I know. January is nearly over, but if you keep reading I promise to post new blogs more often!
Apologies for not writing about Christmas beers at the end of last year. I’d had high hopes of finding one I liked but the snows of December meant my mission was restricted to a limited area. I only managed to look in the local supermarket and backstreet pubs but found no yuletide ales on offer. Not long after Christmas Day though I met up with a friend at The Isaac Merritt, one of Paignton’s Wetherspoon’s, and had a few pints of Marston’s Christmas Pudding Ale. The promised cinnamon flavour the barwoman told me about wasn’t quite as obvious as I’d hoped, or indeed expected of a Christmas beer, but it was very drinkable. However, because it didn’t taste especially festive I’m not sure it counts as ‘a Christmas beer I like’ so the search will continue this year.
At home during the festive season I went down the bottle conditioned wheat beer route mostly in the shape of Erdinger’s Weißbier, a refreshing and very drinkable Bavarian brew with citrus notes to it. What I really wanted was the one Christmas Ale I have come across and liked (so much so that there was a rather infamous episode of over-indulging in it in Paris a couple of years ago) which I had thought was Affligem Noel. In my mind’s eye this was a golden-coloured beer with beautiful sweet, spiced flavours (cloves and cinnamon) but a little internet research has made me doubtful that’s what I was drinking in Paris as some websites describe it as very dark in colour. I suppose I’ll have to wait till the festive season rolls round once more, find some to try and see if it is the delicious – and very strong – beer I think it is.
Hop Back Brewery’s Entire Stout won Supreme Champion Winter Beer of Britain 2011 at the Festival. I’m a big fan of the Wiltshire brewery’s Summer Lightning so maybe this award winner would be a good place to start. Advice as to where I can try a pint in the Paignton area gratefully received, failing that I’ll have to track down the bottle-conditioned version. The other Overall section winners were Chocolate from the Marble Brewery in Manchester (Silver) and the Leicestershire based Dow Bridge’s Praetorian Porter (Bronze).
I have two conflicting memories of very dark, winter style beers but irritatingly I can’t remember precisely what either of them was. There was one I liked that I used to drink at a pub called The Ancient Druids which is near the Grafton shopping centre in Cambridge. It may have had Druid in the name. It was a strong, almost black beer that I was impressed enough with to take my brother to the pub to try a pint. It wasn’t the greatest pub in the world though so I didn’t go there often and as it was around 15 years ago I think I’ll forgive myself for not being able to remember.
I can’t remember the name of the one I hated either, only that I had it in The Seal in Selsey (a marvellous, friendly pub) one January and it tasted like a pint of blood. I found it so unpalatable that I donated it to my brother and got a pint of something else. But I think I’ll put that to the back of my mind and instead think positive thoughts about Stouts, Porters and Old Ales and how much I enjoyed that black beer in Cambridge and get out and taste the Dark Side. I’ll be sure to report back.