With that festive time of year bearing down upon us robed in fairy lights I thought I would throw my paper hat into the ring and recommend a few beers that would grace any creaking holiday sideboard.
I have 4 beers from 3 of my favorite breweries in the UK, who happen to be at opposite ends of the country from each other. Which I know sounds wrong as there are 3 breweries, so how can they be at opposite ends? What I mean in my geographically challenged way is that Sharps Brewery in Rock, Cornwall is way down south and Harviestoun Brewery in Alva & Williams Brothers Brewing Co. in Alloa, are both way up north in Scotland. Still a bit foggy I know but you get my drift.
Right so getting this sleigh off the ground first is Harviestoun and their comically festive Mr Sno’Balls Copper Ale. This is a great all rounder that makes a fab session ale at 4.5%abv. It has some biscuity spicy notes with a cozy malty caramel finish, but also shows off citrus hints of freshness from the duo of Challenger & Styrian Hops. A word of warning, Mr Sno’ Balls is very moreish and will have you reaching for more than one. It’s also a great nibbles beer for things like pork pies & piccalilly, hummus, bread & olives or cold left over turkey & crudités (That’s raw veg & dips for the Philistines out there).
I found it at my local Morrisons for £1.89/50cl or try Harviestoun direct firstname.lastname@example.org
Staying with my Scottish roots (seriously I am 1/4 Scottish) we move onto Williams Bros. Froach 22 Vintage Heather Ale which actually comes in a rather attractive 75cl bottle, as opposed to the sample bottle they sent me, due to Froach 22’s scarcity and high demand. This beautiful golden amber liquid spends time in ex sherry/Auchentoshan whisky cask. So you are greeted on the nose by almonds, aged wooden staves, peat & as you’d imagine whisky. Your first sip barks at your palate to pay attention, the texture is creamy, but then a complex flavour conga line kicks in with thistles, Demerara sugar, TCP, Moroccan spices, burnt caramel, dried pineapple & smoky dry salty herbs. Matured to 11%abv treat this like a fine aged sherry but keep it simple. After dinner on it’s own or with almonds or sea salt dark chocolate.
From the Williams Bros Brewery or from Beer Ritz for about £12 a bottle.
Now to Sharps. Stuart Howe their head brewer spoiled me last time I was in Rock by taking me & some friends through a massive range of their beers. These two are both from their Connoisseurs Choice stable were real highlights for me.
Checking my notes for No. 2 Single Brew Reserve 2011 that day I have simply written “Apricot Breakfast Beer (though I believe that was a quote from Stuart), dry thyme, totally delicious”. This 100% Saaz hopped stunner only comes in at 4.5%abv but is crammed full of class & character. Pale golden & cloudy in the glass, the beer is perfumed, has lovely balance of sugars & rich mouth hugging feel. Due to the exceptional yeast structure this is really a regal ale in champagne clothes. Perfect as an aperitif and with sweet smoked fish, but would be dyno-mite with your Christmas turkey, chicken or goose. Absolutely love this beer.
From the brewery £35.00 for 12 bottles at 50cl or Highbury Vintners £2.65/50cl
Last but far from least is No. 1 Quadruple Ale 2011 which marries pale, crystal & chocolate malts with 3 strains of yeast and Centennial, Hallertauer and Aurora Hops. It’s then matured on fresh Simcoe Hops which produces a unique & serious ale. Black treacle on the eye, minimal but heathy mocha foam head. Nose of Swedish salty liquorice, dark moist rye bread, kirsch & ginger snaps. The palate is immense, bold black raspberry, that salty liquorice, dark chocolate follows on and coats your mouth with a gentle lingering boozy forest fruit blanket. This is a beer to be savoured. It continues to evolve in the glass so make sure you pour it into a decent bowl shape receptacle. I’m not going out on a limb here when I say this baby could take the place of the Port with your stilton. Less hangover than Port as well as it’s half the alcohol at 10%abv
£49.99 per 12 33cl bottles (approx £4.15 a bottle). I highly recommend buying a case and laying a few down as this rare and beautiful beer (stored properly) will age gracefully over the next 10 years.
If you are looking for a great Xmas prezzie for that beer lover on your list then Sharps also offer a gift pack that includes a lovely cristal bowl glass and the 2 beers I have mentioned along with their seductive Honey Spice Ale in either 3(1 of each) or 6(2 of each) beer pack.
Have a Happy & Safe Holiday Season!
Mr D n E