Noel is a festive Australian Wild Ale aged in ex-Muscat barrels, unspiced and made entirely of Voyager malts. First made in time for the 2018 holidays, this is one of the releases I have most been looking forward to in 2019. I wanted something suitable for the table at Christmas lunch, something to pair with spiced ham, to share with family and friends. An occasional beer made specifically for that occasion.
Noel is the only beer we have released to expressly name the type of barrels the beer was aged in. For pretty much all the rest of our beer, the barrel is a vessel, not a flavour additive... but this just had to be an exception. Noel 2019, as in 2018, is aged in six ex-Muscat barrels from Clonakilla Winery in Murrumbateman, NSW. In addition, this 2019 version also includes 450 litres of Noel 2018 that aged in an ex-fortified wine barrel for over one year from Murray Smith at Canoblas Smith winery in Orange, NSW.
The inspiration for Noel comes directly from a beer I once had in 2015. On a trip through Wallonia, I slipped across the border into France to visit Xavier Bailleux at his family brewery, Au Baron in Gussignies. I wrote about the trip on my old blog if you want the whole story. While I was there, I tasted their Biere de Noel 'Saison Saint Médard' made in time for Christmas each year. Up until that point, I had never experienced such a flavour filled malt character in a beer. It wasn't sweet or cloying, just bursting with fresh red berries and dried fruit notes.
At release, Noel has an intense and complex sweet nose of dark spices, red fruits, oak and Muscat that meld into a heady intoxicating mix of deliciousness. The Muscat barrels drive the palate. Chocolate brownies, cola, caramel and spice box shine along the incredibly long and persistent palate. Higher acidity than 2018 helps to balance the richness of the beer. Very thick and very difficult to stop drinking.
The base beer was brewed entirely with New South Wales cereals from Voyager Craft Malt. It's grist is 99% Munich and 1% freshly roasted Chocolate malt. It was hopped with Saaz (CZ). Finally, it was fermented with our house culture: brewers yeast, foraged wild yeast and naturally occurring souring bacteria native to New South Wales. We transferred it to six freshly emptied ex-Muscat barrels for 6 months ageing. It was bottled on 28 August 2019 and naturally conditioned through refermentation for 14 weeks. At bottling it was 8.0% ABV, 23 IBU and 3.0°P (FG= 1.012 SG).
Like all our beers, Noel is best enjoyed when decanted off a settled natural yeast sediment at cellar temperatures (10-12°C). It will even be better at Christmas lunch.