When the weather is as cold and miserable as it has been of late, I wonder why beers like York Brewery’s Stocking Filler are promoted as Christmas ales. I found this one knocked down to £1 a bottle at the York Brewery on a visit there last weekend and thought that it had to be worth trying, and I’m so glad that I did. The bottle describes its contents as a 4.8% ABV dark premium bitter, and elsewhere as a ruby ale: my experience is that the colour is just on the brown side of red, and the taste isn’t really what I think of as a bitter either! So my only criticism is of the description on the label! There’s a beautifully creamy head that lasts quite well, and the aroma is rich and spicy (as advertised) – mainly cinnamon. The taste is equally rich, with strong chocolate and malt flavour and spicy notes (exactly as it says on the bottle). The snow has been threatening to start falling all day but this ale will keep me warm, so all I need is the sound of sleigh bells and a hearty ‘ho, ho, ho’ to get me in the mood for Christmas!!!
Category Archives: Seasonal
Sharp’s Winter Berry Ale was on sale at a pub close to my office, and I thought that it would be rude not to try it. This cask ale is a beautiful deep red colour with a head that disappears almost immediately, with the beer thereafter resembling a glass of slightly flat cola. The aroma is mainly cherries, which is the berry that gives the ale its name, and it hints at something that is sweet and not unlike some of the Belgian cherry beers. The surprise therefore is that it’s nowhere near as sweet as its continental counterparts, which for me means that it’s a beer that I could enjoy all evening. One criticism: once you get past the taste of the cherries, there’s not a lot else: the flavour is quite one-dimensional and I would probably have enjoyed something with a bit more malt. Enjoyable for a social drink on a cold winter’s day, nonetheless. For the recod, the ABV is 4.8%.
Santa’s Wobble from Hog’s Back Brewery in Surrey is a strong Christmas (or ‘Xmas’, as it says on the the bottle) ale, at 7.5% ABV. It’s a ruby brown rather than red, with a head that lasts well. The bottle says that it uses “choicest” hops and is brewery conditioned “for all the taste without the sediment” which doesn’t shout quality, but after the first sip it’s not a bad ale. There’s something quite organic about the smell (almost the smell of a stable!) but it’s not unpleasant, and has overtones of the kind of spices that I’d expect in a mild indian dish such as a korma. The taste is full of malt, marmite and roast chestnuts. This is a warming winter beer that gets better with every sip.
It’s hard to believe that this Christmas Ale comes from the same Shepherd Neame brewery as Rudolf’s Reward. This 7.0% ABV is everything that Rudolf’s Reward is not!. This true Christmas Ale is a bright amber colour with a head that lasts reasonably well. It smells of an intoxicating blend of preserved fruit, ginger and spice, The taste is of a complex of treacle, malt, and dried fruit (probably soaked in brandy!). This is a wonderful brew and very highly recommended if you can find some still on the shelves of your local store!
Bah Humbug comes in a bottle with the kind of design that I’ve come to expect from Wychwood Brewery: a slightly sinister looking Scrooge occupying the majority of the label. This beer is a great start to Christmas: a beautiful amber colour with a head that dissipates quickly and a nose that has more than a little of the mince pie about it! That sense of a liquid mince pie is carried through onto the tongue where the initial fruitiness of raisins and sultanas quickly gives way to spiciness from the added cinnamon. For the record, the beer is 5.0% ABV. Highly recommended.
Rudolf’s Reward is one of Shepherd Neame’s Christmas 2012 brews and claims to have a 4.0% ABV. The first thing to notice once the bottle is opened is the fizz. It pours with a light creamy-coloured head, and the beer itself is a light tea colour. The bottle claims a spicy, fruity nose, and it does have a faintly spicy smell to it. The bottle claims that the taste is fruity and spicy, and once the hoppy first taste dies away, what endures is a slightly spicy flavour. The problem is that that’s all there is: it is a very one-dimensional experience. A winter/Christmas ale should really have more substance
I’ve been looking forward to drinking this bottle of Sam Smith’s Winter Warmer Ale (2009-2010) for some time, and not without a little trepidation as the best before date was September 2010! It comes in a 550ml bottle, which although not a pint, is somewhat closer than most other bottled beers get in this EU dominated, politically correct, health and safety mad, world. It’s a dark amber, 6% ABV, ale, that’s not quite a bitter (maybe it was when I bought it). It has a round, warming and rewarding flavour with good balance between the malt and hops. I can see that it would be ideal for a cold winter’s night in front of a roaring log fire, and works well on a cold summer’s night too. It went down rather well, and I’m rather pleased that there’s another bottle on the shelf.