I can only assume that Nøgne Ø, Stone and Jolly Pumpkin named their collaboration Special Holiday Ale because you need a whole day off to pour it. It comes out thick with lots of bubbles and a head that keeps on rising. When it eventually calms down you're left with a hefty layer of ivory foam over a murky dark-brown body. The recipe is a bit of a mad concoction, incorporating white sage, carraway, juniper and chestnuts. I couldn't really pick out any of these, though. Instead, the over-riding flavour for me is cloves, and a bit of cinnamon for the full Christmas cake effect. There's a sizeable note of mentholyptus as well, plus a bitterness at the base which I'm guessing derives from some fairly generous hopping. More than anything it reminds me of Phúca, the spiced ale Franciscan Well released a couple of Christmases back, though Phúca did balance its spices with a lovely sweet stratum of gooey maple syrup.
Overall, the involved recipe balances out into a smooth, softly carbonated and enjoyable winter ale. At 8.5% ABV it's warming without being particularly heady, or in any way difficult to drink. Perfect for that cosy buzz by the fireside. Not that I'm ready for any firesides for the next few months.
Thanks to Knut Albert for the bottle: both are great ambassadors for Norwegian beer.
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