Christmas beers – beers defined by a festive themed label. I used to believe these promised something dark, rich or seasonally spiced, but often they’re more likely to be thin, chestnut coloured session bitters (Hardys & Hansons Rocking Rudolph, Shepherd Neame Rudolph’s Revenge etc). Several years running I’d buy a bottle of Rosey Nosey, hoping that it might live up to it’s billing as ‘Christmas pudding in a glass!’. It never did. It was like the disappointment of watching what you thought was the real Santa, leave the back of the grotto, pull off the fake beard and climb into a Renault Espace.
I was going to give up on Christmas beers altogether – a bottle of Moor Freddy Walker proved to be the real ‘liquid Christmas pudding’ I’d been looking for, and in any case I always keep back plenty of great beers for the Christmas holidays so why disappoint myself with festive themed beers at all. But there’ve been a few exceptions, Christmas themed beers that lived up to the promise, so I put away a few good ones last Christmas, picked up a few more that sounded promising this year, and then suddenly it was time to get drinking them.
Rogue Santas Private Reserve:
Christmassy? Not really. Good? Absolutely. With a familiar Rogue aroma and flavour, presumably in part down to the house yeast, this is a variation on the St Rogue Red ale that first turned my head to their beers. A nicely balanced Amber Ale with a hint of spiciness that’s more on the imagination than on the tongue – it’s that festive label at work.
Brew Dog Hoppy Christmas:
Another beer that merely throws on a santa hat and doesn’t try too hard to pretend to be Christmassy – a tropical fruit flavoured IPA that would be just as refreshing on a hot summer day.
Ah, this is more like it, strong dark, rich, fruity with fermented pears and plums, spicy and sweet. This is what I was looking for in a Christmas beer and I’ll definitely look out for this next year.
St Feuillien Cuvée de Noël:
Wow! What an incredible aroma. I don’t think I’ve enjoyed sniffing a beer as much as I did this one. That’s not to say it didn’t also taste good, just that the aroma was so strong and delightful. Aromas of liquorice allsorts, aniseed, marzipan, pears and icing sugar, with milder yeasty, caramel flavours and a good shake of white pepper to finish.
Anchor Christmas Ale:
This one was put away in 2009. I don’t remember how it tasted when it was fresh, so can’t say what ageing has done for it, but the aroma is of strong Christmas potpourri. Probably the most ‘Christmassy’ in terms of spices – big aromas of ginger, nutmeg and cloves. Very strong herbal flavours that thinned out to something like root beer, and I don’t like root beer. Interesting then, but I can’t say I particularly enjoyed this – I didn’t even finish the bottle. I have another bottle of this from 2009 which I’ll let sit for a couple more years to see how it develops.
Titanic Christmas Ale:
This bottle was from a batch I bought a few of last year. One bottle made an appearance on Christmas day and was a great accompaniment to the rich foods being served. A few days later I had one on its own and it seemed just a bit too rich to drink unaccompanied – in the same way a dessert wine is best served with food. It could be that leaving it a year has improved it, because it went down a treat on its own this time. A strong ale, deep amber in colour with thick caramel and honey flavours, predominantly malty but with some spicy hop in the finish. A really enjoyable winter warmer. I still have one left I’ll put away for another year.
Humpty Dumpty Christmas Crack:
Another bottle from last year, a favourite Christmas beer that tastes better than ever. Wonderful full-bodied malty, chocolatey goodness with a good lip smacking of spicy, orangey hops. Just about the perfect Christmas beer for me and a good note to end on…
Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night.