Christmas has been and gone once more, and again I find myself pondering the special beers brewed for this special season. It’s a season that these days many people are as glad to see the back of as they are to welcome. It’s true that Christmas is a time of great pressure for many people. Gifts HAVE to be bought, and what you buy for Bob must be of an equal value to what you buy for Jane. Cards MUST be sent to obscure relations you wouldn’t recognise if you fell over them and to that couple you met on holiday seventeen years ago and haven’t seen since. Masses of food MUST be prepared and ready on time. People MUST be visited and at all time, you MUST look happy and full of joy.
If you’re anything like me, then that final requirement can get a bit stretched. What’s the answer? De-commercialise Christmas and just let everyone have a couple of days off work with their feet up? Sounds tempting, but what are the chances? No, we know the real answer – BEER!
I’ve picked out five beers that I supped over this Christmas, starting with a couple from the Cheshire-based brewery Blakemere, which also brews under the name of Northern.
Blakemere Ho Ho Ho Hoppy Christmas enters with a high placement on the over-forced pun stakes. A light beer, Ho Ho Ho Hoppy Christmas weighs in at just 3.7%. It’s a mid-yellow in colour and sports only the thinnest of heads. Although there’s no indication on the bottle as to what type of beer this is, it’s a bitter, and a fairly ordinary one at that. The first taste impression is that it’s earthy, with a touch of soap. There is a growing hoppiness towards the finish, but it’s mostly earthy and soapy.
A little stronger is Blakemere Santa’s Slide, described on the bottle as a ‘Yuletide Golden Best Bitter’. It’s as well to cover all options, I suppose. This is slightly darker in colour than Ho… etc., being more of a pale orange. The smell is good; hoppy and pithy. The taste delivers a smooth hoppiness with distinct citrus pith. The bitterness is never harsh and the flavours work nicely together to form a nice, rounded beer. Good.
Ho… etc. is joined in the over-forced pun stakes by White Horse Rudolf the Red Nosed White Horse Beer. Yeah. It’s 4.8% and is a dark red colour, tending to brown. I suppose those with a more poetic view of colours than mine would call it chestnut, Which is quite appropriate for this nutty beer. Warm toffee notes and a good deal of marmalady bitterness join with the nuttiness along with some citrus pith and fruit. Quite a complex, warming taste, and most welcome on a cold December evening.
George Wright Reindeer’s Revenge is a heftier affair, punching in at 5.1%. This is a lively beer as it pours, forming a big, frothy head, even when poured carefully. There’s loads of hoppy bitterness here with a good side order of grapefruit pith. The hops used are Citra, and have a distinct floral-citrus flavour. Cracking beer!
Finally, I treated myself to an Innis & Gunn Winter Treacle Porter. This beer is oak-aged for 39 days and has treacle added, as you probably guessed from its name. It’s by far the strongest of these beers at 7.4%, and it even comes in a box. It pours a lovely dark red, with a promising aroma of fruity malt. From the first sip, you can tell that this beer is from Innis & Gunn. There’s just something about that unique flavour. It has a surprisingly light touch at the start, but the flavour grows with treacle and molasses and hints of rich fruit. There is quite a noticeable spirituous overtaste, common to many beers of this strength. Throughout the taste, there is an unexpected but engaging dryness. Yum yum!
Although Christmas is now over, it’s still the depths of winter, so I’m still in dark beer mode. More to come…
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