Tuesday 27 December 2011

Christmas Day Drinking 2011

I wasn’t prepared for Christmas this year; it jumped out of nowhere from behind boxes left unpacked from moving house. Suddenly it was Christmas Eve and I hadn’t even decided what beers to drink on Christmas Day, the most important eating and drinking day of the year. In the end I pulled myself together and pulled bottles from boxes stacked up in the garage.

Christmas Day obviously started with strong, dark beer. It’s usually a coffee imperial stout with breakfast but this year was a Thornbridge Bracia because it’s one of the best beers made in Britain, I think. A thick, oily pour. Black. It’s rich and dark, there’s chocolate, coffee, toasted nuts, booze, a berry sweetness, a floral flourish. A year old and it’s still brilliant. Gooood morning.

A Camden Hells Lager came next. I wanted something light and crisp to follow the beastly Bracia and lead up to dinner. This nailed the job as I sat and flicked through a pile of new books.

BrewDogAB:03 came before the food. AB:03 is Zephyr plus raspberries and more barrel time. It’s a deep copper colour and the sharp raspberry aroma that burst from the glass when this beer was first released is now subdued and subtle, mixing with strawberries and toasty oak. It’s full on, the bitterness is still there, the barrel is still giving flavour, it threatens sharpness but isn’t sour - it’s just a trick of the tongue - and there’s also some oxidation, although it adds interest rather than spoiling it. A spritzy and jammy raspberry flavour flows through the whole thing. It’s unusual and fantastic. If you’ve got a bottle then drink it soon because I’m not sure it’s getting better (Note to self: that bottle of Zephyr you have is also not getting any better. DRINK IT!).

With the turkey came Marble and DarkStar’s Saison. As happened last year (with Monsieur Rock), I announce my beers of the year and then I open something which should be on the list. This beer is sensational. It’s the juiciest, fruitiest British beer I’ve ever had. Pineapple, mango, mandarin, all in the aroma and the flavour, like fruit juice with attitude. At 9% it’s a big beer. Normally I don’t like the mix of US hops and phenolic Belgian yeast but here it works so well: the spiciness of the Saison yeast adds spike to the fruit, adds pepper and tannin, but also brings bubble gum and then mint – it could be a cocktail it has the balance of fruit, booze, sweetness, spice and bitterness. And there’s a lot of bitterness. It’s an amazing beer. It didn’t work with turkey and the trimmings but I didn’t care because it was such a joy to drink. I ate dinner and then finished the bottle off afterwards (it was surprisingly good with Christmas pudding!).

That was Christmas morning and lunch. There was a booze break for a few hours after to try and recover, then I got back on the beer with a Fuller’s Vintage 1999 to go with cheese.

A very good day of Christmas drinking. How was your day? Any brilliant beers with the turkey?


  1. I managed to plan ahead and get in a couple of cases of Bath Ales most excellent Festivity, only to spent most of Christmas drinking wine... d'oh!

  2. All wine for me I'm afraid. I'm making up for it now with a Brooklyn Local 2 that my wife bought me for Christmas.

    My Christmas day wasn't completely beer free. I think I got 5 different beer books.

  3. Cantillon Iris (2004), Drie Fonteinen Oude Kriek, and Thornbridgge's take on Courage Russian Imperial Stout were among the highlights for me.

  4. Shepherd Neame Christmas Ale (cask)
    Kernel Nelson Citra & Black IPA
    Southern Tier Old Man Winter
    De Molen Amarillo
    Dark Star Russian Imperial Stout 2007 vintage

  5. I too , like yourself, found xmas crept up on me somewhat - an impending house move made me put my planning to one side! I fell back on an old friend - Schneider Aventinus with my Lunch. A beer that I'm rapidly becoming set in my ways about ,and only drinking during the festive period (see also: Theakston's Old Peculier)....Glad you pulled some decent beers out of the bag!

  6. I'm glad you mentioned the AB:03, I still have a bottle of that and had forgotten about it. I'll crack it tonight I think. I also found an AB:01. have you had one of those recently? if so how is it drinking

  7. Had the same feeling so post poned my speical bottles for another day so i didn't have to rush and could have the line up i wanted.

  8. Good to see lots of good beers coming out for Christmas!

    Dubbel - I haven't had a De Molen Amarillo for ages and now I'm desperately thirsty for one!

    John - I didn't know Thornbridge had tried that - must find it!

    Leigh - NICE!

    Sam - The AB03 is tasting great but showing signs of age. I've got a couple of AB01s but haven't tried one for ages. Now is probably a good time to see how it's doing!