Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Best of British Christmas Beers - Part One

Well, I've been trying to fight it for long enough, but a combination of department store adverts and realising that I work in retail have forced me to admit it: the festive season is upon us. Now is the time for giving and receiving, doing everything to excess, and good will to all men (and women), including those who are inexplicably rude to you at the till when you've run out of £5 New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.

With the cold winter nights, however, come a very good excuse for warming alcoholic delights of a Christmas-sy theme. So in the spirit of giving, the absolutely marvellous people over at Best of British Beer provided Vinspire HQ with some Christmas-themed delights to get our festive preparations well under way in a slightly wobbly way.

These beers aren't available individually on the website at the moment (do contact them to enquire, though, as they may well be able to sell them individually, and some have only just been bottled) but most are available as part of their excellent Christmas Beers case, which is £35.99 for 12. I couldn't be trusted with the whole case, so Matt will be reviewing the rest on Thursday...

So walk with me now down Beer Lane, blanketed in snow with Christmas trees in every window and a drunken bloke slurring The Pogues whilst dressed as a questionable Father Christmas.

First up we have Ho Ho Ho Golden Ale by Blakemere Brewery. The nose is full of tropical fruit with hints of mango and pineapple. It's a much lighter style which doesn't particularly lend itself to a winter brew with zesty citrus notes and a long bitter finish, what this beer is however, is a lively, jolly and friendly beer which certainly lives up to it's namesake.

Secondly, also from Blakemere, is Santa's Slide Golden Best Bitter. The nose of this brew is packed with juicy orange aromas floral blossom notes. On the palate, it's initial flavours of fresh malts give way to a slightly herbaceous and bitter finish. The finish is slightly short, but it leaves a fresh taste in your mouth.

Next up from the west side of the River Severn is Hoppy Christmas Golden Ale from Bragdy Conwy Brewery. I'll be the first to admit, Welsh beer has never been particularly prominent on my radar. This brew, however, makes me want to explore those valleys! The nose is a tactical assault of fresh squeezed lemon juice and roasted malt. The toasty malt flavours slide gracefully aside to juicy citrus flavours of mandarin, lemon and lime. A very fruity beer that leaves a long, satisfying finish.

Fourthly is the Yule Love It Amber Ale by Thwaites. It has a rich colour and a nose with a lightly hopped citrus aroma. The palate is alive with biscuit notes and nutty flavours a plenty. It's gentle yeastiness gives way to a classic bitter citrus finish. A well rounded, nicely balanced brew to keep the cockles warm this winter.

By this point things start getting a little silly. But I shall soldier on in as professional manner as I can muster! We move on from the lighter styles to something a bit more gutsy. The Winter Warmth Ruby Ale by Great Newsome Brewery (also available individually at £2.50 from Yorkshire Ales). First thing I notice is fire on the label so already I'm feeling manly. It has a sweet nose of chocolate and caramel, followed up by a surprisingly savoury flavour giving way to caramelised spices and burnt sugar. The long, bitter finish is characterised by a waxy citrus flavour.

Last but by absolutely no means least, is the Wit Christmas Wheat Beer by Stonehouse Brewery in collaboration with Best of British Beers. A traditional Belgian wheat beer, the initial aromas of clove and ginger leap out of the glass followed by oranges and lemons. The palate explodes with effervescent sweetness with a deep complexity of flavour involving citrus, cardamom, cedar and cigar box. All these flavours work in perfect harmony to produce an unbelievable beer with a long lasting finish.

I'm certainly no grinch, but Christmas does have a tendency to wear thin, especially in my profession. But when an amazing company such as Best of British Beer come through with Yuletide themed brews of this quality, it makes me feel like an excited child on Christmas eve. I cannot wait until the December nights close in and lay on the sofa with one of these delights in front of some good old fashioned Christmas TV.

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