Hopefully you all had a good Christmas. I managed to get through a number of Christmas seasonal beers this year, and so I thought I would comment on the best (and the worst of them).
Southwold Christmas Ale by Adnams/Marks & Spencers
One of the two Christmas beers from M&S this year (the other is a barrel aged porter from Meantime, which is sitting on my shelf and might roll over ’til next year). It was gently spiced – sort of like a cinnamon biscuit – but very well balanced.
Black Christmas by Weird Beard Brew Co
This cranberry stout is actually quite restrained on the fruit, and at 4.5% it’s fairly light. It’s more or less a lovely roast-y stout, but with a hint of sharpness and fruit on the aftertaste. Very easy to drink.
Christmas Pudding Ale by Irving & Co
One of Irving’s lesser spotted ales, on cask at a local pub. Very intense flavours of Christmas pudding – a bit too intense for me. It did get me in a Christmas mood, but mostly by making me wish I had a real pudding rather than a pint of this! Certainly not a bad beer though, and it does what it says on the pump clip.
’tis the Saison by Brewhouse & Kitchen (Portsmouth)
A saison with orange and ginger. Definitely a saison. Definitely orange. Very definitely ginger!
Cuvèe Noël by St Feuillien
It’s a very pleasant belgian dark ale. It doesn’t have the Christmas spices and flavours of most of these beers, but that’s not a bad thing.
Viking Yule Bock
An Icelandic bock beer. A lovely red/amber colour with the clean, sweet bock taste and a hint of aniseed on the aftertaste. Another very well balanced beer.
Merry Xmas Happy NY (2016) by Anchor Brewing Co
On keg in a very nice local pub. A rare import from across the Atlantic. It tastes like a standard British winter warmer, but better! Maybe a bit colder, maybe a bit more fizz, but a very good traditional ale.
Jack Frost by Fullers
A fairly mediocre British style winter warmer (this may be a theme for the next few). A little bit of malt, licorice and hedgerow, and it has that characteristic Fullers taste, but all in all it is a bit forgettable
Rockin’ Rudolph by Hardys & Hansons (Greene King)
Standard Greene King winter warmer. Not their worst beer, but far from their best.
Wild Holly by Thornbridge
Another traditional winter beer. It’s better than its British competitors but not at the level of the Anchor beer.
Red Plum by Irving & Co
To be found everywhere in Portsmouth at this time of year. Warming, subtly spicy and slightly sweet. It’s much more drinkable than the Pudding Ale, even if (or possibly because) it’s not quite as strong a statement. Probably the most session-able of this list.
For me, the best Christmas beer I had this year was undoubtedly Anchor’s Merry Xmas Happy NY. The Viking Yule Bock was impressive too, and the St Feuillien was lovely, but they didn’t necessarily feel like beers for the season.
Having said that, if I was going to be having more than one beer I would go for Red Plum or the Southwold Christmas Ale. They’re not quite as licorice, not quite as filling. I could drink them without ruining my palate for the copious amounts of food and chocolate I have been eating over the holidays!