12 Beers of Christmas | Day 10: Goose Island 2013 Sixth Day
‘Tis the season to sample the myriad Christmas concoctions that are offered throughout the cold months every year. At this time of year, I’m always on the lookout for something I’ve never tried before. Goose Island, always innovating and experimenting, provided that opportunity with this year’s version of their “Sixth Day” Christmas Ale.
I was pleasantly surprised when I saw this in a local liquor store in Ohio and quickly made the purchase. Despite the 2011 sale of the company to Anheuser-Busch InBev, Goose Island has maintained most of its craft brewery feel and continues to produce creative and new products. Their yearly release of Sixth Day is no different.
Every year the Sixth Day Christmas Ale, labeled as “A Festive Brown Ale,” is brewed with a slightly new recipe. The 2013 edition pours a very dark brown color with a lasting head that persists to the very last sip. The nose is vastly different from many of the other Christmas ales out there. This beer focuses less on the spices typically associated with a seasonal brew in this category and instead aims to warm with its high alcohol content and big, warm malty flavors. As a result, there is no cinnamon, ginger, clove or other spices on the nose, replaced up front by dark, dried fruit, slight boozy alcohol and sweet biscuity-maltiness that often accompanies a barleywine. Behind the big scents, I noticed a hint of vanilla and some piney, spiciness from the hops as well.
The first sip caught me by surprise and I audibly said “whoa” as I swallowed the first sip. The beer is big, with a variety of flavors that are at first hard to place. Initially you’re hit with a candy-sweet brown sugar taste with a little bit of the vanilla that was present in the nose. As the flavors seem to swirl in your mouth, you can pick out the caramel and malty grains that lend the beer its dark color along with some bitterness and piney hop flavors that blend with the continued sweetness. The hops seem to be the most-Christmassy flavors of the beer, which sets it apart from the majority of spice-heavy Christmas Ales out there. Sixth Day finishes with a lingering sweetness and a lasting hoppiness.
The heavy sweetness followed by a rush big flavors that seemed to confuse my palate on the first taste made me uncertain of how I felt about Sixth Day initially, but as the flavors slowly faded away, I found myself reaching for the glass again and again. Maybe it’s the high alcohol content, but as I got further into the glass, the flavors began to blend together, complementing each other. The relatively high IBUs for a Christmas Ale nicely balanced the sweetness and alcohol of Sixth Day.
The sweetness of this beer will likely keep me to just one or two of these at a sitting, but this unique and different take on the seasonal specialty is a nice changeup to many of the others out there and I will likely be reaching for another bottle on the next cold and snowy night.