Sunday, 6 January 2013

Christmas 2012
Words And Pictures

So 2012 has been and gone. The world didn't end (did you really think it would?), which is just as well as I would have missed out on a wonderful Christmastime. I had a bit of a blast to be honest. It was a fantastic time spent with family and friends, and my children called it 'The Best Christmas Ever' which is something I'm sure every parent wants to hear.
This is, as I'm sure (hope) you're aware, a beer blog and if you follow me on twitter or facebook then you may have noticed that I've had a bit of fun putting the beers I've been drinking in suitably festive surroundings. Even though most weren't seasonal beers and even though it's a little self-indulgent I thought I'd put them all in one place in one post (hopefully) as a record as much for me as anyone else. I'll be using my Untappd notes to help me along.
Let's get cracking:
Brouwerij De Ranke - Pere Noel 7%
This was the first beer I had for the #SeasonsTweetings online event organised by @Filrd which was the day before the #CAMRGB #XmasTweetings event (that was some weekend!). This seasonal favourite has a beautiful balance of sweet malt and peppery hoppiness with a hint of apricot for good measure. Great depth of flavour makes this a sure-fire winner.
Inveralmond - Santas Swallie 4.3%
Actually thinking about it this may have been first for #SeasonsTweetings, but it doesn't much matter. Golden and spicy with a touch of cinnamon and nutmeg. An easy-drinking beer with suitably festive flavours.
 Anchor Brewing Company - Our Special Ale 2012 (Christmas Ale) 5.5%

This was a bit of a stunner. I was slightly disappointed by the 2011 edition (the recipe changes slightly every year in case you're wondering) but this was a real return to form. Hoppy, slightly smoky, sweet pine, cinnamon, nutmeg, hint of ginger heat and some milky chocolate to finish. This is some beer.
Brouwerij Slaapmutske - Slaapmutske Christmas 7.4%
This is a beautifully deep Christmas-cake fruity deliciously rich Belgian Ale. Sweet, but not cloying, this is a dangerously drinkable beer with a touch of class.
 Nogne O - Underlig Jul 6.5%

Deep and spicy with typical Christmas flavours of nutmeg, clove, cinnamon and a little star anise, this is beer is based on the Norwegian drink 'glogg' a mulled wine. I found this a bit too sickly sweetly spiced for me and slightly disappointing. This was my final beer for the night. Five was enough for me.
Weltenburger Kloster - Winter-Traum 5.2%
This, the first of two German beers in a row, is a wonderfully deep rich fruity caramel Marzen. The biting sweet finish lingers awhile like sugar-plums on the tongue. Winter-traum translates as winter dream and it's very apt. Delightful.
 Leikeim - Wintertraum 5.4%
The second 'Wintertraum' in a row, but slightly less dreamy than its predecessor. There's still plenty to enjoy however with some fruity, smooth honey and malty flavours combining rather nicely in this drinkable Dortmunder/Helles. A snappy then mellow finish rounds it off nicely.
 Tiny Rebel Brewing Co - Hot Box (Indian Smoked Ale) 5.7%
As you can see from the (admittedly deliberately inserted) props this actually was a post-present-wrapping treat. Present wrapping is a job I hate, however this is a beer I absolutely love. Smoky, sharp with sweet milk chocolate and pine, all 'wrapped up' with an arid dryness. Tiny Rebel were my Brewery of 2012 for my Golden Pint Awards that I put up on twitter and as far as I'm concerned they've yet to put a foot wrong. If you see their beer, buy it.
 Brewdog - Cocoa Psycho 10%
My second Christmas Eve-eve beer, I opened this just before midnight on the 23rd December. This was part of Brewdog's latest Prototype series and by far the best of the four in my opinion. Initial dusty cocoa powder becomes a big boozy drinking chocolate beer with a dry dark chocolate finish. What's not to like? It was Christmas-time after all.
 Tiny Rebel Brewing Co - Chocoholic 6.8%
My first beer of Christmas Eve, and what a cracker to start off with. Lots of dark Belgian chocolate, a little macchiato and  a dry sweet malty finish with the merest hint of the alcohol within. I've read some mixed reviews of this beer but as chocolate Stouts go it's a big hit with me.
 Petedrinks - #AG4 Double Trouble 8.8%

This is a beer that I was lucky enough to have a acquired on the last stop of the night on the #CAMRGB #XmasTwissup Secret Santa/Pass The Parcel/Silent Night-athon at the Euston Tap . It is a dark double IPA brewed by the excellent @petedrinks Pete Favelle and you can read how it was brewed on his blog right here. He states at the end that he'd be keeping some back for Christmas, so if it was good enough for him then it was good enough for me. Lots of boozy prune and fig in the aroma gave way to chocolate, more alcoholic fig and a hint of liquorice in the taste. It really was a stunning beer and I'd love to try more of his homebrew.
 St Peters - Christmas Ale 7.0%
This Christmas Ale from Suffolk based brewery St Peters was a bit of a novelty, and one I was anxious to track down. Only available from the brewery directly or a limited local release I managed to pick up a bottle at Utobeer. The taste has a real depth of plum and chocolate, quite rich but slightly too carbonated however the dark fruit cake finish is quite satisfying. The brewery says this is the perfect companion for Christmas savouries but I paired it with a mince pie and left the sherry for Father Christmas.
 Worthington's White Shield Museum (Molson Coors) - Czars P2 Imperial Stout 8.0%
I'd had this for a little while, waiting for the right time to open it. Last drink of Christmas Eve and I wasn't disappointed. Brewed in very limited numbers I read that its mellowness comes from its long maturation time. All I know is that this is an exceptional beer. There is a spicy caramel, date and stewed apple aroma giving way to lots of deep rich and spicy vinous fruit and berries. Blackberry and black cherry merge smoothly into liquorice and black treacle then back again, finishing with some delicious black cherry coffee bean fruity dryness. Possibly the best stout I had in 2012 and I'll be looking to be getting another bottle very soon if I can.
 Brasserie Cantillon - Gueuze 100% Lambic Bio 5.0%
It's Christmas morning! Last year we started the day with a Brouwerij Bosteels - Deus Brut des Flandres which is a fantastic beer but as I was unable to obtain a bottle for less that £26 I came up with this admirable substitute. What's more, I had the whole bottle to myself. I think that a Gueuze is a great appetiser and it's a lot easier to get on with cooking the Christmas dinner after a bottle of this than a few glasses of Champagne. It has a spritzy deep cider apple freshness with a sprinkling of white pepper. It's not overly dry either and is simply a wonderful beer.
 Beavertown - Smog Rocket 5.4%
The turkey is in and the table is set, time for another beer. This smoked Porter is from another of my favourite breweries of 2012 and it's not at all heavy, perfect for all-day drinking. Smoky sweet chocolate with a hint of coffee, caramel and raisin, it's rather yum!
 Tiny Rebel Brew Co - Fvde 4.9%
We've had our starter, but due to a slight under-estimation of the cooking time of the turkey there's plenty of time for another beer before the main event. This is a dark spiced Belgian style wheat beer named in honour of the Belgian international and sometime West Ham United striker Francois Van der Elst by @liberty_bear from Liberty Beer. Lots of sweet sticky raisin and prune, light and dark at the same time, the finish is clean dry and fruity too.
 Billericay Brewing Company - Mayflower Gold 6.5%
The first beer from Billericay Brewing Company . I'll be doing a full and more comprehensive review shortly but I will say that the traditional Christmas dinner of roast turkey, ham, bread sauce et al. really brought out the spicy citrus of the hops. It's a very promising start.
 Hoppin' Frog Brewery - Frosted Frog Christmas Ale 8.6%
This is a beer that I'd waited very nearly a year for. I picked it up at the Euston Tap a week or two into 2012, and it was recommended to me as a mince pie in a bottle. I'm a big mince pie fan (which sounds a little odd, but isn't .. is it?) so I was sold. I'd bought a bottle to share, again at the Euston Tap on the #CAMRGB #XmasTwissup on 15th December so I knew what I was in for and it really has all the sweet flavours of Christmas. There's plenty of mince pie-ness here but also some Christmas pudding too with plenty of sweet sweet cinnamon,raisin, ginger, allspice and fig on a light bready malty base. If you like your Christmas beers warming spicy and, above all, sweet then you won't go far wron here. This lasted me most of Christmas night, it's definitely a sipper not a gulper.
 Brouwerij De Molen - Vuur & Vlam 6.2%
Boxing day, and my first beer is one that my wife @esseemason bought for me for Christmas in what I have to say is an exceptionally fantastic case of beer. Vuur & Vlam is Dutch for Fire & Flames, and this beer is late hopped with Chinook, Cascade, Simcoe and Amarillo hops, and it sure does show! A beautiful clementime tart aroma with a tangerine, lychee, honeyed pine and white pepper taste, this is simply a very very good IPA.
 Beavertown - Black Betty 7.4%
I love Boxing day lunch! Cold meat, pickles, mashed potato, salad crisps, pies, flans and all sorts of savouries. A table full of wonderful food piled high and eaten and picked-at from lunchtime until late into the evening and what better beer to have with it than my favourite bottled beer from 2012. This black IPA has citrus and pine combined with a dark malty bitterness with some toffee covered pineapple bite in a beautiful glass of beer. I've drunk a lot of this beer and I plan to drink a lot more into 2013.
 Brouwerij Bosteels - Tripel Karmeliet 8.4%
What could be better with some late-night cheese and biscuits than this beautiful Belgian Abbey Tripel. A complex taste of grassy hoppiness, banana, light toffee caramel, white pepper and cookie dough is the perfect foil to strong and creamy cheese. This beer is an absolute delight.
 Brewdog - Christmas Paradox 2012 15%
It's going to take a big beer to round off a fantastic Boxing day and this certainly has the credentials. Aged in rum barrels for 12 months this is a late night sipper par excellance. It's like a rum-drizzled dark-chocolate-coated digestive biscuit, deep, rich, big and boozy, with liquorice, espresso and black cherry and plum touches the flavour just builds and builds. More boozy rum flavoured berries in the finish round of a staggeringly good Christmas cracker.
 Otley - O6 Porter 6.6%
Thursday nights for many of us is Beer Bods night. The chance to share and review a beer on twitter with other subscribers, describing and discovering the flavours together. This porter was the beer of choice on 27th December and I found it a little on the thin side. It has a muddy chocolate aroma with hints of liquorice, chocolate, black cherry and ashes in the taste. This beer inspired a healthy online discussion on the differences and similarities of porters and stouts. If that sounds like your sort of thing then give them a try, you won't regret it.
 Brouwerij De Molen - Molenbier 7.5%
Another from my Christmas case, and another treat. Aroma is like a bready fruit cake underpinned by a really earthy hoppiness. The taste has oodles of zesty toffee and sweet blood-orange caramel drying to a delicious date finish. I'm really warming to De Molen beers, having avoided them after my first experience a poor bottle of Bed And Breakfast. I've had some great beers since and it's really a brewery I'd like to try more from in 2013.

Loose Cannon Brewery - Abingdon Bridge 4.1%
I had this bottle at the house of our good friends, david & Juliette King and their children in Billericay, and I couldn't resist pairing the red, green and yellow colours of the bottle with the reciprocal colours of their Christmas tree. This is surprisingly a very tasty, fruity, malty beer. Lots of glace cherry, raisin and plum fruitiness on a cookie-dough base. Sweet, slightly rich and satisfying.
 The West Berkshire Brewery - Christmas Magic 5.5%
Another beer at the King's house.This seasonal beer is heavy on the malt, with a scattering of berry fruits and some cinnamon spiciness.Although the maltiness is dominant the other flavours do sit quite nicely on top of it making for quite pleasant drinking late into the evening.
 Adnams - Shingle Shells 3.9%

 Waiting for us when we arrived at my parents in Beccles, Suffolk  just before New Year, was a mini-cask of Adnams Shingle Shells. I'd previously had this on cask and I'd really enjoyed it, so more of the same was most welcome. God old Mum and Dad! There's some dry berry hoppiness in the taste perfectly surrounded by some delightful maltiness and that little tang of saltiness that I associate with Adnams beers. Needless to say we had several glasses of this and I took pictures paired with various snowman decorations in my parents house. I've picked my favourite to show here.
 Sierra Nevada - Torpedo Extra IPA 7.2%
First beer of New Years Eve, and a great way to kick off the celebrations. Big deep hoppy pine flavours for a big night. I'm sure you've all had this beer many times, but if you haven't then I'd heartily recommend it, especially if you like your flavours big and hoppy.
 John Smiths (Heineken UK) - Newcastle Winter IPA 5.2%
I picked this up in my parents local Tesco, and to be frank I wish I hadn't. I purposefully put it in front of the'Let It Be Merry' Christmas card hoping, without any hint of irony that it would be 'Hoppy In The Dark'. It was't. In fact it wasn't very much of anything at all. The rear label states it is a 'Balanced Winter brew with a breamy finish' but that was nothing like what I was tasting. Without any shadow of doubt this was the worst beer I had over the entire Christmas period. I also picked up a bottle of the Newcastle Nocturnal which I'm informed is even worse. It stares at me from the kitchen shelf.
 Budweiser Budvar Ceske Budejovice - Tmavy Lezak Dark Lager 4.7%
Putting New Years Eve back on track with some milk chocolate maltiness and that Saaz hop bite. This really is a classy beer, and it's great to see it regularly available in the UK now.
 Meantime Brewing Company- India Pale Ale 7.5%
Seeing in the New Year with this full flavoured and hoppy special little beer from Greenwich's Meantime Brewery. The amount of Fuggles and goldings hops in here really show what you can do when you don't hold back on those beautiful British hops. deep bitter orange with a hint of grapefruit on a lovely biscuity base. This is another beer that I'd forgotten quite how good it actually is.
 London Fields Brewery - Harvest Ale 5.5%
A trip to Norwich and a trip to the relatively new and rather excellent Norwich Tap House furnished me this beer after a recommendation from that most agreeable chap @NateDawg27. In fact I bought all they had. There's plenty of crisp Autumn leaf mulch and honey-drizzled pear drop in the taste setting up an intensely dry biscuit finish. Superb.
 Robinsons - Dizzy Blonde 3.8%
This beer is a little golden treat. A dry zesty sugary citrus taste with a light golden syrup finish shows off the Amarillo hop off nicely if a bit too subtly. A decent enough beer but more hop presence would really work wonders here.
 Wells And Youngs - Youngs Double Chocolate Stout 5.2%
Getting towards the end of my seasonal beers with festive pictures but I'm having a beer that I never tire of. I tend to pick up a bottle of this now and again to remind me of just how good chocolate stouts can taste. A big milk chocolate taste has a hit of coffee roastiness and the merest murmur of cream soda in there for good measure. Creamy, full rich and smooth, this is near heaven in a bottle.
 Duvel Moortgat - Vedett Extra Blond 5.2%
Last two beers now and these are two of a kind ... sort of. First up is the lighter of the two. This pale beer has a honeyed grass aroma with more of the same in the crisp taste and finish. Perfect for the summer, it's going down rather nicely on a Friday in early January.
 Duvel Mortgat - Duvel 8.5%
A rather special beer to finish with, and this is the beer of choice of the chap who urged me to start writing a blog on beer about a year ago @stillmation Rob Mitchell, a British commercial photographer based in Belgium. You can check out his website here, it's well work a look. This beer has a beautifully warming sweet grassy hoppy bite with subtle white pepper and clove notes. It really is a classic, and this Christmastime has been one too!
I've come to the end of my beer and Christmas image odyssey. It's been a bit of a labour of love for me to be fair. I love great beer and I love Christmas so it really seemed like a natural thing to put the two together and have some fun in the process.
All that remain for me to do is wish you a fantastic 2013. I hope that it's happy, healthy, shared with great company and that you have some awesome beer along the way.
Cheers !



  1. Bloody hell you sure worked your way through some excellent beers this holiday season mate, Well done!

    1. Cheers Matt. I certainly enjoyed myself and these were just the ones taken with a festive theme, there was plenty more good stuff drunk out and about over the holidays. This partly explains why my blog was a little quiet in December too.