I’m on the list to receive new Innis & Gunn releases and drank the Frank & Sense Xmas release, described as a “golden ale matured over gold, frankincense and myrrh”.
Exotic-sounding, yet general literature on the resins that are myrrh and frankincense indicates they are (together) earthy, lemony/citric, anise-like, so not that different to many hops used in modern brewing.
Indeed their use in this beer matches well with the standard malt and hops flavours. The beer is a very good golden or (I’d call it) U.K. pale ale style, sort of a charged-up bitter of the type common in England with its bigger brother special or best bitter until the American invasion changed things around a bit.
(Yes the older beers are still available, but you have to know what you’re buying and often ask questions or read the website descriptions).
In a word, Frank & Sense is in my wheelhouse, and the unusual flavourings in this case don’t detract from what I like or add anything I don’t like.
Gold can be consumed with food, it is used sometimes in baking or confectionary, and said to have little or no taste. The beer has a faint metallic aftertaste but whether that is due to the legendary metal I can’t say.
Gold flakes also figure in a venerable liqueur from Gdańsk/Danzig, Danziger Goldwasser.
Lost Abbey brewing in San Marcos, California had a Christmas beer that used myrrh and frankincense, not gold though I think. That beer was quite a bit stronger than I&G’s, as well.
I&G seem to have combined three unusual ingredients in a way not done before, which is cool and of course apt for the season.
Myrrh and frankincense are two of the gifts the Magi or wise men famously brought Mary when visiting the new-born Jesus in Bethlehem. To learn about their historic uses, this website article by Cliff Pumphrey offers a crisp, well-informed summary.
One other thing: I’m quite pleased to see another beer, albeit limited edition, from I&G that doesn’t use barrel-aging or a wood addition of some kind. That has been their signature, yes, but I think they can enlarge their franchise with beers matured conventionally.
Barrel-aged beers inevitably have an oxidized note, plus a coconut/vanillin taste from the American oak generally used. Beer aged over wood staves acquires at a minimum the coconut/vanillin taste – think Chardonnay, or bourbon for that matter.
A lot of people like this of course, witness the many Imperial Stouts, seemingly every one you see now, aged in a bourbon barrel, but it goes well beyond Imperial Stout.
Many craft beer fans prefer beer without these accents though. Beers such as Frank & Sense, or the very worthy I&G IPA released not long back, respond to that interest.