Gouden Carolus Noël 2008 Review

 Gouden Carolus Noël is a winter seasonal ale from Anker brewery, Brouwerij Het Anker, in Belgium. This beer is classified as a Belgian dark strong ale and it certainly fits the bill weighing in at 10.5% abv. According the the brewer’s website, this beer contains three different types of hops, all Belgian, and six different herbs that are added at different stages of brewing.

When tasting the beer, the herbal influence is quite evident. This beer is brewed at the end of the summer, lagered for 2 weeks, bottle conditioned, and “rested” for several months to mellow it out. The brewery also claims that it has a shelf life of 3 years. Despite my recommendation at the end of this review, it might be interesting to pick up another bottle again for the purpose of aging it.

Anker brewery is the oldest in Belgium, dating back to 1369, and has an interesting history as detailed on the Anker website. This beer in particular had not been brewed for 38 years until 2002 when Anker started brewing it again.

The bottle of Gouden Carolus Noël that I sampled was a 750ml bottle that cost about $14. I poured it directly into four glasses and shared it with friends.

Where I Found It. I picked up a 750ml at a Draeger’s Market in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Serving Type. When I sampled this brew, I poured it directly into four glasses and shared it with friends.

Appearance. This beer had a amber color that was lighter than I was expecting and was extremely clear. The head had a nice mocha color. Gouden Carolus Noël is a bottle conditioned beer, therefore there is yeast at the bottom of the bottle so pour carefully.

Smell. The bouquet was that of fresh clove spice and a hint of other herbs, possibly anise or even tarragon. This is probably due to both the Belgian yeast as well as the herb adjuncts. The aroma was like a dark sweet malt and burnt sugar but not like caramel. The aroma also had a hint of sarsaparilla.

Taste. The flavor of this beer was malty and roasty but not chocolaty. The typical Belgian yeast flavors, which are described by some as banana and cloves, were subdued. It also had a a medicinal quality to it like an herbal cough syrup or Ricola. Needless to say, the 10.5% alcohol was present in each sip. On top of that, there were flavors of an espresso shot loaded with sugar. The taste was quite complex.

Mouthfeel. Goulden Carolus Noël might seem like a full bodied beer. However, I was very surprised to find that it was not as thick and syrupy as I expected. In fact, it was quite dry. The brewer claims that the wort is 22 degrees plato, which is roughly a specific gravity of 1.091. Since the alcohol content is 10.5%, then the final gravity must be about 1.012, which is in the upper range for the average pale ale. Therefore, I would claim that this is a medium to medium-light bodied beer.

Drinkability. Due to the complexity of the hops, herbs, Belgian yeast, and high alcohol content this was not a smooth beer. It was more like a scotch that you sip and enjoy slowly. Drinking Gouden Carolus Noël was an interesting experience with some pleasant and unexpected surprises. It was not as drinkable as other Belgian beers that I’ve tried. If you get a chance, however, go a ahead and try it. But next time I go for a Belgian beer I would much rather try something new, including more beer from Anker brewery.

Rating. My ratings below are on a five point scale with five being the best score. The overall rating is calculated exactly the same way as Beer Advocate.

  • Appearance (20%): 4.0
  • Smell (20%): 3.5
  • Taste (20%): 2.5
  • Mouthfeel (10%): 3.5
  • Drinkability (10%): 2.5
  • Overall: 3.1

What Others Thought

It is always more enjoyable to share a beer with friends and family. As part of this blog I plan on not only reviewing the beer myself but also gathering feedback from others. Below is what Liz, Erin, and Patrick thought about the beer. As reflected below, this was not  a Belgian beer drinking crowd.

Liz

  • Appearance. Dark.
  • Smell. Licorice candy.
  • Taste. Medicinal, fermented roasted beer. Prominent alcohol taste.
  • Drinkability. Not delicious. Would not drink it again.

Erin

  • Appearance. Dark.
  • Smell. Root beer but hoppy.
  • Taste. Tasted like hard alcohol. Root beer with hops and spiciness. Prune juice. The after taste was like Jägermeister.

Patrick

  • Appearance. Dark.
  • Smell. Bubblegum and bananas.
  • Taste. Bubblegum and cardamom.

Caption from the Bottle

The following caption is found on the side of the bottle:

Gouden Carolus Noel brewed exceptionally for Christmas by the Anker brewery, established in Mechelen since 1369, and one of the classic Belgian breweries. This very special Belgian ale is brewed using traditional methods and a recipe with top fermentation. Its high gravity gives this ale its warmth and body. It improves with age and will charm you with its warm, coppery colour and its rich bouquet.

Refermented in the bottle.

Information

  • Alcohol content: 10.5% ABV
  • Hops: Three types of “only Belgian hops”
  • Original gravity: 1.091 or 22 degrees Plato
  • Lagering: 2 weeks
  • Fermentation: high fermentation and refermentation in the bottle
  • Style: Belgian dark strong ale
  • Brewery: Anker brewery (Brouwerij Het Anker)
  • Beer Advocate rating: 4.14
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About David Jensen

David is a craft beer and photography enthusiast.
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