Thursday, February 2, 2012

Nils Oscar Julöl - Vintage 2007 - Swedish Christmas Beer

Hey guys, I'm back (finally!) and just about two weeks from my last post. I really have been feeling the need to post more regularly and as we say goodbye to the first month of the new year, I've a mere two posts under my belt. Let's say that I'll make it my resolution to post more frequently. I would love to post once a week so I'll see what I can do about that. In any case, the review I am bringing to you tonight is a real treat. I plucked this bottle of Swedish borne beer from the shelves of the bottle shop of Brouwerij de Molen, in Bodegraven, Netherlands during my visit this past spring. It was the first time I'd seen available Swedish beer of any kind and knew immediately that I'd have to purchase a bottle. And so the story goes...I've had it in my possession for right around nine months and I'm well inside the drink by date of November of 2014. As I usually do, I've conducted a bit of research into the unheard of beer style of Julöl and found out some interesting facts...

Julöl is strictly a seasonally brewed beer. When translated, the word actually means: Christmas Beer. It is released in November/December in Sweden and is usually consumed on or near Christmas Day. Looking more into the Julöl style, it would seem that pinpointing an exact flavour profile is nearly impossible. I'd say one might be able to equate it to asking your bartender to define the term: winter warmer, and consequently for them to provide you a typical flavour profile. A winter warmer is surely an ambiguous case flavour-wise, but what defines it is the fact that it is usually a bit darker, stronger, and released and consumed in the winter months. I've seen Julöl beers placed in a wide range of categories, from Vienna Lagers, Dark Lagers, Belgian Style Dark Ales, and even English Style Strong Ales. This one in particular just so happens to be from the Nils Oscar Bryggeri and it also happens to be a Belgian Style Strong Dark Ale (what a mouthful!). Just like many other styles of beer on the market today, Nils Oscar Bryggeri will release a new one each year, printing on the side of the bottle, the vintage. The one in my possession just so happens to be of the 2007 variety. The specific recipe for the '07 vintage is retired but Nils Oscar continues to release a new vintage each year, and changing the recipe as they do.

Nils Oscar Bryggeri is located about 100 km south of Stockholm in Nyköping. It was founded in 1996 and has since moved locations several times. To this date this is the one and only Swedish brewed beer I have ever consumed. So I am super excited to crack this guy open and have a taste to see what I've been sitting on. Onto the tasting notes!

Name: Julöl
Category/Style: Belgian Style Strong Dark Ale
ABV: 8.00%
IBU: Unknown
OG: Unknown
FG: Unknown
Malt Type(s): Six different varieties
Hop Type(s): Amarillo, Saaz, Pacific Gem and Cascade
Yeast Type: Belgian
Special Additives: None
Bottled: Unknown
Bottle Size: 500 mL
Location Purchased: Brouwerij de Molen Bottleshop, Bodegraven, Netherlands

The Pour: Dark chestnut brown, reddish dark copper hue. Head is light cream colored, dissipates quickly to a ring around the edge. Lacing is non-existent.

The Nose: Wow. To say malt forward here would be an understatement! Massive amount of malt up front. Syrupy caramelly toasty and nutty, full-on sweetness on the nose! Heaps of dark fruit, lots of dried fig and raisin; very vinous. Very slight roasted coffee character in the back, some chocolate notes as well. It's very port-like and there's a detectable amount of spice, definitely some cinnamon there, a little bready pumpernickel character as well. Smells well-aged; a little dusty/musty, it is from 2007 after all. Oh man, this smells amazing! I have to go in for a taste...

The Taste: Carb is low to medium. Not as sweet as one might expect. Lots of other things going on in there. Initially it has a very sharp bite, almost astrigent as the other flavours attempt to vie for control over the palate. It is malty sweet, a little toast and spice. Body is a little watery initially but the caramel, dark roasted coffee and pumpernickel swoop in near the end and make this one a real pleasure to drink. A little sweetness and roasted bitterness on the finish. Maybe a very slight trace of smoke? The alcohol only shows up near the very end when a little bit trickles up into your nose and you can feel a hint of warmth on the back of the throat. Despite the fact that this one is a bit thin body-wise, the complexity was astounding.

The Verdict: Aroma-wise I was amazed when I took my first whiff. It reminds me so much of high quality English Old Ales (most namely the Fullers Vintage I recently reviewed) as well as the hefty German Doppelbocks. It's almost like some sort of hybrid of the two, so titled Julöl (Christmas Beer). These Julöl are only available in Sweden during the month of December, but it's no shock why this was found sitting on the shelf of the bottle shop of Brouwerij de Molen, it's incredibly complex and not to mention, delicious. It combines the bready, malty sweetness of a Doppelbock with the dark fruit characteristics of the Old Style Ales and the roasty, toasty and chocolate characteristics of a Porter to create one heck of a brew. Like I said, a bit thin body-wise, but it more than makes up for it with the rest of the flavours you will be attempting to pick out while you work your way through the bottle. Don't forget that it's 8.00%! It is the perfect thing to consume with a friend or loved one on a winters night by the fire. As for availability I have no idea. I bought this bottle all the way over in the Netherlands in April and it has survived the long trek with me back to Seattle. If you're looking for a winter warmer, nice holiday brew, or just something different, Nils Oscar Julöl is the answer. Look it up, find it, buy it, drink it and enjoy it, you will not be disappointed.

Thanks for reading!


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