The Trappist was overflowing Friday as thirsty Oaklanders tossed one back in honor of KerstBier Fest—a two-day celebration of the rich brews of the season.
On offer at the downtown pub that specializes in artisan and speciality brews were about 30 beer varieties from Belgium, Norway and the US. The seasonal brown ales boast deep flavors like caramel and nutmeg.
“It’s definitely got a chocolate taste to it, which is surprising for a beer,” said Chris Adkins, who was having a beverage called Haandbryggeriet Nissefar in the back room of the bar. Asked if he would order it again, he said, “Probably. It would help if I knew how to pronounce it.”
I had never tasted a Christmas beer myself, so I searched out Trappist co-owner Chuck Stilphen and asked him for a recommendation. He suggested two: the Nogne O Peculiar Yule, a deep brown ale from Norway, and the N’Ice Chouffe, a Belgian beer with an orange-y hue.
I bought one of each and took a seat to sample them. First up: the Norwegian. It’s infused with the clean flavor of cardamom. According to BeerNews.org, it is made with chocolate malt, ginger, coriander, cardamom, cinnamon and cloves, and it’s inspired by a Northern European spiced wine called Glogg. Yum.
Next up: the Belgian. This one is a little rounder and darker, with a chocolaty taste. After a few sips, I realized it packs a punch – it’s 10 percent alcohol by volume, double the dose in a Budweiser. Proceed with caution!
According to KerstBier customer Jason Marechal, boozyness is an important factor for the Christmas beer drinker to consider when selecting their beverage. Marechal was at KerstBier Fest with some friends who were heading out on the town for his friend’s bachelor party.
“As the best man I have the most responsibilities tonight,” says Marechal , who went with moderate 5.5 percent alcohol Anchor Christmas Ale. “I got the one that’s the weakest.”
But the lower alcohol content didn’t diminish Marechal’s enjoyment of his holiday brewski. In fact, he was waxing poetic about it. “It feels like something you could sit down by the fire and sip on,” he said. “It’s kinda something to linger over.”
KerstBier Fest continues Saturday December 11 from 5pm until closing time at The Trappist Bar in Downtown Oakland at 460 8th Street.