“These special customs, and especially those associated with the annual booze-ups of New Year’s Eve (when you may kiss almost anybody in public), St Patrick’s Eve, Whitsun, Oak Apple Day, Trinity Sunday, June Holiday and Christmas, are a simple part of the pattern of the year, its pre-industrial, pre-Christian even, background. A background of sowing and reaping, winter death and spring rebirth, a rhythm that, like the rhythm of the week, determines so much of behaviour… now dominates Worktowners who never think what it’s all about or know the difference between wheat and barley.”
Part of a series of wordless musical jokes from one of the Big Six and starring, we think, Carry On actress Liz Fraser. The last time we saw one of those green-grey ceramic keg fonts in the wild was the Palm Tree in Mile End, East London, a few years ago.
For a long time, Britain had beers associated with Christmas that weren’t explicitly billed as Christmas beers.
If Frank Baillie’s 1973 Beer Drinker’s Companion is anything to go by, there were certainly winter ales released in November or December in time for Christmas, but they didn’t feature Father Christmas on the pump clips or labels; they weren’t called things like Rudolf’s Throbbing Conk; and they weren’t dosed with cinnamon and nutmeg. As far as we can see, Shepherd Neame’s bottled Christmas Ale was the only one with Christmas is in its name at that time.*
Based on looking through old copies of the Campaign for Real Ale’s Good Beer Guide (thanks again, Ed!) it looks as if the idea of marketing ‘winter warmers’ as Christmas beers really took off in the increasingly competitive real ale scene of the 1980s. The 1987 GBG (published in 1986) lists around ten beers that we would classify as definitely Christmas seasonals, such as Mauldon Christmas Reserve, Wood’s Christmas Cracker and the Bridgewater Arms’s Old Santa.