Tag Archives: Christmas

Harvey’s: Christmas in a bottle

Four strong Harvey's bottled beers.

One of our best Christmas memories is of sitting in the splendidly Victorian Royal Oak, not far from London Bridge, drinking Harvey’s Imperial Stout, when, very obligingly, heavy snow began to fall outside. That’s probably why, when it came to thinking about which beers we wanted in the stash to see us through the bleak midwinter, our thoughts turned to the venerable Sussex brewer.

Their recently tarted up online store offers a mixed case of strong beers with a ‘lucky dip’ approach, i.e. you get what they’ve got in. We ordered one with fingers crossed hoping for at least a couple of bottles of IS and (woop!) got six, and the same of Prince of Denmark, Elizabethan Ale and Christmas Ale. All are in neat little 275ml bottles, perfect for a session with the mince pies.

The great news is that, though IS (9%) remains the star of the show, the others (all 7.5%) are also excellent. They highlight the character of the slightly funky house yeast which adds complexity to what might otherwise be rather sickly-sweet beers.

By way of specifics: Christmas Ale (and this a compliment) could pass for a Fuller’s beer — fruity and round with plenty of orange peel and cherry character; while Prince of Denmark, billed as ‘dark ale’, is in export stout territory — all liquorice and cocoa under a thick brown head. Elizabethan Ale, first brewed in 1952, we’re still getting our heads round, but our first impression was very much ‘Yum’.

While shopping online, we also considered this twin-pack of mini-kegs from Adnams as a Christmas present to ourselves but it didn’t quite suit our plans. Have you spotted any similarly tempting packages?

PS. We’ve never received any freebies from either Harvey’s or Adnams — not even a Christmas card, tangerine or walnut — and paid for the selection box above from our own pocket money.

Session #58: A Christmas Carol

Detail from John Leech's 1843 illustration for a Christmas Carol.
A detail from one of John Leech's 1843 illustrations for a Christmas Carol.

This month’s session is hosted by Phil Hardy of Twitter fame (@Filrd) who blogs at Beersay.

“There never was such a goose. Bob said he didn’t believe there ever was such a goose cooked. Its tenderness and flavor, size, and cheapness were the themes of universal admiration.”

People often misunderstand these lines from A Christmas Carol, and they’ve been misused a million times to accompany images of plump roasted birds.

In fact, at this point in the book, Cratchit’s impoverished family are sitting down to a miserable Christmas meal, the centrepiece of which is a scrawny goose that they’re making the most of. The point is that Cratchit is a good man who tries to find the best in things, including Ebenezer Scrooge, and so has the true Christmas spirit in his heart, regardless of his poverty.

With that in mind, we were thinking about how important it can be to put beer snobbery to one side at Christmas.

If your eight year-old niece buys you a ‘Beers of the World’ selection pack from BHS, chill down those 330ml bottles of Fosters and San Miguel and bloody enjoy them. It’s a thoughtful gift.

If your Uncle Bert offers you a bottle of Greene King IPA in a clear bottle, take it with gratitude and show how much you appreciate it, because that’s someone reaching out, asking you to share a moment of good cheer, in the bleak midwinter.

If your Dad takes you to a pub for a swift one on Christmas Day and all they have is keg John Smith’s, savour every drop: you’re with your Dad in a pub on Christmas Day, you lucky devil.

Just enjoy the Christmas present and maybe next year you’ll get a bigger goose.

Not necessarily Christmas beer

We had written a post saying pretty much exactly what Tandleman says here. As that’s now a bit redundant, we thought instead that we’d suggest some beers which, although not necessarily Christmas themed, fit the season better than many of the bland, brown santa-bothering bitters appearing on pumps up and down the country.

1. Brooklyn Chocolate Stout (10%)
Dark, very rich and strong, this isn’t an everyday beer, and so makes a perfect Christmas indulgence.

2. Bush Noel (12%)
Our bottle had been in storage for a year or two.  Wowzers. Maple, biscuit and lots of booze.

3. Dark Star Imperial Stout (10.5%)
On tap at the Rake. Sherry, coffee, vanilla… in fact, too many beautiful overlapping flavours to list.

4. Sam Smith’s Winter Welcome (6%)
Brown, sure enough, but rich and super-fruity, with suggestions of banana and pineapple as well as the usual orangey English hop flavours.

5. Brodie’s Ho Ho Ho (5.5%)
A good example of how to do a Christmas beer — subtle spicing, beefy malt flavours and with the body of a much stronger beer.

6. Fuller’s 1845 (6.3)
London Pride doesn’t get a look in  — this powerful ale really does taste like candied orange peel and so gets all our love in December.

7. Hepworth Vintage Christmas Ale (7.5%)
Sort of a barley wine? There are flavours of candied peel and nuts balanced with veritable hop bitterness. Ages well, too.

Auditioned and rejected: Wassail by Ballard’s (tasted like it had been cut with unfermented brown sugar) and Santa’s Wobble by Hogs Head (interesting but with an unwelcome hint of vinegar).

Any other suggestions very welcome! And, as always, if you’re reviewed any of these beers and would like us to link to your review in the post, let us know.