Its 1991, I’m eight years old and my family and I are gathered around the Christmas tree in the basement of our split level home. The fire is crackling in the fireplace, the remnants of gifts so carefully wrapped, lay strewn about and the smell of Swedish tea ring still lingers in the pine-scented air. I had one gift left to open and I was hoping, praying, that it was a Flying Fighter, the toy plane, that could really fly! I ripped open the green and red paper, throwing it aside, my eyes set resolutely on the single goal of uncovering my dream gift. And there it was, the sun reflecting off the sleek wing, I could practically picture myself snuggled in the cockpit, bolting through the sky, weaving between the clouds. And then, I opened the box. This was curious, I thought, this plane has a handle on it. The ones in the commercial had no handle, they flew all on their own, bolting and weaving. It was then I realized I’d been had. The polished ads made this the most sought after gift for my naive eight year old self. And yet, it didn’t fly.
While not as tragic, and not nearly as dramatic, this was a bit of my experience with Goose Island Christmas Ale. It was truly a winter wonderland outside my parent’s door, 18 inches and counting, of soft, fluffy snow had settled in the nooks and crannies of everything outdoors. The beer poured a thin, clear, but dark amber with light, intermittent bubbles finding their way to the top. After the small, tan head dissipated, the surface had little islands of retention floating above the reddish liquid below. The smell, mostly nutty and a bit metallic, didn’t lure me in, but as it warmed gained a bit of traction with cloves and nutmeg notes drifting lazily out of the glass. The nutty smell carried through in the tongue as well, finishing long and lasting, preceded by the high point of this beer, an incredible buttery smoothness, not too thick and not too watery. It coated my mouth, lingering down my throat for several seconds after I swallowed.
All in all, although it wasn’t as traumatizing as the Flying Fighter, I was expecting a full bodied, deep, rich hearty brew, something to warm Santa’s belly and make us all a bit more jolly. Had I read the fine print where it revealed itself as a Brown Ale, I perhaps wouldn’t have even picked it up off the shelf. So, if you love brown ales and you’re in the mood for a smooth one, this may be just your ticket for a bit of holiday cheer.