A moderately spritzy carbonation gives this a lively feel overall, and the flavors emerge in many series of waves: intense dark fruits and strawberry; white-peppery phenolics and winter spice; smooth caramel and nougat and spice-cake-like sweetness. Everything in balance. This is our favorite so far from Spencer: hugely detailed, Belgian-y vibe, at a perfect spot in its cellaring.
The brewery suggests aging their Trappist Holiday Ale upright, and its future ageability now (having been cellared by the monks of St. Joseph’s Abbey since 2015) is really up to you. We found the degree of caramelization in this beer at this point is exactly where we happen to be enjoying it over the longer trajectory of its lifetime. Its caramelization and subtle sherry levels from oxidation at this point seem ideal, but this is unfiltered, unpasteurized, and ready to go for a bit more time in the cellar as needed. The soft spicing had us thinking conservatively in terms of pairings: creamy, vanilla- or butter-driven desserts—or maybe a caramel-apple pie?
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