Ten of the best Christmas beers

March 29, 2017

From port-barrel-aged ales to plummy doormen, and champagne-corked sparklers to mulled treats, there are plenty of festive brews with which to see out 2016

Relegated to the bottom of the festive liquor hierarchy, beer tend to gets a bad rap at Christmas. Unfairly so, because seasonal beers can be so much more than cans of lager that amas dust at parties while everyone guzzles eggnog. Belgian breweries have been turning out unabashedly sweet, spicy wintertime ales for centuries, and now everyone else, from craft breweries to supermarkets, has followed suit.

While anything that savor like the boozy run-off from Christmas pudding is welcome at my dinner table, the best festive beers should also have a sense of occasion about them. Or at the least possibilities for pantomime drama, whether that comes from tapping a mini-keg without it exploding, or attempting to mull a bottle of cherry brew( from experience these are activities best attempted before , not after, drinking an 11% stout ).

Here are some of the best traditional and not so traditional Christmas beers to enjoy this year.

Christmas
Greenwich ale, Santas Little Helper, Cuve de Noel, Tsjeeses 2015 and plum pudding porter.

Plum pudding porter, Wiper and True

( 4.65 for 500 ml, hopburnsblack.co.uk)

With a name like plum pudding porter, this generous brew could have rolled straight out of a Dickens novel. It radiates ripe, stone fruit plums and apricots and Christmas spice. In the glass, its a thick, almost impenetrable, Christmas pudding brown, with sugary marzipan and spice on the nose. Juicy and fruity and dark, but with a doormen roasted malty backbone of coffee and bitter chocolate.

Santas Little Helper, Mikkeller

( 12.50 for 750 ml, branches of BrewDog and BottleDog shops)

The innovative Danish brewers modern take over a Belgian Christmas ale has all the booziness youd expect of a strong Belgian brew, without being sickly sweet. Glowing golden amber in the glass, it smells like warmed fruit and berries, and savours like caramel, with a clue of astringency that could come from the coriander seeds its brewed with. Because it is so full-bodied, the rich, candied orange peel savor persists and persists this would be amazing paired with dark chocolate and dried fruit.

Cuve de Noel, St Feuillien

( 3.29( 2.77) for 330 ml, belgianbeerz.com)

One to enjoy after Midnight Mass, this abbey-style brew( which effectively entails its brewed by monks but doesnt fulfil the strict criteria needed to be considered a Trappist beer) is a Christmas classic. Boasting a strong, brandy-like nose, with a slightly sour note, it savor rich and sweet and has a musty, barrel-aged depth. Brewed with liquorice, theres also a very subtle undercurrent of salt and aniseed.

Port-barrel-aged Greenwich ale, Meantime for Marks and Spencer

( 5.50 for 750 ml, branches of Marks and Spencer)

Meantimes broody dark ale promises all the fun of popping a champagne cork without the price tag and with a( potentially) milder hangover. Served in a wine bottle with a cork, it smells like dark chocolate and woodsmoke, but savours like juicy berries. There is a whiff of port from the barrel-ageing process, but not enough to make it savor heavy or winey its more like molten, fizzy, dark cherry chocolate.

Tsjeeses 2015, De Struise Brouwers

( 4.75 for 330 ml, Beer Gonzo)

A mischievous little brew that packs an extraordinary 10% ABV kind of extraordinary punch. Its thick, dense and orange in look and savor; slightly floral on the nose, with some botanicals. It also has a juicy, mango mouthfeel( so, one for fans of strong IPA) and sticky toffee notes that give way to citrus bitterness at the end believe candied orange peel. This is a beer that ages really well, and the 2015 is delicious at the moment. Appear out for the 2016 early next year and hoard it in the cellar if youve got the self-control.

Christmas
Black Christmas, St Bernardus Christmas ale, Shepherd Neame Christmas ale, Southwold Christmas ale and Glhkriek.

Christmas ale, Shepherd Neame

( 20 for 5x500ml, Shepherd Neame)

One for real ale enthusiasts. British hops give this beer an earthy body thats a welcome breaking from the sweet fruitiness of a lot of Christmas beer. There is a little spiciness and a touch of sweet candy and raisin, but nothing overwhelm and nothing youd object to if you drank it by the pint, or used it to wash down roast potatoes.

Southwold Christmas ale, Adnams for Marks and Spencer

( 2.20 for 500 ml or 20 for a 5-litre keg, Marks and Spencer)

Adnams ale is usually evocative of summers spent at its seaside brewery and warm afternoons feeing fish and chips on the shore. But its Christmas ale available, to my intense pleasure, in a DIY keg is its wintry, fireside twin. Pouring a mahogany brown, this is a festive brew for drinkers who want to get as far away from nutmeg and dried cherry flavours as possible: it is toasty, caramel and toffee-ish, with all the depth of the brewerys distinctive yeast.

Black Christmas, Weird Beard

( 2.55 for 330 ml, Beer Gonzo)

Fabulously bitter, this cranberry stout is a great refresher to enjoy at the end of a long night of sweet wine and port. It pours jet black with a thick head and smells like coffee, nuts, chocolates and vanilla. So far, so stout, which means that the savor almost burned, like cocoa nibs and espresso is a welcome amaze. This brew is not as creamy as you might expect and any sweetness comes from the tart cranberries it has been brewed with.

Christmas ale, St Bernardus

( 4.50 for 330 ml, Beer Gonzo)

With its soft banana and herb notes, this offering from the famous St Bernardus brewery in Belgium is one for fans of wheat beers. It is punchy and strong at 10% ABV. Factor in the cloves and Christmas spices it is laced with and this will keep you positively toasty this winter.

Glhkriek, Liefmans

( 7.75 for 750 ml, Beer Gonzo)

Mulled beer sounds like the kind of bad idea you might have at the end of a raucous Christmas party. In fact, this warmable cherry brew is an absolute world-beater. Heat it gently, as you would wine and it devotes off the most overwhelming rich cherry, spice and marzipan perfume. Like mulled wine it savor best glugged from a mug all sweet fruit and cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves, but with none of the spice detritus to deal with at the end. Dont try to beverage this cold, and its probably best not try mulling any other beers you have lying around.

Follow Liz Dodd on Twitter @liz_dodd

Read more: www.theguardian.com

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