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Brew Review: Nogne O Winter Ale (God Jul)

2010 April 9

Brewery: Nogne O Grimstad, Norway

Style: English Porter

ABV: 8.5%

Served: Pint Glass from 16.9 oz. bottle. Purchased at Table & Vine for $5.99.

I’m excited to make my first of many reviews of international beers. Plan on plenty more, from the likes of Scotland, Belgium, Ireland, and Canada. A glancing blow of rain and cool temps from a parting winter has me reaching for another dark ale, this one from Norway, a nation not particularly known for its beer. There’s an interesting article about this brewery and Norway beer culture here.

The Winter Ale (known as God Jul outside the U.S.) pours a tarry black, with a steady and dense mocha crown about two fingers thick. The nose is a bouquet that brings all the tidings of Christmas. Amazing aromas of toffee, raisins, licorice, rock candy, dark roasted coffee and chocolate make amazing promises. The taste is a bit more subtle. The coffee follows through,  with dark chocolate, smoke, and a port-like quality striking a softer tone than the smell indicated. The mouthfeel is very smooth and creamy, but not the oily viscosity of an Imperial Stout. The dark ale finish is dry, classy, and evokes black cherries and burnt roasty malt.

This beer is not self-described as an English Porter. The brewer merely recommends it as a dark ale good for cold winter nights. This brew seems to be attempting to reconcile more traditional porters and dark ales with the new generation of challenging impies. It’s a very solid beer, but it doesn’t quite land with me. I think I’ve tried enough traditional porters and Strong Ales, that this compromise is just that: a compromise, not the best of both worlds. Very good, but not in my Keeper’s List. B+

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