This is the first in a trilogy of posts reviewing the many many many Norwegian Yule Beers, this will cover Yule beers from 0.0% to 4.7% ABV.
Aass Juleøl (Norway) 4.7%
Pleasantly hoppy like most Aass beer. It also has a bitter malty aftertaste that one would expect from a Juleøl. It is fruity as well (grape juice overtones) and reminds me of on old fashioned red Dutch windmill (I don't know why but it does). In a blind taste test the typical hoppy taste that is practically the trademark of the Aass brewery would be more readily identifiable than that this particular Aass beer is supposed to be a Yule beer. However, with that said, I'd be happy to drink a second bottle and I like that Aass has a certain signature flavour that is found in nearly all of their beers, there is something about that that smacks of authenticity.
Aass Jule-Uten Alkoholfritt (Norway) 0.0%
Very malty and also sweet. Quite strangely it smells like tomato sauce... tastes like it too and a little of oak. Needless to say, don't try this one.
Frydenlund Juleøl (Norway) 4.5%
Sweet and with that lovely caramel and toasted bread mix that characterizes Yule beer. A hint of something that reminds me of sherry; like a mix of cherry wine, cotton candy with a background flavour of molasses. A nice Juleøl and typical of the lot: try only this one and you'll get the idea of what tasty Norwegian Juleol is all about.
Grans Julebrygg (Norway) 4.7%
Reddish brown in a glass. If it wasn't for the smothering sour taste if would be ... alright. At first the flavour is dark, with caramel and roasted something. The taste creates an image in my mind of a dark log cabin on a snowy Norwegian hill with snow laden pines pressed in close and you can barely see candlelight flickering through the windows like the gleam in an eye ... and then someone throws a bucket of sour beer on you. PASS.
Grans Juleøl (Norway) 4.7%
Only mildly Juleøl-y, tastes mostly like their regular Grans Premium with some red added. Slightly sour taste. Not a real Yule beer; tastes like Grans felt compelled to make a Juleøl but did so without inspiration. Pass.
Lade Gaards Juleøl 4.7%
Deliciously hoppy at first taste. Flavours of caramel, malt, maple, cinnamon and toasted bread. It is a deep reddish brown in a glass and has a cool classic label as well as a rare screw top in a land of pop off bottlecaps.
If you let it breathe in a glass the caramel taste really comes to the fore. But how could you let this beer languish in a glass!? It's so delicious it won't last. Too bad it only comes out at Christmas time, err... Yule.
Santa Clausthaler (Norway) 0.0%
Refreshing and light, it tastes a little red, a little like apples, a little musty with hints of caramel. If you want to a Norwegian Yule beer but without the alcohol this is a great choice. Not as thick as a full alcohol beer, reddish amber in a glass. Yum!
Munkholm Alkoholfritt Juleøl (Norway) 0.0%
Very light and sweet. A pleasant amber in a glass. Tastes hoppy, bitter and faintly of toasted bread or caramel. It's not a bad alcohol free Yule beer but Santa Clausthaler is much better.
Ringnes Juleøl 4.5%
Sugary and vaguely red, kind of malty. Tastes like normal Ringnes only with "red" beer flavour added. Of the many Yule Beers out there this one is near the bottom on the pile.
Tuborg Christmas Brew (Denmark) 4.7%
Fairly light on flavour and in a glass. Its reddish hue is one of the few things that distinguishes this beer from regular Tuborg; more bitter too and it has some stronger touches of caramel flavours and malt taste. All in all this isn't much of a Jule beer. You can give this one a pass but considering how ubiquitous it is in November and December (especially in Denmark) that might not be possible.