Perfect as you might think Norway is -- and you'd for the most part be right -- beer culture is one aspect where it has, until recently, been lagging behind. This because of alcohol laws that makes Washington seem downright liberal. (The Nøgne Ø website, for example, has to be in English, as alcohol advertisements are illegal in Norway. That's right -- they have to prove they aren't marketing to Norwegians by writing in English...)
A few breweries have set out to change this over the past few years, and Nøgne Ø in particular has sailed up as an international player over the past few years. Peculiar Yule -- one of their winter brews -- can now be found at Huckleberry's, and it is kind of glorious. I would, in fact, name it the best seasonal of 2010, no matter what season it was.
It is based on the Norwegian version of gløgg, a Northern European mulled wine which packs a spicy kick. This could easily have gone wrong when translated into an ale, what with danger of the overpowering flavors and what have you, but it worked out beautifully.
The color is darkly amber with a good couple of fingers of head. Smell it, and the sweet spices hit you straight away. How they managed to nigh perfectly replicate the gløgg nose -- which certainly is sweetened by wine -- is beyond me, but there you go.
Tasting it, the answer might be the caramel chocolate malts. The unmistakable qualities of a great base beer is here, and it melds perfectly with the spices. As far as a marriage of gløgg and beer goes, I don't see how this could have been any better. There is a nice mellow lingering flavor of cloves, reminiscent of the latest edition of the Abyss.
This is very drinkable and one wine fans might even get in on.
Peculiar Yule -- Underlig Jul if we're too be technical about it -- weighs in at a relatively mild 6.5%, so you shouldn't hit any walls after a bottle. And really, if you like beer, you'll like this one.