Sunday, 16 December 2007

What Constitutes a Christmas Beer?

On my wanderings yesterday, I came across a largeish number of Christmas beers. Not surprising at all given the time of year. What was disappointing to me at least, was that there was scarcely the merest nod to something seasonal. They weren't dark, malty and luscious with a hint of Christmas spices to lift them and bring a suggestion of winter warmth, but were mostly just plain ordinary beers of ordinary strength and a dreary ordinariness. Do you see a theme emerging here?

I wonder about this. I assume the brewer sat and thought, "we'd better have a Christmas Beer" and then proceeded to trot out another of the same, or maybe, suspicious type that I am, just blended something. He didn't make the leap of faith needed to produce something special, different and memorable.

I am going to name this roll of shame. In order of those tried, tested and found wanting were:

Tom Wood's Jolly Snowman 3.6% and dull, dull, dull.

Northern Brewing Santa's Slide 3.6%. Vaguely hoppy and very ordinary.

Three B's Santa's Skinful. 4%. Darker, but just as dull.

George Wright Partridge in a Pear Tree 5.1%. A bit of winter strength, but pale and unbalanced.

Allgates Santa's Coming 4.4%. This was actually a lovely beer, but not at all Christmassey in my opinion, though it does have an amusing pumpclip.

And finally, a real Christmas Ale. From Allgates again. This time Winter Tipple, with a slight lactic edge, good body, an appealing maltiness with some spice. Warming and moreish! Well done to the lads from Wigan.

Other beers enjoyed yesterday were the ever dependable Hydes Bitter, Jennings Cumberland, Holts Bitter and Bazen's Pacific. All in terrific form, particularly the Bazen's which has seemed off the mark a bit recently. Good to see it back on blob!

My mate Mike is the only one who isn't a pumpclip!


Mark Edwards said...

I couldn't agree more. So many so called Christmas ales are just ordinary beers with seasonal names. There's no discernible Christmas nature to the beer, be it sippable strength or spices. The beer you mention in your previous post Lees Plum Pudding is lovely and unquestionably seasonal (although I could drink it all year round)

Tyson said...

If you'd been at the other end of Mncr, you would have come across two more. Hornbeam Christmas Champagne Ale is definitely not a traditional xmas brew but an interesting one nonetheless. Robinsons Mr Scrooge's Humbug Bitter is more traditional and has a pleasant lemon/blackcurrant nose to go with the roast malt.

Andy Holmes said...

I have been reviewing beers on my fledgling blog and assessing their "Christmassyness" I find that some all year round beers make perfectly acceptable Christmas beers, I suppose I'm looking for spicy and/or bitter orange flavours as well as dark roasted malt flavours. you're right though I think brewers often bow to fashion or expedience rather than givig serious thought to seasonal beers.

Tandleman said...

I think the point is that while they may well be acceptable beers, there is nothing to distinguish them from say, a Guy Fawkes night beer, or a St George's Day beer. They need something more in my opinion. Something special in fact.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the feedback. Just thought I'd let you know that (at least) we at Allgates have heard your comments and WILL rise to the challenge next year! We believe in the need for seasonality and freshness of ideas this space! Thanks again...keep the feedback coming!

Tandleman said...

Good stuff Graham. Hope you enjoy the blog. Keep reading it and I'm sure Allgates will appear in it again.

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