....It's always fun to stock up the cellar prior to Christmas (I start using this excuse from about October onwards), but it's always much more of a pleasure to start cracking them open and simply enjoying yuletide drinking. Personally, I think most 'Christmas' beers are overrated, often rebadged (if you're in a pub) or simply 'house' darker beers with a few spices thrown in as an afterthought. The only British Christmas ale that I genuinely like is Bateman's Rosey Nosey, which brings a wonderful toffeeness to the table everytime. So I stay clear in general and reach for some old friends. And, before we get started, my tip to accompany Christmas pudding is....Schnieder Aventinus - everytime.
Robinson's Old Tom (8.5% abv), for me, is a bit of a Christmas tradition, and seems way more seasonal than 90% of the rubbish out there. Tons of red, jammy fruits, a slight hint of smoke and a warming alcohol touch as it slips down. Wonderful, especially with a few shards of dark chocolate.
Another big beer that feels seasonal is Ringwood's Old Thumper (5.6%abv). I'm a fan of most of Ringwood's output but OT is a big, big beer with a deep red colour, with a lot of biscuit in the body, but a sort of spice on the aftertaste that I can't quite place. I do love the stuff, though.
Finally, JW Lees' Brewer's Dark (3.5%abv)marries those roasted malt flavours that you crave this time of year, along with a nice, bready, yeasty note, but with a much more restrained abv. It is a little thin, but I think it's got enough about it flavour-wise to get away with it.
But you can't drink heavy beers all the time - when at a friends house to get some boxing day footy in, he'd bought some of Marks' 'Belgian Lager', so we got stuck into those. Brewed by Haacht, I was fearing the worst, but it came through OK - a pleasant surprise, actually. Clean, spritzy, and with a very pleasing, ever-so-slight hint of Brett on the nose, this lager was actually way more palatable than the one we put alongside it - an (entirely pointless) new 'blonde' version of a well known lager which shall remain nameless at this point. I'd probably try this again, actually - but not until the summer.