CHRISTMAS brings exciting times – the chance to give and receive gifts, the opportunity to get together with family and friends to celebrate the Yuletide and – for beer connoisseurs and real ale lovers alike- the emergence of festive brews.
This is a tradition that has always been there but one that has seemed to come into its own and have been given a new lease of life in recent years.
And you do not have to travel far to find those winter warmers which will be guaranteed to keep the cold out and give you a warm glow throughout the festive season.
The Midlands has an abundance of brilliant breweries and there is a good chance there will be at least one, or maybe even several, near you.
Wychwood, in Oxfordshire, has always been well-known for its seasonal ales – Hobgoblin at Halloween is one that immediately springs to mind, but their Christmas brew is one of the best around.
Bah Humbug (5%) – a rich ale spiced with cinnamon – is always one I look forward to and is well worth a try. The beauty of this brew is it is widely available – if you struggle to find it on draught, it is also sold in Aldi.
Down the road from there is the Hook Norton Brewery which has its award-winning Twelve Days (5.5%), a strong dark brown ale with nutty overtones.
Wood Brewery in Shropshire has weighed in with its 6.0 per cent Christmas Cracker ale which is a dark, ruby cover and has a warming port-wine flavour.
Sadler’s Brewery in Lye offers Scrooge (5.5%), a strong pale ale which, in true Christmas tradition, is flavoured with seasonal nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves, and they also have Reigndeer which is a traditional Black Country porter/stout which uses a complex mix of rich, dark malts.
Closer to home is Bird’s Brewery in Bromsgrove which has two on offer this year – the aptly named No L at 4.5 per cent and Chest Warmer, which is a whopping six per cent.
No L, which contains citra hops, will appeal to those who prefer lighter ales who may struggle to find a seasonal beer to sup during the festive season.
At the other end of the scale, Chest Warmer, has a strong hop presence and blends chocolate malts – guaranteed as the name suggests, to give you that warm glow this winter.
In Birmingham, the up-and-coming Two Towers Brewery has produced Sleighed – which is a five per cent rich dark porter.
Coventry’s Atomic Brewery is offering the Atomic Winter, which is 5.5 per cent and described as a golden beer which is deceptively strong.
Church End Brewery, based in Nuneaton, has been building up its reputation over many years and also offers a pale ale around Christmas for those not fans of the many darker ales available at this time of year. Stocking Filler, at 4.3 per cent, is described as a pale, delicate moreish beer only available around the Yuletide season.
Those are just a few of the Christmas-themed beers out there, but there are plenty more if you go searching.
And if you do love your real ales and have not yet joined CAMRA (the Campaign for Real Ale) that is a move highly recommended – you could join yourself as a Christmas treat, get someone to give you annual membership as a pressie or even make it a different new year’s resolution to the usual ones, such as eating healthier or getting fit.
Annual membership is as little as £24 and includes £20 worth of Wetherspoons vouchers (50p off a pint spread throughout the year), 12 monthly What’s Brewing newspapers, four quarterly Beer magazines and discounts to beer festivals, along with many other benefits.